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UFC London: Blaydes vs Aspinall - Jul 23 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿


wandshogun09
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Posted (edited)

OK then, we’re back in London for the second time this year. Who’s going?

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Curtis Blaydes vs Tom Aspinall 

Jack Hermansson vs Darren Till 

Paddy Pimblett vs Jordan Leavitt

Nikita Krylov vs Alexander Gustafsson

Molly McCann vs Hannah Goldy

Paul Craig vs Volkan Oezdemir 

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Marc Diakiese vs Damir Hadzovic

Makwan Amirkhani vs Jonathan Pearce 

Nathaniel Wood vs Charles Rosa

Muhammad Mokaev vs Charles Johnson

Jai Herbert vs Kyle Nelson

Mandy Bohm vs Victoria Leonardo

Nicolas Dalby vs Claudio Silva  

 

As always, that isn’t the final bout order. I’ve got a feeling there might still be one or two fights added yet as well. They’re gonna have a tough time topping the last London card in March for me. And as much as I like this one, I liked the March card better. Still, plenty to sink your teeth into here. Did anyone manage to get tickets? I heard it was a nightmare. It’s sad but I’ve given up even trying now. 


 

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Curtis Blaydes vs Tom Aspinall is set to main event this one. Good fight and easily the toughest test yet for Aspinall. Very interesting matchup. I know it’s the done thing for MMA fans to groan whenever a Blaydes fight is announced and talk about him being boring, I’m not gonna pretend he hasn’t had some stinkers. But I do think he’s got a bit of an underserved rep for it. And regardless, just style-wise, we want to see Aspinall tested and throwing him in a 5 rounder with the guy who’s probably the best wrestler currently in the division is certainly a test. I like it.

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So yeah, Blaydes isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. He’s not my favourite fighter either but, like it or not, he’s one of the best fighters in the Heavyweight division today. Obviously I’d put him below the champ Francis Ngannou, he’s 0-2 down to him already. And of course I rate Stipe above him. But he’s not a fight any Heavyweight would relish signing on for. He’s 31 now, 16-3-0-1 and 11 of his 16 wins came via knockout. Boring bastard. He’s got a brutal ground and pound KO win over Alistair Overeem, a TKO over Junior Dos Santos and he’s also beat Mark Hunt, Alexey Oleynik, Alexander Volkov and Jairzinho Rozenstruik. And in his most recent fight in March…

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He absolutely flatlined Chris Daukaus with a POTN winning knockout. He’s no joke. Wrestling is obviously his bread and butter but he’s shown more than once that he’s got some dangerous striking as well. Make no mistake though, he’d definitely rather wrestle. That’s his comfort zone. He’s heading into hostile territory here but I don’t get the feeling Blaydes is the type to be fazed by a crowd booing him. Let’s face it, he’s probably become used to it at this point.

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Aspinall is the new kid on the block. 29 years old, from Manchester, 6’5” and agile and quick with it, BJJ black-belt etc. He’s 12-2 so far in MMA with all his wins being finishes. Hasn’t lost since 2016 and is currently riding an 8 fight winning streak. He made his UFC debut in 2020 and has gone 5-0 with 4 POTN bonuses. He’s had a hell of a start on the big stage and he’s a rare case where pretty much everyone in the MMA fanbase seems to be in agreement and quite high on him. He submitted Andrei Arlovski last February, then it was a quick TKO over Sergey Spivak in September. That set him up with the biggest night of his career in March this year. The UFC returned to London for the first time in 3 years, and Aspinall was put in his first headliner against Alexander Volkov. I think we all thought this would be a tough fight for Big Tom. Or at least one he’d find it tricky to look good in.

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No bother. Aspinall had him tapping at 3:45 of the opening round. Nobody had run through Volkov like that in the UFC. It was a really impressive performance. He made it look way easier than I think anyone expected.

