The UFC is back in action with title fights this weekend at UFC 295, and Madison Square Garden will serve as the host site. That automatically brings a spotlight to the event — although this weekend’s matchups speak for themselves.
Jiri Prochazka (+105) vs. Alex Pereira (-125)
The main event is a battle for the light heavyweight title and will be very interesting. Prochazka has not appeared in a fight since June 12, 2022, when he won the light heavyweight title for the first time. He was set to defend that title in November but was forced to vacate it due to injury. Jamahal Hill stepped in to take the title in November, but he’s suffered an Achilles injury, opening up the door for Pereira on Saturday. That’s quite the last 18 months for this weight class.
Prochazka and Pereira are mirror images in terms of style. Both want to stay on their feet and win a slugfest. Prochazka is 3-0 in the UFC, with his title coming from a submission on a rear-naked choke. However, of his career 29 wins (three losses), 25 have come from KO or TKO. The primary question with him is how he will perform in his return from the long layoff.
Pereira is only in his second fight at this weight class but he’s 5-1 in the UFC. Of those six matchups, four have been decided by KO or TKO. His last fight came in July against Jan Blachowicz, so he should be ready to go from the opening bell. Given the similarities in style and success, I’ll lean Pereira.
Pick: Pereira via TKO
Sergei Pavlovich (+100) vs. Tom Aspinall (-120)
This was originally scheduled to be Jon Jones against Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight crown, but Jones had to withdraw due to a pectoral injury that will sideline him for roughly eight months. With that news, the UFC pivoted to this matchup and will presumably allow Miocic and Jones to settle things on the mat for the title when they are both healthy.
Pavlovich has won six of his seven UFC bouts by KO or TKO. The deciding factor in this fight will be who dictates pace and style. Aspinall is regarded as a great athlete for the heavyweight level, but Pavlovich has a six-inch reach advantage with his arms and a one-inch reach advantage with his legs.
That’s where Aspinall’s versatility will come into play. Two of his six victories in UFC – he’s 6-1 — have come via submission, and that’s likely what he’ll need to do to get the win here. This is a close call.
Pick: Aspinall via submission
For new bettors and fans, here’s our article about How UFC is Scored.
Jessica Andrade (+165) vs. Mackenzie Dern (-200)
We can come at this strawweight battle from a different angle. Andrade briefly held the title in 2019 but failed to defend in her first opportunity and is 4-6 in her past 10 fights. That includes three consecutive losses — all in 2023 — heading into this fight. If Andrade is running out of gas, that heavy workload won’t help.
Dern hasn’t faced nearly the same level of competition as Andrade, but she has clearly superior form. From 2019 forward – the time of Andrade’s slide – Dern has gone 6-3. Of those six victories, three of have come via submission and three on decisions.
Pick: Dern via decision
Pat Sabitini (-120) vs. Diego Lopes (+100)
This is an interesting featherweight matchup because there’s not a long track record in the UFC for either fighter.
Lopes has only two fights at this level, the first a loss by unanimous decision and the second a win by submission. Submission is the way he has preferred to win over the lengthier course of his career, as 12 of his 22 victories have come that way. He has the size advantage over Sabitini, but the latter has proven to be a master on the mat.
Sabatine is 11-0 during his career in matches decided by submission, so this looks to play strength on strength. Given his track record, the choice seems clear. It’s not that always that simple, especially given the relative unknows in this one, but we’ll go with Sabitini.
Pick: Sabitini via submission
Benoit St. Denis (-240) vs. Matt Frevola (+190)
Of all the fights on this main card, this matchup is nearly a unanimous pick around the industry. St. Denis has the clear edge, but laying those odds is a tougher sell.
Pick: Benoit St. Denis via submission
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