UFc 295 takes place tomorrow night in New York City and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Jiri Prochazka vs. Alex Pereira
Prochazka has been out of action for a year after a serious shoulder injury forced him to vacate the 205lb title last year. Since then Jamahal Hill has also had to relinquish the belt due to an injury and so Prochazka now gets a chance to fight for the vacant title against former middleweight champ Alex Pereira.
The word at the time of Prochazka’s injury was that it was quite severe and would take a long time to recover from, so it’ll be interesting to see if there’s any sign of ring rust when he returns to the Octagon tomorrow night. When he’s firing on all cylinders he’s proven to be an offensive powerhouse, having been a proven knockout artist in the Rizing promotion and then shown the same finishing instincts in the UFC too with KO wins over Volkan Oezdemir and Dominick Reyes, followed by submitting Glover Teixeria to win the title.
That last fight against Teixeira was his toughest test so far though and he was actually on the verge of losing before seizing on an opportunistic submission in the dying seconds of the fight. It’s really the striking game where he’s most effective though, with an unorthodox and all-action approach that sees him throwing creative and varied strikes in volume with fight-ending power.
Despite being risky and not particularly defensively-sound it’s a style that’s paid off for Prochazka so far, but it remains to be seen if it can work against a decorated kickboxing ace like Pereira, who is more of a sniper while still having lethal stopping power in both his devastating punches and lightning-quick head kicks. For all his striking prowess, Pereira is far more limited when it comes to his ground game though, and while Prochazka prefers to operate on the feet too, he will have a sizeable advantage on the mat if he wants to use it.
I think Prochazka will be happy to test his skills on the feet though and as durable, dangerous and courageous as he is I do think this is a fight where the defensive holes in his game could be his downfall since Pereira only needs one clean strike to end the night. I’ll take the Brazilian to win by TKO in the second round.
Pick: Alex Pereira wins by TKO in Rd2.
Sergei Pavlovich vs. Tom Aspinall
UFC 295’s original main event would have seen heavyweight king Jon Jones clash with Stipe Miocic, but an injury to the champ has resulted in the UFC hastily ushering in leading contenders Sergei Pavlovich and Tom Aspinall to fight for the interim heavyweight title on just a couple of week’s notice.
Both fighters have certainly earned this opportunity as they’ve been running through their opponents on their rise up the ranks in recent years. The 31-year-old Pavlovich has yet to see past the first round in his current six-fight winning streak, which has seen him stop all his opponents via strikes, including the likes of Curtis Blaydes, Tai Tuivasa and Derrick Lewis. Meanwhile, the 30-year-old Aspinall has had similar success, although a freak knee injury last year just 15 seconds into a fight with Curtis Blaydes did lead to a TKO loss. Nonetheless, in his previous five fights Aspinall had won by either strikes or submission, while his last outing after recovering from the knee injury saw him TKO Marcin Tybura in 73 seconds.
As well as still being quite young by heavyweight standards, both fighters here are also very athletic despite tipping the scales close to the heavyweight limit. Aspinall in particular has fast feet and good movement, enabling him to get in and out of range with strikes quickly, circle effectively, and also smoothly transition from striking to takedown attempts. Aspinall has been a training partner for Tyson Fury and his brother Tommy in the past, which speaks to his boxing skill, while he has power in his kicks too. However, it’s Aspinall’s all-round ability that makes him particularly formidable in the weight class as has solid wrestling and finish ability via both submissions and ground-and-pound too.
Pavlovich is primarily a boxing-based striker, and a formidable one at that. He has a compact, purposeful style and will be aided by a 6″ reach advantage here. As his UFC record and beyond suggests he’s an extremely heavy-handed puncher, but he’s also accurate too when he lets his fists fly and doesn’t let opponents off the hook once he smells blood in the water. As such he’s only made it beyond the 1st round three times in his 18-fight career. With that being said, he was TKO’d in his UFC debut in the 1st round by Alistair Overeem via ground-and-pound, but while the ground game isn’t his strong suit he has shown some flashes of offensive wrestling in the past and has stuffed the occasional takedown more recently.
This is a great match-up and both fighters have the ability to emerge with the interim title wrapped around their waists. If it’s Pavlovich who does so then it’ll most likely come inside the distance early via strikes as he’s the harder hitter of the two. However, I think Aspinall will prove to be harder to finish than most of his opponents as he will present a more mobile target rather than just going toe-to-toe, while I feel his takedown entries and superior ground game will be the key to winning this fight, leading to a second round submission finish.
Pick: Tom Aspinall wins by submission in Rd2.
