UFC 295 staff picks and predictions: Prochazka vs. Pereira will be close
See who we are picking to get the W at MSG.
UFC 295 is under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden on Saturday night with two titles on the line. The main event has former champions Jiri Prochazka and Alex Pereira battling it out for the vacant UFC light heavyweight crown. Before that Tom Aspinall and Sergei Pavlovich will meet to contest the interim UFC heavyweight title.
Of course, this event was built around Jon Jones vs. Stipe Miocic for the legit heavyweight strap. But even though that fight is off the table, there is still some respectable depth to this card (compared to what we put up with at the APEX these days).
We’ve got Jessica Andrade vs. Mackenzie Dern, Diego Lopes vs. Pat Sabatini and Benoit Saint-Denis vs. Matt Frevola. Those should all be fun scraps.
As always the crew over here at Bloody Elbow has examined these match-ups and picked who we think will win come Saturday night.
In the main event, we’re pretty split. Jiri Prochazka has more votes, but not by much. Hopefully that means we get a close, and exciting, bout to cap off UFC 295.
It’s a similar story in the co-main, with Sergei Pavlovich getting the slight nod from the staff.
Keep scrolling for the rest of our UFC 295 picks and don’t forget to tell us yours in the comment section!
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Jiri Prochazka vs. Alex Pereira
Anton Tabuena: Jiri has the skillset, the power, and the athleticism to win this, and with his creativity and wild style, this should be a pretty fun contest regardless of outcome and however long this lasts. I can see many avenues for Jiri to win, but I feel like he will naturally pick the more dangerous option and just trade with the champion kickboxer for too long. He can definitely win there, as in a firefight where both land big shots, I think it’s more likely that Jiri survives and reacts better, as Pereira’s touch of death may not be as potent at 205. Mistakes would probably be more costly for Pereira, but Jiri might just leave a lot more openings here.
Best approach would be for Jiri to mix in a lot of takedowns, keep him on his back foot, and force Pereira to play his high paced game, while also trying to be disciplined on defense. But that’s a tough ask, especially for 25 minutes, and I’m guessing Jiri will be a wild man and just scrap. Pereira will probably have a lot of opportunities to counter, capitalize, and crack him worse than Glover did, especially if Jiri is still a bit rusty from the injury and layoff. I could be wrong, but I’m really excited to find out. Alex Pereira by TKO.
Dayne: Where to begin? Pereira is the superior technician by a long shot. Prochazka is one of the most dynamic and creative MMA fighters on the planet. Both have fight ending power too. Pereira may have more overall combat experience, but Prochazka has three times as many MMA fights. In other words, I’m not sure experience is in the favor of either man. There aren’t a lot of factors to separate them.
There may not be a lot, but there are enough factors to quickly go over. For instance, Prochazka is the superior athlete by a long shot. But how will his shoulder react after surgery? Given modern medicine has made recovery from surgeries less of an issue than it used to be, I’m not as concerned about it as I may have been in the past. Throw in that it’s fair to question if Pereira’s chin may be showing signs of cracking and I’m going with the younger fighter to reclaim his crown. Prochazka via TKO of RD3
Chris: Picking fights via coin flip has been an emotional roller coaster. You’d think it relieves me of stress but instead it forces me to realize I’ve got some ‘rules’ that I adhere to in close fights. In this case I have to say that whenever there’s a disciplined striker versus a chaotic dynamo, I lean towards the tactician. Yair vs Volk, Whittaker vs Brunson… it’s Alex by stoppage.
Zane: I’m really very split on this one. Essentially, I can see Pereira being more dominant than Prochazka in any one area (kickboxing on the front foot), but can see Prochazka being a bit better in a whole bunch of other areas, especially if he can put Pereira on the defensive and back him up. In the broad strokes, I feel like if Prochazka spends any significant amount of time having to play defense, he very likely loses, the same may not be true for Pereira. For all that though, I’m still picking Prochazka. Most notably because his chin has just looked nearly impossible to crack and I’ve seen Pereira get hurt badly in several fights. If Prochazka can create enough chaos I think he can stun ‘Po Atan’ and if he can do that, he can probably finish him. Jiri Prochazka via KO, round 2.
