Has there ever been an event where the whole main card is full of pick ‘em fights? UFC 295 is an absolutely stacked card, and Madison Square Garden is the perfect host for it. Here are our predictions for the spectacle that is about to occur on Saturday night:
UFC Light Heavyweight Championship: #1 Jiri Prochazka vs. #3 Alex Pereira
Anik: Alex Pereira proved he has takedown defense, good cardio, and submission defense in his light heavyweight debut against former champion Jan Blachowicz. Not only that, he also learned from prior mistakes and was calculated to break down his opponent in a technical manner. He possesses knockout power and is even scarier now that he is patient. This gives me shades of Francis Ngannou’s patient dismantling of Stipe Miocic in their heavyweight title rematch.
On the other hand, Jiri Prochazka could easily be 1-2 in the UFC, given he was out on his feet against Glover Teixeira and knocked out by Dominick Reyes’ upkick. His survival mode tactics are phenomenal; however, he cannot carelessly trade with Pereira, who arguably is the hardest hitter in the division. Additionally, the Czech native is coming off an 18-month layoff, and his defense must be on point for a victory.
Prediction: Alex Pereira via 2nd-Round KO/TKO
Mishal: In my opinion, a potential fight-of-the-year candidate on paper. Alex Pereira has accomplished so much in his short UFC tenure. From dethroning Israel Adesanya, knocking out the current UFC middleweight champion Sean Strickland, and moving up a weight class to defeat long-time contender Jan Błachowicz, he’s now on the verge of making combat sports history. Similar can be said about Prochazka, who in just 3 fights became the UFC light heavyweight champion in an all-time classic against Glover Texeira last year. Now returning from injury, he is placed opposite a man with dynamite in his hands.
If anything, this is the hardest fight on the card to call due to how many variables exist. Pereira’s power, Jiri’s unorthodox chaos, both men’s tendency to overexpose, and the overall difference in activity. The more I think about it, the more back-and-forth things go. Jiri is undoubtedly the warrior he frames himself to be and is never out of any fight, while Alex’s precision makes him a potential kryptonite against the chin of his opponent who has been rocked on a few occasions. Despite many reservations about Jiri’s chin against someone like “Poatan”, I’ll lean with the former champion fighting an absolute war to reclaim what he never lost by way of absolute carnage.
Prediction: Jiri Prochazka via 4th-Round KO/TKO
UFC Interim Heavyweight Championship: #2 Sergei Pavlovich vs. #4 Tom Aspinall
Anik: Sergei Pavlovich’s average fight time in the UFC has been a mere 2 minutes and 21 seconds. He is also on a 6-fight knockout win streak. Additionally, he has had a longer training camp, as he was slated to serve as the backup fighter for the title fight between Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic. I expect him to start off more comfortably as the harder puncher. If this ends in the first round, I would take the Russian by knockout.
However, as the fight continues, I lean toward Aspinall, who appears to be extremely light on his feet and the more versatile wrestler with his championship-level wrestling. His fight IQ is exquisite, and he will take down the gassed-out Pavlovich. Don’t blink for this one, but I believe Aspinall will use his wrestling to score a late victory by ground-and-pound.
Prediction: Tom Aspinall via 4th-Round KO/TKO
Mishal: You couldn’t ask for a better Heavyweight fight. Jones vs. Miocic was the bigger draw, but this is everything a championship fight should be. A contest between two of the most elite talents in the division (outside the champion), a rescheduled contest that was meant to happen some time ago, a clash between two future stars, all of this with both gold and a chance at Jon Jones hanging in the balance. The stakes here feel elevated in every single way, as does the unpredictability.
Both Pavlovich & Aspinall are natural finishers. The combined fight times of both men in the last 3 years aren’t even the length of a 5-round main event, ensuring this isn’t one that will go anywhere near the distance. In terms of skillset, this is fairly even in my book. Aspinall is going to want to try and take this to the ground if he wants a solid chance. But getting a giant like Pavlovich down there is no easy task. Standing up with the Russian also seems like a risky venture, considering arguably the only man in the division that can match his speed is Aspinall. However, his power likely doesn’t come close considering how Pavlovich barely needs to touch you to hurt you.
It’s a fight I want neither man to lose due to how big I am on both of them. Considering the heavyweight’s are all about the power, my gut leans with the Russian even though I wouldn’t be surprised if Aspinall found a way to shock all of us.
