Due to a Jon Jones injury, the UFC's annual trip tois lacking its typical marquee headliner. Still, UFC 295 is an intriguing fight card headlined by a pair of well-matched championship bout on Saturday.
The main event sees Jiri Prochazka looking to recapture the light heavyweight championship he never lost in the cage when he takes on former middleweight champion Alex Pereira. Prochazka won the belt in 2022 with a dramatic last-minute submission of Glover Teixeira in one of the best fights in years but was forced to vacate after suffering a shoulder injury in training.
Pereira won middleweight gold with a knockout win over Israel Adesanya only for Adesanya to strike back in the rematch with his own knockout. Pereira moved up to 205 pounds and scored a win over Jan Blachowicz to earn his shot at the vacant belt.
CBS Sports will also have live coverage of the fight with round-by-round scoring and blow-by-blow updates to keep you up to date throughout the night.
"I'm not going into this fight with mixed emotions about vengeance. I don't want to play that game," Pereira told CBS Sports this week. "I want to go with a very positive mindset. I'm going to fight with the mindset that they haven't even fought before. But looking into the other side of being able to bring Glover his belt back and put it back in the gym, that means a lot to me."
As a result of Jones' injury scrapping his planned main event title defense against Stipe Miocic, the UFC booked an interim heavyweight championship bout between Tom Aspinall and Sergei Pavlovich. The two men are tremendous finishers and every second of the fight will be tense as it can end in a flash.
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With so much happening on Saturday night, let's take a closer look at the full fight card with the latest odds before we get to our staff predictions and picks for the PPV portion of the festivities.
UFC 295 fight card, odds
- Alex Pereira -125 vs. Jiri Prochazka +105, vacant light heavyweight title
- Tom Aspinall -110 vs. Sergei Pavlovich -110, interim heavyweight title
- Mackenzie Dern -220 vs. Jessica Andrade +180, women's strawweights
- Benoit Saint-Denis -225 vs. Matt Frevola +185, lightweights
- Pat Sabatini -115 vs. Diego Lopes -105, featherweights
- Steve Erceg -205 vs. Alessandro Costa +170, flyweights
- Loopy Godinez -190 vs. Tabatha Ricci +160, women's strawweights
- Mateusz Rebecki -700 vs. Roosevelt Roberts +500, lightweights
- Nazim Sadykhov -150 vs. Viacheslav Borschev +125, lightweights
- Jared Gordon -210 vs. Mark Madsen +175, lightweights
- John Castaneda -130 vs. Kyung Ho Kang +110, bantamweights
- Joshua Van -250 vs. Kevin Borjas +205, flyweights
- Jamal Emmers -250 vs. Dennis Buzukja +205, featherweights
With such a massive main event on tap, the crew at CBS Sports went ahead with predictions and picks for the main card. Here are your pick makers: Brent Brookhouse (Combat sports writer), Brian Campbell (Combat sports writer, co-host of "Morning Kombat"), Shakiel Mahjouri (writer), Michael Mormile (producer) and Brandon Wise (senior editor).
UFC 295 picks, predictions
|Prochazka vs. Pereira
|Pavlovich vs. Aspinall
|Saint-Denis vs. Frevola
|Dern vs. Andrade
|Sabatini vs. Lopes
|Records to date (2023)
Prochazka vs. Pereira
Campbell: For as explosive as Prochazka has been through just three UFC appearances, it's hard to overlook what the former light heavyweight champion will be forced to overcome on Saturday: a 17-month layoff, recovery from reconstructive shoulder surgery and a dangerous opponent in Pereira, who no longer needs to make such a drastic cut down to 185 pounds. But the biggest obstacle for Prochazka might be his own wild demeanor. For as explosive and unpredictable as Prochazka can be, he's there to be hit consistently thanks to his sometimes reckless style. Pereira is simply the wrong counter puncher to make mistakes while standing in front of. Becoming a two-division champion is far from an easy task and this fight has all the makings to be a war. But it's a fight "Poatan" can and should win, especially given that Prochazka likely won't try to bring the fight to the ground.
Brookhouse: Prochazka has to overcome a lot, to be sure. But he's intelligent in his wild approach to fights. More importantly, he can -- and I believe will -- take the fight to the ground and make things uncomfortable for Pereira, who has improved his grappling but is still relatively new to the world of takedowns and ground fighting. Pereira is undeniably dangerous on the feet but sometimes a technically adept striker can be thrown off by unorthodox attacks and Prochazka has plenty of those. This feels like far from a sure thing but mixing all those factors in with the old "just a gut feeling" approach has led me to believe Prochazka regains the gold.