Victor: Alex has a stellar stand-up game and now doesn't have to deplete himself. Jiri is absolutely nuts and has a more varied game. Alex’s technique should give him a substantial edge, but in a five-rounder against a durable dynamo, this is very tough to pick. I guess crazy beats stable in my book. Jiri Prochazka by TKO, round 4.
Staff picking Prochazka: Dayne, Jack, Zane, Kristen, Stephie, Victor
Staff picking Pereira: Ben, Chris, Eddie, Nate, Tim, Anton
Sergei Pavlovich vs. Tom Aspinall
Anton: He destroyed Tybura in one minute so we didn’t really get to see enough in his return, but Aspinall’s long injury layoff and this being booked on short notice doesn’t give me confidence. If he isn’t at his absolute peak, and doesn’t move the same way for whatever reason, he will be in for a very rough night against someone like Pavlovich. Aspinall will always surprise people, provide problems and unique looks with his athleticism, speed and movement in this division, but I think the smart pick is still Sergei Pavlovich by TKO.
Dayne: About the only thing I feel confident about is this fight isn’t going the distance. Pavlovich is on pace to lay claim to being the hardest hitter in the history of the UFC, but Aspinall is an athlete unlike any Pavlovich has faced. With Aspinall’s combination of speed and power, it’s easy to see him catching Pavlovich either with a quick takedown or stunning him with a punch. Or… Pavlovich’s sense of timing allows for him to clip Aspinall. I have no freaking clue.
I’ve heard many say Aspinall’s grappling prowess is enough for them to be swayed in his direction, but Curtis Blaydes couldn’t get Pavlovich to the mat. Aspinall may be quicker than Blaydes, but he doesn’t have the drive in his double, nor the technique of Blaydes. I’m not convinced Aspinall can take Pavlovich down. Aspinall can submit Pavlovich with ease if he knocks him down, but I get the feeling everyone is sleeping on Pavlovich. In the end, I don’t have a great reason for picking Pavlovich, but I am anyway. Pavlovich via KO of RD1
Chris: It’s too much, too soon for Aspinall. He’s got all the markings of a Frank Mir for the coming generation of heavyweights. Unfortunately he’s about to mix it up with this generation’s Brock Lesnar.
Zane: Seeing all the stories about Tom Aspinall’s terrible fight camp now has me really questioning picking him on the MMA Vivi. The truth is, though, that for as hard as Pavlovich hits, his game is awfully rudimentary. If Aspinall can be light on his feet, and hit some upper body clinch takedowns, he can probably take the Russian way out of his depth in a hurry. If he can’t, and gets stuck trading with Pavlovich in the pocket? Then there’s a good chance he goes to sleep. Still, I haven’t seen Aspinall stopped by strikes yet, so screw it, I’ll keep rolling the dice. Tom Aspinall via TKO, round 3.
Victor: Sergei got the heavy hands and strong top control. Tom has slick boxing and really good submission grappling. But how does Tom fare in this without an actual camp? I dunno, man. I wanna pick him, but I’m gonna go with the dude that has the bazookas and durability. Sergei Pavlovich by TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Pavlovich: Jack, Kristen, Stephie, Victor, Eddie, Anton
Staff picking Aspinall: Ben, Zane, Nate, Tim
Jessica Andrade vs. Mackenzie Dern
Anton: One slip up and Dern easily submits Andrade, so if she fights smart and really goes on a grappling heavy approach, on paper she should comfortably take this. But as we’ve seen over and over, the BJJ star kinda frustratingly stands with way too many people and relies too much on athleticism to get by there — and that’s a truly horrible idea against someone like Andrade. Dern has all the skills to win this, but I’m not sure if she will finally have the right approach, so I’m going with the upset. Jessica Andrade by decision.
Dayne: Y’all remember a few years ago when Ross Pearson was still on the roster? He was taking fight after fight on short notice, padding his bank account with plenty of show money, the money going towards him being able to comfortably run his gym. I get the same feeling from Andrade. Andrade doesn’t seem to be aiming for the title anymore. I could be reading the situation wrong, but even if I am, this isn’t an easy fight for Andrade.