Prediction: Sergei Pavlovich via 2nd-Round KO/TKO
#5 Jessica Andrade vs. #7 Mackenzie Dern
Anik: Jessica Andrade is the BMF of women’s MMA. She is the most active fighter on the roster, and this will be her 5th fight this year. Unfortunately, her careless striking has led her to be finished in her last 3 fights by top-tier opponents.
I believe Mackenzie Dern can use her length advantage to tie Andrade up in clinches. Additionally, the submission artist showed improved cardio and striking in a 5 round mauling of Angela Hill earlier this year. I believe Andrade leaves too many openings to get taken down, and Dern will rely on her signature backpack to earn a rear naked choke.
Prediction: Mackenzie Dern via 2nd-Round Submission
Mishal: If there is one fighter on the UFC roster that is in desperate need of an extended hiatus, it’s Jessica Andrade. A former champion who remains a contender up to this point hasn’t exactly had the best luck as of late.
Dern has shown growth as a fighter in all aspects. Her ground game remains stellar, her biggest improvements were found in her pace and striking, which is an area that Andrade loves to engage in when she brawls it out. Andrade does have the style to make this competitive, potentially pulling off the upset. But her clearly fading chin and over-activity have me thinking Mackenzie Dern is in for the biggest win of her career.
Prediction: Mackenzie Dern via 2nd-Round Submission
#14 Matt Frevola vs. Benoit Saint-Denis
Anik: Matt “Steam Rolla” Frevola won the UFC 288 crowd before his fight even occurred against Drew Dober. He walked out to “Trumpets” and danced his way to knocking out the man with the iron chin. The LAW MMA native has been on a 3-fight 1st-round knockout streak, and I believe his durability and power will threaten Saint-Denis.
Benoit Saint-Denis is an absolute wrecking ball when it comes to fighting. The Frenchman is vicious and always goes for the finish. However, I do see two rooms for error from him. In his last victory over Thiago Moises, his team instructed him to keep his hands up and not leave his chin in the air. Frevola hits harder than almost anyone. Additionally, the new lightweight will have made the weight 5 times in 18 months this Friday. On another modified training camp, his gas tank could suffer.
Prediction: Matt Frevola via 3rd-Round KO/TKO
Mishal: This one is going to be a wild ride for however long it lasts. A certified firework show, and my call for Fight of the Night, you couldn’t ask for a more fun undercard fight than how I hope this one turns out. Matt Frevola is aiming for his 4th finish against one of the most exciting prospects the UFC has to offer right now.
Benoit Saint-Denis is a killer, always looking to take the head off of his opponent, meaning there is no way he changes his game plan against someone like Frevola. Saint-Denis does have holes in his defensive game, namely his stand-up, yet the sheer power and will in his hands make him a dangerous fight for almost anyone. Especially in a stand-up war like this one is bound to be… Either man possesses the capability to starch the other, and it will be a story of who hits first and hardest.
Prediction: Benoit Saint-Denis via 3rd-Round KO/TKO
Diego Lopes vs. Pat Sabatini
Anik: Diego Lopes became a fan favorite in his first career UFC loss at UFC 288. The Brazilian nearly submitted the undefeated Movsar Evloev and riled up the Newark crowd. In his return performance, he won by spectacular armbar of Gavin Tucker. His jiu-jitsu is dangerous and he is also willing to brawl.
On the other hand, Pat Sabatini is flying under the radar with a 5-1 record in the UFC. He has shown consistency but has not beaten a top-tier opponent yet. The winner of this pick ‘em fight deserves a ranked opponent next.
Prediction: Diego Lopes via 2nd-Round Submission
Mishal: On a night packed with closely contested bouts, we have yet another one set to open the main card between another two fantastic featherweight prospects. Compared to Saint-Denis vs. Frevola, this is on the quieter end of the hype train, yet is still deserving because it is a quality bout in the making.
Diego Lopes possesses the advantage with his ground game, as well as a fearless attitude to stand and bang with anyone he shares the octagon with. Pat Sabatini is coming off a win and is a well-rounded prospect. As the betting odds would suggest, this is one that can swing either way considering how evenly matched both guys are on paper. Either way, this is one of those fights we shouldn’t gloss over as it does set up another ranked opponent to come.
Official Prediction: Diego Lopes via 2nd-Round Submission