Mahjouri: There is no pick I'm less confident about than Pereira vs. Prochazka. The former light heavyweight champion is prone to errors. I'd actually be more comfortable picking him in a rematch against Pereira. Prochazka requires well-rounded offense and thoughtful decision-making to overcome the technically superior striker. It's the unknowns in Pereira's game that give me pause. The former middleweight champ's split decision win over Jan Blachowicz at elevation did not satisfy my curiosities. How well does Pereira's power translate at 205 pounds? How well can he take a punch? Will his grappling defense hold over five rounds? These questions were explored in Pereira's light heavyweight MMA debut but not thoroughly dissected. I'm voting with my heart, saying Prochazka has rounded out his game enough to win. He'll require a diverse approach and controlled chaos to get the win.
Pavlovich vs. Aspinall
Campbell: Let's face it, this fight isn't going the distance. Both have been known throughout their brief UFC runs for being first-round finishers, which makes the idea of Aspinall accepting the interim title bout on less than three weeks' notice not as severe. Not only is Aspinall more well-rounded and dynamic than the powerful Pavlovich, who possesses an insane 84-inch reach, he's also much quicker as a combination puncher. While no UFC fighter would be advised to stand in range and slug it out with Pavlovich, including Aspinall, establishing the threat of a takedown could be key for Aspinall to set up a breakthrough knockout finish by beating his hulking opponent to the punch.
Brookhouse: "This one definitely ends before the final bell" is a cursed phrase in mixed martial arts, especially at heavyweight. Derrick Lewis vs. Francis Ngannou is one of the most classic examples of this. Still, this one definitely ends before the final bell. Both of these men are too good at closing the show once they have an advantage. Aspinall is just the better all-around fighter and so long as he doesn't get caught by a Pavlovich blitz, it feels like Aspinall will eventually start to take over and make things uncomfortable for Pavlovich before finding a finish on the feet or the floor.
Mahjouri: Aspinall and Pavlovich are the best fast starters in UFC history, ranking No. 1 and No. 3 respectively all-time for shortest average fight time in any weight class. Despite Aspinall holding a slight lead, the general consensus is that Pavlovich is more dangerous early. Aspinall might be the most well-rounded heavyweight alive and is brimming with confidence since recovering from knee surgery. It's imperative that Aspinall minds Pavlovich's six-inch reach advantage, particularly when pulling back. Pavlovich isn't purely a power puncher. He makes small, sneaky alterations to the angle of his punches to break through his foes' guards. If Aspinall can be defensively sound and patient without trepidation, his well-roundedness and technical refinement should give him the edge.
Wise: All things being equal, Pavlovich being in a training camp feels like it's going to matter. Even if he was training as a backup for either Jon Jones or Stipe Miocic, preparing for a fight as opposed to getting a call three weeks ago to fight someone like this Russian destroyed feels like a monumental task. Aspinall is far superior if this fight reaches the ground, but the feeling is this becomes a stand-and-trade affair. If that's the case, I trust Pavlovich much more to catch Aspinall with his fight-ending power than for Aspinall to unload his volume of striking and get a finish. Pavlovich may not be the same kind of scary powerful as Francis Ngannou, but he's not far off.
Dern vs. Andrade
Campbell: While the betting odds remain close, likely due to Andrade's one-punch power, it's hard to look at this as anything more than a potential showcase bout for Dern. Yes, Andrade is a former 115-pound champion. But the 32-year-old has lost three fights, all by stoppage, since February and remains a poor style matchup for Dern's strength, which is her grappling and submission skills. Even with Dern's recent stretch of alternating wins and losses over her last four fights, she remains a valuable commodity that UFC would likely allow to cut the line for a shot at Weili Zheng's strawweight title. Dern might be still a work in progress from the standpoint of her technique, but she has the type of chin to fight through the kind of adversity that Andrade's power could produce and she has the motivation to realize that her window to maximize her potential is right now.
Mahjouri: The UFC is making a calculated risk booking Dern vs. Andrade at Madison Square Garden. Dern has serious star potential and has been solid but unspectacular as a title contender. Andrade is on a rough three-fight skid and desperately needs a break from competition. It's classic matchmaking but I don't think it'll play out as intended. Dern's submission skills are phenomenal but she relies more on aggression than refined striking or wrestling to assist her acclaimed Jiu-Jitsu game. A knockdown and three of nine takedowns in a dominant win over Angela Hill was a step in the right direction but not the leap to make me think she beats Andrade. Not even a mammoth 247-94 striking edge against Hill could remedy the fact Dern statistically gets hit more than she lands. Her takedown defense sits at a paltry 15%. Andrade is a shell of her former UFC women's strawweight champion but has the offensive firepower and takedown defense to reject a Dern who lacks refinement on the feet. Andrade via second-round KO.
Who wins UFC 295: Prochazka vs. Pereira, and how exactly does each fight end? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed picks on every fight at UFC 295, all from the MMA expert who profited more than $6,200 in 2022, and find out.