With all that said, it feels like deja vu talking about this as his ‘big test’ because we were saying that about the Volkov fight a few months ago and look what happened. But I think Blaydes has a skill set that makes him trickier than Volkov. Aspinall has looked class so far but there are still questions we haven’t seen asked of him. His cardio, his chin (although it’s a big ‘un), his composure if things start going wrong in there, and we haven’t seen his wrestling really put to the test. On paper, Blaydes has the tools to not just ask those questions, he might fucking interrogate him. Aspinall has really had it all his own way in the UFC so far. So as good as he’s looked and as much as I really wanna see him do well, the jury is still kind of out for me. Volkov was a jump in levels and this is a jump again from that. I was kind of hoping for Aspinall vs Tai Tuivasa on this card, to be honest. And stylistically I think that would’ve been a more fun fight. But this is way more interesting. If Aspinall walks through someone the calibre of Blaydes then he’s top level no doubt. And from there, it can only be the likes of Gane, Stipe, Ngannou etc for him. It feels mental typing that because Aspinall still feels like ‘the new kid’. Before the Volkov fight, most people, me included, were saying they hoped Aspinall wouldn’t be rushed too soon. But if he beats Blaydes, and especially if he does it in similar fashion as his last few wins, you can’t go backwards at that point. I’m about 50/50 on this, to be honest. I hope Aspinall gets it done but I could just as easily see Blaydes bollocking the whole thing up.

 

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Jack Hermansson vs Darren Till is your co-headliner. ‘The Joker’ vs ‘The Gorilla’. Not sure how this one is gonna look. I can’t really picture it. If it happened a year ago I’d have backed Hermansson fairly confidently but seeing him look so lacklustre losing a dull decision to Shithead Strickland in his last fight is giving me doubts. I’ve always liked Hermansson and I rate him but, for whatever reason, he’s been quite inconsistent in general the last few years. Going on his last bunch of fights, he’s been on a win one, lose one run since 2019. He’s coming off that Strickland loss so if we go by that pattern he’s due a win here.

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There’s Till with his new best mate Khamzat Chimaev. Not a clue on Till anymore. He’s in that funny spot where I feel like he’s somehow managed to be both overrated and underrated by MMA fans and media alike. Opinion seems almost split right down the middle. On the one hand you’ll still get divs who swear Till will one day be UFC champion. I don’t know if it’s the gobshite factor where some fans get swept up in guys who talk a big game or what but it seems like every time he fights, there’s a section of the MMA community that keep pushing the case for him being in the title mix. It’s like he’s eternally ‘just 1 fight away’ no matter how many losses pile up. On the other hand, you get twats go too far in the other direction and act like he’s a bum. Still, what doesn’t help Till’s case is that his wins over Gastelum and Cerrone haven’t really aged too well, and even the Wonderboy win, most scored it to Wonderboy. Fuck knows? I’m thinking Hermansson should win this though. While I always thought Till was too big for 170, I’m not convinced by him at 185. He looks out of shape. And although I’ve seen some talk about ‘well he trains with Khamzat now’, there’s two schools of thought there. It might help him massively, or maybe he’s just become Khamzat’s punchbag and grappling dummy. No doubt having Khamzat in camp should benefit Till to some degree when it comes to tackling Hermansson’s grappling. But I don’t think it’s gonna be enough to actually get him the win.

 

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Paddy Pimblett vs Jordan Leavitt then. You know who I’m rooting for here. If I haven’t made it clear by now, I can’t fucking stand Laddy Paddy and I’m looking forward to his inevitable downfall in the UFC. Whether that starts with this fight or not remains to be seen but that day is coming. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not a bad fighter, and he’s certainly not a boring one. Win or lose, his fights are gonna be entertaining and you’re gonna be invested, either for or against him. But the people talking about him getting in the title picture or becoming some massive star either never watched him pre-UFC, ignored him getting rocked in the UFC by the likes of Luigi Vendramini and Kazula Vargas, or they’re in denial about how he truthfully stacks up against the rest of the 155 division. Because there’s not a hope…

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…not a hope in hell that this gormless, racist, mopheaded, rotund gannet is stringing together a series of wins that will either get him to the title or see him regularly selling out stadiums. Look at the Top 10, fuck probably the Top 25, in that Lightweight division. It’s just not happening. Not saying he won’t possibly spring a solid win here or there. But to become the kind of ‘star’ many seem to be expecting him to be, you’re gonna have to put together a streak of them for some kind of meaningful period of time. He’s already ducked Ilia Topuria, under the disguise of the fighter pay argument. Then the talk of the planned Ottman Azaitar matchup mysteriously fizzled away. But now we have a fight.