Dern won’t be able to ragdoll Andrade the same way she did Angela Hill, but Andrade does appear to be more prone to mental errors than Hill. Plus, Andrade won’t be able to bully Dern as she has so many of her past opponents. In fact, it’s easy to see Andrade’s aggression resulting in Dern flipping her head over heels and finding a submission before Andrade knows what happened. Dern via submission of RD1
Chris: While Andrade has been on a bit of a slump lately, she’s hasn’t looked like she’s shot. Perhaps she has lost a step, but two of her three losses during this skid have come from title contender quality fighters in Blanchfield and Suarez. I don’t think Dern has rounded out her offense to the point where she can corral Andrade to an advantageous position. Dern has struggled when she cannot impose her will on a fight and that’s the one thing Andrade does well.
Zane: No part of me feels like Andrade is in a good place right now. If she can’t stay out of clinch tie ups with Dern and keep from getting caught up in scrambles, then I think sooner or later she gets caught. And with how reluctant she’s seemed to pull the trigger lately, I can’t help thinking she’ll get dragged into Dern’s fight. Mackenzie Dern by submission, round 2.
Victor: Dayne is absolutely on point considering the recent comments Andrade made about her financial situation, and Zane is also correct because her personal life has had some struggles. Three straight losses via finish and she’s in there with the best submission grappler this division has ever seen? Can I trust that? Reader, I do not. Mackenzie Dern by submission, round 3.
Staff picking Andrade: Chris, Jack, Anton
Staff picking Dern: Dayne, Zane, Kristen, Stephie, Victor, Ben, Eddie, Nate, Tim
Matt Frevola vs. Benoit Saint-Denis
Dayne: I’m shocked at how wide the odds are. Sure, Saint-Denis is younger, a superior athlete, and tough as nails. But Frevola is the best wrestler Saint-Denis has faced and Frevola has proven to be crafty as hell in forcing his opponent to fight his fight. Unfortunately for Frevola, I get the feeling his ranking may be a bit fraudulent. The Drew Dober win may be impressive, but it may have just been him being the fortunate one to crack the chin of someone who already had a long career. Before that, his most recent wins were Ottman Azaitar and Genaro Valdez. Not uber impressive.
Saint-Denis’ wins over Thiago Moises and Ismael Bonfim may be more impressive, not to mention there’s less of a fluky feel to those win than there is with Frevola over Dober. All that said, Frevola is still a troublesome matchup for Saint-Denis. Despite that, Saint-Denis will be in Frevola’s face and I expect he’ll test Frevola’s questionable chin. Saint-Denis via submission of RD2
Chris: Benoit Saint-Denis had been way off my radar until his win against Thiago Moises at UFC Paris. The French Brian Stann looks a little wild, but it also feels like right now is his time to shine. It’s hard to pick against Frevola because I’ve got a soft spot for the Serra-Longo gym. He’s good but it’s just not his moment.
Zane: Frevola will likely let BSD do the pressuring and take the lead in striking exchanges. If he allows that, I think BSD is just too single minded and multi-dimensional in his approach for him to let Frevola off the hook. Frevola is great at counter punching against boxers, but more well rounded opponents have taken him out of his game several times before. Benoit Saint-Denis via TKO, round 2.
Victor: Both of these guys are future top ten guys and will be so for a while if they keep this up. I just think Benoit is the guy with the sharpest toolset between his striking and submission threats. Frevola could carve him up in the clinch and earn a lot of control time from top on the ground. I just don’t see that happening here. Benoit Saint-Denis by submission.
Staff picking Frevola: Ben, Tim
Staff picking Saint-Denis: Dayne, Chris, Jack, Zane, Kristen, Stephie, Victor, Eddie, Anton
Pat Sabatini vs. Diego Lopes
Dayne: As much as Sabatini is a favorite of MMA analysts, we all know he’s limited physically. He’s heavily reliant on his superior technique and fight IQ. Against Lopes, I wouldn’t say his technique is superior and I’m not positive his fight IQ is in the advantage either. Sabatini’s edge in experience is likely to show itself, but I’m not sure that will be enough for him to overcome the physical superiority of Lopes.