UFC 295: Prochazka vs. Pereira takes place this weekend at Madison Square Garden in New York City – and we’ve got our UFC picks for all the fights below.
UFC 295: Prochazka vs. Pereira Predictions
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Jiri Prochazka vs. Alex Pereira
A serious shoulder injury forced Jiri Prochazka to vacate the light-heavyweight title last year, but now he has a chance to win it back after Jamahal Hill also suffered an injury that forced him to relinquish the title. That’s paved the way for Prochazka to now fight former middleweight titleholder Alex Pereira to establish the 205lb division’s new champion.
Prochazka’s shoulder injury was said to be very severe, so it’ll be interesting to see how well that’s healed after a year on the sidelines while recovering from his surgery. Prior to that Prochazka had been a buzzsaw in the 205lb ranks, with his swashbuckling, all-action style having initially marked him out as a lethal knockout artist in the Rizin promotion prior to joining the UFC. He then proved he could continue that momentum against higher-level opposition with KO wins over Volkan Oezdemir and Dominick Reyes followed by a submission finish against Glover Teixiera in their title clash.
That being said, Prochazka did find the going tougher against Teixeira and actually looked to be on the verge of losing on the scorecards in that fight prior to seizing upon a submission just 28 seconds before the final bell. Prochazka is an unorthodox striker who loves to be on the offensive right from the opening bell. He throws everything but the kitchen sink at his opponents with a slew of creative, hard-hitting and high-volume strikes, and he’s more than willing to take blows in order to land his own potential fight-enders.
So far that’s proven to be a winning strategy, but it seems a particularly risky gameplan against a decorated kickboxer of Pereira’s calibre, who has deadly power in his punches and kicks, but is also more of a sniper when compared to Prochazka and will be eagerly awaiting opportunities to exploit openings in his opponent’s defense. That being said, Pereira will want no part in the ground game, so though he typically doesn’t look to bring the fight to the mat, Prochazka would have the advantage there if he chooses to use it.
This feels like a stylistic match-up where Prochazka’s apparent defensive flaws could well catch up to him, and as durable as he can be it’s hard for anyone to withstand clean strikes from Pereira, so I’m going with the Brazilian to win another title courtesy of a a second round TKO finish.
Prediction: Alex Pereira to win by TKO in Rd2.
Sergei Pavlovich vs. Tom Aspinall
UFC 295 had originally been set to be fronted by a blockbuster heavyweight title showdown between Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic, but when the champ suffered an injury the UFC brass hastily assembled a new interim title fight between leading contenders Sergei Pavlovich and Tom Aspinall instead.
It comes a time when both fighters are in excellent form, with the 31-year-old Pavlovich having ran through his last six opponents in the Octagon inside the first round, with the likes of Curtis Blaydes, Tai Tuivasa and Derrick Lewis all having been either KO’d or TKO’d in the process. The 30-year-old Aspinall has been similarly impressive, going 6-1 in the UFC so far, with his only loss being due to a freak knee injury just 15 seconds into a headlining fight with Curtis Blaydes last year. Aspinall had finished all five of his opponents prior to that though via either strikes or submission, and also returned to winning ways with a 73 second TKO stoppage of Marcin Tybura in July.
Both men are very good athletes who move well despite being close to the heavyweight limit. Aspinall in particular is fleet of foot, which aids him not only with getting in and out of range to land his boxing and kicks, but also to transition into swift takedown attempts too. And that speaks to another of his biggest strengths, which is his well-rounded game. On the mat he’s also quick to seize upon submission opportunities and he has hard ground-and-pound too.
Despite being a couple of inches smaller than his opponent, Pavlovich has a sizeable 6″ reach advantage and he’ll make full use of that as he’s primarily a compact, purposeful boxer with good accuracy and absolutely thunderous punching power. Nine years into his career Pavlovich has still only been out of the 1st round on three occasions, and to his credit he still won his fights that went the distance (including a five-rounder), while in the other 15 victories he delivered a swift finish via punches. Pavlovich’s solitary loss came on the mat against Alistair Overeem via ground-and-pound, but though he doesn’t usually use it he has shown in the past that he can wrestle offensively and has flashed some takedown defense ability more recently too.
This is a great heavyweight fight that definitely deserves having a belt on the line for the winner. It’s one of those match-ups where if they fought 10 times I’m not sure we’d emerge with a clear winner so it’s hard to pick between them. I believe Pavlovich is the more dangerous, heavy-hitting boxer of the two, but Aspinall has the broader overall skill-set and as such holds a significant advantage on the mat. That, together with the fact he will present a faster, more mobile target than Pavlovich is used to dealing with makes me lean towards Aspinall being able to survive the early threat and use his grappling ability to find a submission finish by the second round.