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🤣 I can’t remember who said it on here but Leavitt is basically MMA Louie Spence. He’s 10-1 with 7 finishes. His only loss being a decision against Claudio Puelles (who’s looking like someone to keep tabs on). Aside from that, his best wins were a nasty slam KO in his UFC debut against Matt Wiman and an inverted triangle finish against Matt Sayles. He also beat Trey Ogden on points last time out. Hardly a who’s who on his record either. His UFC opposition is comparable to Pimblett’s. But those finishes were memorable if nothing else and I do see this as a step up for Pimblett. Leavitt is definitely a more live opponent than Paddy’s first couple. I do think it’s telling though, that after seeing Vendramini and Vargas stun Paddy in the early exchanges, they’ve chosen Leavitt here who’s not known for his punching power and all his finishes bar the Wiman slam came via submission. They probably see this as a favourable style matchup for Pimblett but Leavitt could potentially give him issues on the ground anyway. He’s already talked about a victory celebration he’s planning that could “cause a riot” in London. Him choking Paddy unconscious and then twerking around the Octagon like Valerie Loureda would be about the funniest derailing of Pimblett’s hype train I can possibly imagine. I hope it happens. LAD.

 

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Nikita Krylov vs Alexander Gustafsson. Really don’t know what to expect here. Krylov’s had his moments but has floundered against the top boys. He’s 27-9 now and has lost 4 of his last 6. All to strong opposition but still, he’s still 2-4 in his last 6. And Gustafsson? Who the fuck knows anymore? He’s a complete mystery at this point. I don’t know what we’re getting. At one stage he was legitimately one of the 2 or 3 best Light Heavyweights in the world. Was the first to give Jon Jones real problems in their 2013 classic, took Daniel Cormier to a really close decision in another tremendous fight in 2015, and he uppercutted the head off current champ Glover Teixeira in 2017. He retired in 2019 at just 32 years old after a loss to Anthony Smith. It came as a bit of a surprise at the time but he returned in 2020, as a Heavyweight looking all chubby, and got swiftly submitted by Fabricio Werdum. That’s the last we’ve seen of him. He’s been linked to a couple of fights since - vs Ben Rothwell at HW and Paul Craig at 205 - but neither made it to the cage. And here we are. Purely on skills, if this was the best versions of both men I wouldn’t hesitate to pick Gus. And he’d probably mop the floor with Krylov. But I’ve had serious doubts on him ever since that initial retirement. There’s only a couple of reasons you retire at 32 and it’s usually either injuries or lack of motivation. And the shape he turned up in against Werdum, it just felt like he couldn’t be arsed anymore. I suppose at least he’s back at 205 here. But still, he’s been inactive for 2 years again. I’d love to see Gus come back and make another run. He’d be a real boost to the LHW division. But I just don’t see it. Not a clue on this one but I’m oddly intrigued.

 

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Molly McCann vs Hannah Goldy. Not expecting a great deal from this but it’s OK midcard or prelim fodder. If nothing else the crowd will be into it. McCann’s 12-4 now and probably never going much further than she is currently. But she is coming off that insane spinning elbow knockout in March…

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It was the last thing anyone expected out of Molly. All her previous UFC wins had gone the distance and she’d never even really thrown a lot of ‘spinning shit’ as far as I recall. It’s gonna go down as one of the best knockouts of the year and it came from one of the least likely fighters to pull it off. Goldy’s 6-2 and has done nothing particularly memorable so far in her UFC stint. She armbarred Emily Whitmire in a round last time out but that’s about it. On paper it feels like the matchmakers trying to get Molly another win but I don’t know enough about Goldy to rate or dismiss her chances.

 

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Paul Craig vs Volkan Oezdemir. First off, what does Volkan think he’s doing with that hair? Just looks so wrong. He needs to go back to the slaphead look sharpish. As for the fight itself, you know sometimes when a fight gets announced and you instantly get an image in your head how it’s probably going down? This has the feel of another Paul Craig special to me. Meaning he’s probably gonna get fucking obliterated for a round or so, Volkan’s definitely got the kind of pop in his punches to put Craig in some bother. But when Paul Craig’s in bother, you’re usually fucked.

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We saw it against Magomed Ankalaev in 2018, I’m sure the Kennedy Nzechukwu fight in 2019 was similar and the Nikita Krylov fight last time out in March was yet another one. He’s basically Scottish Big Nog at this point. It’s never over until it’s over. Volkan is dangerous but I think if Craig weathers his storm he’ll probably catch another sub. I can see it playing out very similarly to Volkan’s fight against Anthony Smith a few years back where Smith was tough enough to take what Volkan dished out, then rallied for the submission when he slowed down.