Mackenzie Dern vs. Jessica Andrade
After going back-and-forth between wins and losses of late, Mackenzie Dern now faces former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade, who is in dire need of a win after losing all three of her fights in 2023 so far.
Andrade’s poor form could be partially explained by the level of opposition she’s faced in Erin Blanchfield, Yan Xiaonan and Tatiana Suarez, but nonetheless she’s not been performing well. Andrade’s style has always been fairly reliant on her physical strength, aggression and toughness, whether she’s been brawling or landing brute-force takedowns and ground-and-pound, rather than slick technical ability. And at it’s best that made her tough to deal with, but recently there’s been signs that after taking so many punches over the years the 32-year-old’s durability has suffered, while superior grapplers have been able to demonstrate how skill overcomes strength on the mat. It’s also been problematic that Andrade’s default reaction to coming off second-best is to double down on her aggressive instincts, which often just makes matters worse.
The 30-year-old Dern will certainly see opportunities to punish Andrade on the mat here after seeing her tapped out twice in her last three fights as she is an elite BJJ practitioner. As such there was a lot of hype surrounding her when she first moved over to competing in MMA, but it’s fair to say she hasn’t quite been able to live up to expectations so far. Part of that is due to her lack of wrestling fundamentals, which has made it challenging for her to get the fight to the mat in the first place. Meanwhile, though she’s worked to improve her striking and has natural power, she’s never really looked that comfortable upright, remaining quite rough-and-ready technically and a bit plodding in her approach.
If Dern can manufacture a way to get the fight to the floor then I do believe she should be able to tap her opponent out, but as poor as she’s looked lately I think Andrade may well be able to keep this one on the feet, and she’s certainly the better striker of the two, which will lead her to a much-needed decision victory.
Pick: Jessica Andrade wins by decision.
Matt Frevola vs. Benoit Saint Denis
Two in-form lightweights battle it out here, with Matt Frevola having strung together three wins in a row via strikes in the opening round, while Benoit Saint Denis is coming in on a four-fight winning streak.
The fact that Frevola TKO’d the exceptionally hard-to-finish Drew Dober inside a round last time out is impressive, particularly as he wasn’t really known to wield that kind of power earlier in his career. His recent performances have shown the improvements in his boxing ability though and he has more confidence than ever in his stopping power. The downside is that Frevola is prone to being quite hittable on the feet, and an eagerness to finish more fights may distract him from his wrestling, which was a significant component of his game in the past.
Saint Denis also comes in high on confidence after his recent finishes of Thiago Moises and Ismael Bonfim. He doesn’t have as heavy hands as Frevola, but he’s a well-rounded fighter who maintains a high output of punches and kicks with good accuracy on the feet. Like Frevola he can be there to get hit too often, but has proven to be very hard to finish even when he’s hurt. Meanwhile he has good wrestling and proven submission ability, with 9 of his 12 wins coming via that method.
I’m expecting a fun competitive fight here in which both men demonstrate good chins, but Saint Denis proves to be just that bit better and more composed both on the feet and on the mat to win a close call on the scorecards.
Pick: Benoit Saint Denis wins by decision.
Pat Sabatini vs. Diego Lopes
with five wins in six UFC fights to date, Pat Sabatini now goes up against Diego Lopez, who is 1-1 in his UFC run so far.
Lopes had a daunting debut on short-notice against the undefeated Movsar Evloev back in May, and while he did ultimately lose by unanimous decision he rightly won plaudits for how competitive a fight he gave him. Lopes showed no fear from the opening bell and took the fight to Evloev, finding success on the mat in particular with his crafty submission skills. He’s since gone on to finish Gavin Tucker in the 1st round via submission to prove he definitely belongs in the UFC. He’s no slouch on the feet either and with a 3″ height and 2.5″ reach advantage he may well feel he has a chance to get the better of Sabatini on the feet here.
There’s a reason for that as Sabatini isn’t particularly comfortable on feet and is much more of a ground specialist who relies on his good takedowns, strong top control and savvy submission game that’s led to 11 stoppage wins.
It’ll be intriguing to see how this one plays out but I think Sabatini will be able to land takedowns here and his stifling top pressure will frustrate Lopes attempts to work submission from his back, leading Sabatini to grind out a decision win.
Pick: Pat Sabatini wins by decision.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Matt Schnell vs. Stephen Erceg
Tabatha Ricci vs. Loopy Godinez
Nazim Sadykhov vs. Viacheslav Borshchev
Mateusz Rebecki vs. Nurullo Aliev
Dennis Buzukja vs. Jamall Emmers
Jared Gordon vs. Mark Madsen
John Castaneda vs. Kyung Ho Kang
Kevin Borjas vs. Joshua Van