Prediction: Tom Aspinall to win by submission in Rd2.
Mackenzie Dern vs. Jessica Andrade
Mackenzie Dern has been alternating between wins and losses recently and now takes on former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade, who is currently experiencing the worst run of her career, having lost three fights inside the distance in 2023 so far.
In fairness to Andrade, she has been facing high-level opponents in Erin Blanchfield, Yan Xiaonan and Tatiana Suarez during that period, but her performances have left a lot to be desired. In her prime her toughness, aggression, powerful brawling and brute-strength takedowns made her a daunting opponent to deal with. However, there’s clear signs that at 32-years-old, Andrade’s willingness to eat punches over the years has taken a toll on her durability, while more skilled grapplers are now schooling her on the mat. Adding to her woes it seems that Andrade is unwilling or unable to change things up and instead when the chips are down she doubles down on her aggression, which often marches her head-first into more problems.
Given that she’s been tapped out twice in those three recent losses there’s obvious danger signs ahead in this fight given that Dern is a world-class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner. The 30-year-old has never quite reached the heights some thought she might when she crossed over to MMA though, with her lack of fundamental wrestling meaning that she struggles to get the fight to the mat in the first place, while on the feet she has power in her hands and can take a punch, but she is a bit plodding with her work and has never looked particularly comfortable or refined technically.
So both fighters her are definitely flawed and as such it’s tough to pick either with confidence at his moment in time. Still, as bad as she’s looked of late I think Andrade still is the better striker of the two and her strength is going to make it difficult for Dern to manufacture some kind of a successful takedown. If the fight does hit the mat there’s a big chance Dern emerges with a submission win, but I’ll say Andrade keeps it upright and brawls her way to a much-needed decision win.
Prediction: Jessica Andrade to win by decision.
Matt Frevola vs. Benoit Saint Denis
Matt Frevola is enjoying his best form in the UFC so far after three 1st round victories in a row via strikes and now takes on Benoit Saint Denis, who is also riding a wave of momentum courtesy of a four-fight winning streak.
Drew Dober has been known as one of the most durable fighters on the roster, so the fact that Frevola TKO’d him inside the first round in his last fight is a big feather in his cap. It’s interesting as Frevola wasn’t traditionally seen as a big finisher via strikes, but he’s definitely levelled up his boxing over time and has real belief in his stopping power now. He does eat a lot of punches in return though, and there’s a risk that he could end up just becoming too eager to find more finishes rather than also utilizing his wrestling, which was a significant part of his game in the past.
Saint Denis also has some confidence-boosting wins over notable opponents under his belt, stopping both Thiago Moises and Ismael Bonfim in his last couple of fights. He’s not as hard a hitter as Frevola on the feet, but he offers up a high output of punches and kicks and has good accuracy. he’s also very durable, though the downside is he’s proven his toughness by being hit more often than you’d like to see. He’s also a good wrestler and has an effective submission game that’s accounted for 9 of his 12 career wins.
This should be a fun and fairly competitive scrap, but I think Saint Denis all-round skills are just bit better and he’ll be a bit more composed in the heat of the battle across 15 minutes to earn a close decision victory.
Prediction: Benoit Saint Denis to win by decision.
Pat Sabatini vs. Diego Lopes
Pat Sabatini has won five out of his six UFC bouts so far and now faces off against Diego Lopes, who has gone 1-1.
Lopes was a big underdog in his short-notice debut against Movsar Evloev back in May, but he earned everyone’s respect by showing absolutely no fear against his undefeated opponent, taking the fight to him from the opening bell and coming close to finishing him via submissions on the mat before ultimately losing out by unanimous decision. A 1st round submission win over Gavin Tucker since then has proven that his performance wasn’t just a one-off and in addition to his tricky BJJ game, Lopes is also a capable striker. In fact he should have the edge in that regard over Sabatini, while also having a 3″ height and 2.5″ reach advantage too.
Sabatini is more of a specialist who can be a bit vulnerable on the feet, but makes up for it with his dogged pursuit of takedowns, strong top control, hurtful ground-and-pound and proven submission ability that’s accounted for 11 of his career victories.
If Lopes can keep this one upright he could have a good night here, and that’s not to say he can’t perform well on the mat too. However, I think Sabatini will be able to get this fight to the canvas on his terms and with his positional control on top I see him frustrating Lopes and grinding out a decision victory.
Prediction: Pat Sabatini to win by decision.
UFC 295: Prochazka vs. Pereira 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