While Jon Jones vs. Stipe Miocic will no longer be the main event of UFC 295, the card got a boost with two big title fights on November 11. In Madison Square Garden, the event airs on ESPN+ PPV.
Jones, the UFC heavyweight champion, injured himself while training. The UFC then booked an interim UFC heavyweight title fight between top contenders Sergei Pavlovich and Tom Aspinall as the co-main event. Aspinall is 6-1 with the UFC and returned from a torn MCL and meniscus to beat Marcin Tybura. Pavlovich is on a six-fight win streak, all wins via knockout.
The new main event was the old co-main, as Jiri Prochazka and Alex Pereira fight for the UFC light heavyweight title. Prochazka is a former light heavyweight champion who relinquished the belt due to injury. He hasn’t fought since June 2022. Pereira is a former UFC middleweight champion who competes in his second fight at light heavyweight. He looks to go 3-0 in MSG.
Also on the card, Mackenzie Dern looks to move up in the rankings, as well as Loopy Godinez. Other fighters on the card include Matt Frevola, Jared Gordon, and Roosevelt Roberts.
The Sporting News breaks down every fight on the UFC 295 card, with some help from Sports Interaction.
UFC 295 predictions, best bets
Jiri Prochazka vs. Alex Pereira for the UFC light heavyweight title
Per Sports Interaction, Alex Pereira is the -125 favorite, while Jiri Prochazka is the +105 underdog.
Get ready for some violence, folks. Both are known for their power in just a short time in the octagon. Pereira averages 5.23 significant strikes landed per minute, which would usually trump other fighters. However, Prochazka trumps him with a 5.77 mark. The Brazilian has a slight edge in strike defense with 51% compared to 40% for Prochazka. However, both leave themselves open to shots, especially Prochazka, who leaves his chin in the air.
Both are about even when it comes to takedown defense, which may not play a factor in the fight. Glover Teixeira put Prochazka down five times in their 2022 Fight of the Year, but Prochazka did submit the legend. Pereira’s weakness is on the ground, as seen in his first MSG fight against Andreas Michailidis. Jan Blachowicz took him down three times in his light heavyweight debut.
These warriors apply pressure in their fights, as it is the perfect striker vs. striker matchup. Will one rely on kickboxing over the other? Can Pereira’s power transfer over at light heavyweight? Who will have better conditioning through five rounds? Will the fight even last that long?
The Sporting News believes the fight won’t go past three rounds. Following a 17-month absence, Prochazka badly wants the win. However, Pereira, Mr. MSG ,who already won a title in “The World’s Most Famous Arena,” has insane power that may be too much to handle. Expect history to be made in MSG in what could be a violent Fight of the Night.
Sporting News prediction: Pereira via KO/TKO (round two)
Sergei Pavlovich vs. Tom Aspinall for the interim UFC heavyweight title
Per Sports Interaction, Tom Aspinall is the -115 favorite, while Sergei Pavlovich is the -105 underdog.
Fight fans may have lost Jon Jones vs. Stipe Miocic, but it gained a potential hard-hitting affair between Aspinall and Pavlovich. Can it deliver on just two weeks’ notice? Both land for power, with Aspinall landing 7.65 significant strikes per minute and Pavlovich landing 8.72. Aspinall has the edge in strike accuracy (66% to 49%) and has a better strike defense (65% to 57%).
The Brit understands the assignment in front of him, as Pavlovich is ready to go in there and strike him down. What Aspinall has to do is stop the Russian, whether by leg kicks or by tackling him down to the ground. Aspinall averages 3.70 takedowns landed per 15 minutes but might not even try to go that route. If he does, it may be game over right away. Refreshed, Aspinall is a man on a mission.
Like the main event, this may not last long. Pavlovich via strikes makes sense, but Aspinall should get the win here. Expect fireworks.
Sporting News prediction: Aspinall via submission (round one)
Mackenzie Dern vs. Jessica Andrade; Strawweights
Per Sports Interaction, Mackenzie Dern is the -210 favorite, while Jessica Andrade is the +170 underdog.
It is a unique matchup, as Dern is on her way to becoming a contender while Andrade is on a three-fight losing streak. However, the former strawweight champion in Andrade can still strike with the best of them, landing 6.68 significant strikes per minute. The Brazilian has a 50% accuracy mark and a 54% strike defense mark. She landed 231 significant strikes against Lauren Murphy in January 2023, her last win (this will be his fifth fight in 2023). Meanwhile, Dern lands 3.36 significant strikes per minute, with 126 against the durable Angela Hill.