 

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Marc Diakiese vs Damir Hadzovic. Might be decent. I quite like Diakiese and have mostly enjoyed his fights when I’ve watched him. He’s struggled to put a proper win streak together but he’s usually in solid fights. His last one against Slava Claus was unexpectedly dull though. I was excited for that fight going in but Diakiese opted to just outwrestle Slav the whole fight, en route to a disappointing but clear cut points win.

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Not knocking him at all though. Borshchev was known as a striker but untested in the grappling. Diakiese going down the path of least resistance made sense. Plus, it was the last fight on Diakiese’s contract. Had he lost that night, I probably wouldn’t be previewing a fight of his on this card now. He’d most likely have been gone. He fought smart, got the W, signed a new multi-fight contract and he’s back on home soil for this one. Fair play to him. I have kind of vague memories of Hadzovic but I remember kind of liking him. He’s 14-6 and beat Yancy Medeiros in his last fight but that was a whole year ago now. He’s no world beater but no pushover either.

 

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Makwan Amirkhani vs Jonathan Pearce. No real opinion on this but it might be alright. Amirkhani is 17-7 with 13 finishes. Came into the UFC back in 2015 with a stunning 8 second flying knee KO over Andy Ogle but has never fully realised the potential many thought he had back then. He got a quick submission win over Mike Grundy in his last fight in March, snapping a 3 fight losing streak. So there’s that. I just think the moment for him to really make a mark has come and gone now. Can’t remember much of Pearce. My main memory is when Joe Lauzon steamrolled him in about 90 seconds a few years back. In fairness, he’s since dropped to 145 and gone 3-0 with finishes over Kai Kamaka and Omar Morales. It’s just there really but could be a pleasant surprise.

 

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Nathaniel Wood vs Charles Rosa is a nice little matchup. Glad to see they finally got Wood on the card. I remember there was quite a bit of excitement when he signed his UFC contract back in 2018. He’d been one of the better prospects on the UK scene for some time at that point and I think everyone had high hopes. It started well with him rattling off 3 submissions his first 3 fights in. But the TKO loss to John Dodson in early 2020 derailed him. He rebounded with a points win over John Castaneda but then lost a decision to Casey Kenney in October 2020 and hasn’t fought since. He’s still only 28 but 2 years out is never ideal. He’s been pencilled in for a couple of fights but they’ve kept falling apart. He’s had some awful luck. Hopefully this one stays intact. It’s been too long. He’s moving up to Featherweight for this as well so it’ll be interesting to see how he looks in a new division. Rosa’s 35 years old, 14-7 and coming off a couple of decision losses. He’s tough and usually game for a scrap but he’s a guy I’d expect Wood to be beating. The layoff is always a question mark though.

 

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Muhammad Mokaev vs Charles Johnson is ***WAND’S ONE TO WATCH*** this time. Really looking forward to this. Mokaev is one of the more exciting prospects in the game right now. And certainly one of the best prospects to rep the UK. He’s from Dagestan originally but came to the UK as a refugee when he was a kid. He’s 21 years old now (turns 22 a week after this show) and is unbeaten at 7-0-0-(1 NC) so far in MMA. He also racked up a 22-0 amateur MMA record and was competing in different grappling competitions as well. He’s been busy. I’d been hearing his name and followed him on Twitter a while back, watched highlights and stuff but never got a proper look at him until his UFC debut on the last London show in March. He faced Cody Durden, a horrible little racist cretin who was talking all kinds of shite going in.

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And Mokaev breezed through him in just 58 seconds, decking him with a flying knee before sinking in the choke. About as satisfying as it gets and a perfect debut on the big stage for Mokaev. Of course, after an introduction like that, people were buzzing about his potential. It’s early days yet but whatever happens from here, he’s had quite a start to his career. And he called it 4 years before!

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Mystic Mokaev predicts these things. When Charles Johnson was announced as his next opponent I did a bit of digging. From bits I’m reading it sounds like he might be a bit of a handful himself. 31 years old with a record of 11-2 and 8 finishes. He won the LFA belt in his last fight with a 5th round stoppage. So despite not having a ton of fights, he’s got 5 round experience and is still dangerous late in fights. He’s also gone 3 rounds with Brandon Royval back in 2018, a losing effort but Royval’s a higher level of opposition than anyone Mokaev’s been in with so far. I read Johnson was originally being lined up for the next season of DWCS but this fight popped up and he jumped on it. Could be a tough one for Mokaev but we’ll see.

 

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Jai Herbert vs Kyle Nelson is an OK fight. I’m hoping Herbert can get back on track here. He signed with the UFC back in 2020 and at the time he was 10-1 and the Cage Warriors champ. He’s gone 1-3 in the Octagon though. He’s got some nasty striking but for whatever reason, he just hasn’t been able to put the wins together on the big stage. He fought Ilia Topuria on the last London show in March and got laid out in the second round. He gave a great account of himself before that though, to be fair. He had a strong first round, probably the best he’s looked so far in the UFC for me. And against his toughest opponent. He absolutely cracked Topuria with a headkick that I was amazed didn’t end the fight there and then…

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I mean, fuck me. How Topuria not only absorbed that but came back to knock Herbert out the following round was nuts. It was a really good fight. But once again, Herbert came out on the losing end. This is a fight he badly needs to win if he’s gonna stick around, and probably should win. Nelson is 13-4, he’s also 1-3 in the UFC but he’s been out of action since 2020. From my vague memory of him he wasn’t terrible but he wasn’t anything special either. If Herbert comes out like he did against Topuria he really should be winning this one. We’ll see.

 

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Mandy Bohm vs Victoria Leonardo. Doing nothing for me this. Screams curtain jerker. Bohm’s 32, from Germany and has a record of 7-1-0-1. She dropped a decision to Ariane Lipski in her UFC debut in September. Leonardo is also 32, from New Jersey (Sopranos country!) and 8-4. She’s fought twice in the UFC and got battered both times by Manon Fiorot and Melissa Gatto. It’s got the feel of them feeding Bohm a body to me.

 

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Nicolas Dalby vs Claudio Silva. OK fight, can’t say I’m particularly arsed about it but it’ll do. Dalby’s 19-4-0-2. Went to a draw in a really good fight against Darren Till at the start of Till’s UFC run. Had that mad bloodbath against Ross Houston in Cage Warriors that was ruled a No Contest because the canvas was so blood soaked it was deemed unsafe. Has beat Alex Oliveira and Daniel Rodriguez on points but lost his last fight against Tim Means. That’s about it. Silva’s a BJJ black-belt, 14-3 in MMA and coming off back-to-back losses. Before that he’d been on a nice winning streak, with the highlight being his decision win over Leon Edwards back in 2014! But he fought sporadically with big gaps of inactivity sprinkled throughout his career. At 39 years old now, and coming off a couple of losses, I think it’s safe to say the ship’s sailed. His grappling is nothing to sleep on but Dalby really has no excuse to not be winning this fight in 2022.

 

That’s your lot. There are a bunch of fighters I’m surprised aren’t on this card, to be honest. Arnold Allen is the big glaring omission for me but I think they’re lining him up for the Paris card. Jack Shore is literally fighting the week before as well, which I find a bit odd. Aside from them, you’ve got Lerone Murphy, Mason Jones, Nathaniel Wood, Jake Hadley, Joanne Wood? I know you can’t get everyone on one card but I’d like to have seen a couple of them on there. Should be good though. 

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Edited by wandshogun09
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The Nathaniel Wood omission is a really weird one when you consider his last fight was on the previous London card and was cancelled due to his opponent pulling out at the last minute.

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pretty sure Mason Jones is getting added to this too.

I'm not sure if I prefer this or the March card, I may lean towards this actually. If they'd put the Shore/Simon fight on here it wouldn't even be a discussion.

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14 hours ago, Chunk said:

The Nathaniel Wood omission is a really weird one when you consider his last fight was on the previous London card and was cancelled due to his opponent pulling out at the last minute.

Wood was on about moving up to Featherweight recently and looking at his Twitter just now, I see he’s been posting a lot of training videos and hints that he’ll be on this card. Just saw this as well…

So they’re trying to make a fight for him. And this card is the obvious destination so maybe there’s an announcement coming.

6 hours ago, Egg Shen said:

pretty sure Mason Jones is getting added to this too.

I'm not sure if I prefer this or the March card, I may lean towards this actually. If they'd put the Shore/Simon fight on here it wouldn't even be a discussion.

Yeah, Mason Jones wants on the card apparently. I hope he gets added it seems like ages since he last fought. The clock is ticking though. The show is only 6 weeks away now.

I like this card a lot but I still think March’s was a bit better. The main event here is stronger but I liked Allen vs Hooker a lot more than Hermansson vs Till as co-main. Plus you had Topuria on there, Gunnar’s return, Jack Shore and Mokaev’s debut on top of the Aspinall and Pimblett buzz. And it delivered so big that I’m not sure this card can match it. Adding Jones and Wood fights would definitely be a boost though. 

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