The ground will be where things get interesting. Andrade averages 2.54 takedowns landed and has a takedown defense mark of 70%. That defense has to be bulletproof, as Dern has a submission average of 1.5 attempted per 15 minutes. Dern can tire you out on the floor and get the win via decision, or she can grab your arm and force you to submit.
If Andrade can’t land the perfect strike against Dern, it’s hard to imagine she can withstand her ground game. With plenty of emotion in this fight from outside forces, Dern will be motivated.
Sporting News prediction: Dern via submission (round one)
Matt Frevola vs. Benoit Saint-Denis; Lightweights
Per Sports Interaction, Benoit Saint-Denis is the -225 favorite, while Matt Frevola is the +185 underdog.
The lone Long Islander on the New York card, Frevola is on a three-fight win streak, landing 3.72 significant strikes per minute. “The Steamrolla” also has a strike defense mark of 59%. Saint-Denis lands 5.59 significant strikes per minute, with 101 against Thiago Moises in September. “God of War” also has a strike defense mark of 44%.
On the floor is when things get tricky. Saint-Denis averages 4.72 takedowns landed per 15 minutes, landing 11 in his last four fights. If he takes you down, it’s game over. Frevola has a 42% takedown defense mark and averages 2.26 takedowns. It doesn’t appear he will go for the takedown. Who will make the first mistake in this game of chess? The hometown hero may get the surprise upset here in a fight that may not last long.
Sporting News prediction: Frevola via TKO (round one)
Diego Lopes vs. Pat Sabatini; Featherweights
Per Sports Interaction, Pat Sabatini is the -120 favorite, while Diego Lopes is the +100 underdog.
A black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Tang Soo Do, Sabatini lands 1.95 significant strikes per minute and has a 59% strike accuracy mark. He also averages 3.83 takedowns landed per 15 minutes, with 13 in his last four fights. Lopes has 12 wins via submission and eight via knockout. He has attempted multiple submissions in the octagon, but was taken down four times against Movsar Evloev.
While there is an unknown factor in the octagon with Lopes, Sabatini shouldn’t expect surprises when he enters the cage.
Sporting News prediction: Sabatini via unanimous decision
Steve Erceg vs. Alessandro Costa; Flyweights
Per Sports Interaction, Steve Erceg is the -200 favorite, while Alessandro Costa is the +165 underdog.
Erceg has landed 3.60 significant strikes per minute in his short time in the octagon and averages 3.00 takedowns landed. Six of the last seven finishes from “Astro Boy” have come via submission. Costa lands 3.82 significant strikes per minute and has a strike defense mark of 63%. He fights on short notice, a common theme in his time in the octagon.
Costa has a solid takedown defense, but can he survive Erceg’s ground game? The Sporting News believes Erceg will get the job done this time around.
Sporting News prediction: Erceg via unanimous decision
Tabatha Ricci vs. Loopy Godinez; Strawweights
Per Sports Interaction, Loopy Godinez is the -175 favorite, while Tabatha Ricci is the +145 underdog.
In her UFC debut, Ricci was beat by Manon Fiorot and has since won three in a row, landing 17 takedowns and lands 4.12 significant strikes per minute. She averages 4.23 takedowns landed per 15 minutes and has a takedown defense mark of 66%. Godinez lands 4.03 significant strikes per 15 minutes and has a strike defense mark of 62%. She averages 3.82 takedowns landed per 15 minutes and landed 15 in five fights.
Both are forces to be reckoned with at strawweight. Loopy is a better boxer run and has a solid wrestling game. She has also worked past previous troubles to make herself an all-around elite fighter, which spells trouble for Ricci.
Sporting News prediction: Godinez via unanimous decision
Mateusz Rębecki vs. Roosevelt Roberts; Lightweights
Odds are not yet available for this fight, as Roberts is a last-minute replacement opponent.
Roberts replaces Nurullo Aliev. He is a two-time Dana White’s Contender Series participant, joining in 2018 and impressing in the recent veteran vs. young guns series. While he lost in the semifinals, the UFC kept his number. Outside of DWCS, Roberts is on a three-fight losing streak in the octagon but on a two-fight win streak. He lands 3.14 significant strikes per minute in the octagon and has a 53% strike defense mark.
Rebecki, another former DWCS alum, has won two fights in the octagon, landing 5.57 significant strikes per minute. Overall, he has nine wins via knockout and six via submission.
Roberts can present a unique challenge, but Rebecki, who was on the way to beating Aliev, may be as impressive against the veteran.
Sporting News prediction: Rębecki via TKO (round two)
Nazim Sadykhov vs. Viacheslav Borshchev; Lightweights
Per Sports Interaction, Viacheslav Borshchev is the -125 favorite, while Nazim Sadykhov is the +105 underdog.
Borshchev lands 4.63 significant strikes per minute and has a 57% strike accuracy mark. Sadykhov lands 4.35 significant strikes per minute and has a 52% accuracy mark. Sadykhov has the edge on the floor by averaging 0.52 takedowns landed per 15 minutes. Borshchev has a takedown defense of 35% but has been taken down 20 times in his last three fights.
A sharp striker, Borshchev can punish his opponent. However, he hasn’t managed to adapt on the floor. If Sadykhov can grab hold of him and drag him down, it may be a tough night at the office for Borshchev.
Sporting News prediction: Sadykhov via submission (round two)
Jared Gordon vs. Mark Madsen; Lightweights
Per Sports Interaction, Jared Gordon is the -200 favorite, while Mark Madsen is the +165 underdog.
Queens’ Gordon is 1-2 with one no-contest in his last four fights, his last contest a NC after being knocked unconscious following a clash of heads. “Flash” lands 5.32 significant strikes per minute and has a strike accuracy mark of 57%. Madsen lands 3.24 significant strikes per minute and has a strike accuracy mark of 47%. Madsen has a four-inch reach advantage but didn’t fight for a year.
On the floor, Madsen has the edge in takedowns landing per 15 minutes, averaging 3.09 (2.01 for Gordon). Gordon landed three in a controversial loss against Paddy Pimblett but was taken down seven times against Grant Dawson. Madsen landed eight against Austin Hubbard in 2020 and three against Vinc Pichel in 2022.
The gas tank of Madsen is questionable, especially after taking a year off. Gordon should get back to his winning ways by tiring out Madsen.
Sporting News prediction: Gordon via unanimous decision
John Castaneda vs. Kang Kyung-ho; Bantamweights
Per Sports Interaction, John Castaneda is the -145 favorite, while Kang Kyung-ho is the +120 underdog.
A former Dana White’s Contender Series alum, Castaneda lands 4.24 significant strikes per minute and has a strike accuracy mark of 47%. “Sexy Mexi” has won eight fights via knockout and seven via submission. With the UFC since 2013 but with a gap in his career due to military service, Kang lands 3.09 significant strikes per minute and has a strike accuracy mark of 49%.
On a two-fight win streak, Kang has done well against stiff competition compared to Castaneda. However, if Castaneda provides a strong takedown defense, he can try and tire out Kang. In a potentially even fight, Castaneda may be able to edge out a win.
Sporting News prediction: Castaneda via split decision
Joshua Van vs. Kevin Borjas; Flyweights
Per Sports Interaction, Joshua Van is the -225 favorite, while Kevin Borjas is the +180 underdog.
Van has five wins via knockout, and in the octagon, “Fearless” landed 120 significant strikes against Zhalgas Zhumagulov. Borjas has eight victories via knockout and landed 87 significant strikes in his Dana White’s Contender Series debut in August. The latter, with a three-inch reach advantage, was taken down five times, which may be something to look into.
Borjas has a chance to put Van to sleep, but Van appears to be the more complete fighter here.
Sporting News prediction: Van via submission (round two)
Dennis Buzukja vs. Jamall Emmers; Featherweights
Per Sports Interaction, Jamall Emmers is the -275 favorite, while Dennis Buzukja is the +210 underdog.
Emmers, a Dana White’s Contender Series alum, lands 4.95 significant strikes per minute, while Buzukja lands 3.29. Emmers averages 1.98 takedowns landed per 15 minutes, landing seven in his last four fights. Buzukja, another alum of DWCS, averages 1.00 takedowns landed, with three in his short time in the octagon. However, he has been taken down five times in two fights.
Emmers didn’t show much against Pat Sabatini before a heel hook ended the fight, and he seemingly was robbed against Jack Jenkins. The skills are there to show he can lead a fight. With that said Emmers should get the much-needed win.