MMA Junkie analyst Dan Tom breaks down the UFC’s top bouts. Today, we look at the main card for UFC 295.
UFC 295 takes place Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPNews and early prelims on ESPN+.
Last event’s results: 4-0-1
Overall picks for UFC main cards in 2023: 108-77-6
Welcome to MMA Junkie’s Quick Picks and Prognostications, where I’ll be giving brief, fight-day breakdowns for UFC main cards.
With that in mind, I hope these write-ups don’t come off as curt or dismissive, as my goal here is to offer quick picks and analysis in a digestible format. All odds listed are provided by FanDuel.
If you’d like more detailed analysis from me, then feel free to check out my weekly show, The Protect Ya’ Neck Podcast.
So, without further ado…
Diego Lopes (-102) vs. Pat Sabatini (-120)
Kicking off the main card is a fantastic featherweight matchup between Diego Lopes and Pat Sabatini.
Despite being a big fan of Sabatini, I believe that he has a tricky problem in front of him in the form of Lopes.
Even though Sabatini is the superior wrestler with excellent submissions of his own, I suspect that Lopes’ non-stop offense will force the American into a defensive mode.
Part of me is rooting for Sabatini to pull a Jim Miller-Charles Oliveira 1 by reminding the masses how good of a grappler he is, but I have to side with the more offensive fighter in Lopes to create his win conditions.
I’ll pick Lopes to get Sabatini off his game early for a first-round finish.
Matt Frevola (+184) vs. Benoit Saint-Denis (-230)
Leading the way for potential Fight of the Night bonus honors is a lightweight showdown between Matt Frevola and Benoit Saint-Denis.
Despite coming into this fight leaning toward to favorite in Saint-Denis, I ended up changing my tune after watching the tape.
Aside from the fact that Frevola is officially 3-1 opposite UFC-level southpaws, I noticed that Saint-Denis’ aggression consistently runs him into counter-right hands in victory or defeat.
Couple that with Frevola’s underrated counter-wrestling and submission grappling, and I have a sneaky suspicion that the stage is set for another “Steamrolla” upset.
Nice get up by Frevola, Arman gets clean on his hips off a right hand.
Frevola pressures hard on the head and as soon as Arman climbs to the bodylock he gets on a knee and cuts an angle to get free. pic.twitter.com/01ccwc4VXS
— Feño (Ninja) (@fenoxsky) November 9, 2023
Although a 15-minute dogfight is the most likely outcome, I’ll take Frevola to score another semi-surprising knockout in the first round.
Jessica Andrade (+168) vs. Mackenzie Dern (-210)
Filling out the main card is a women’s strawweight attraction between Jessica Andrade and Mackenzie Dern.
Although it appears that the UFC is feeding Andrade to Dern at first glance, I believe there is more to this matchup than meets the eye.
Re: comments I’m seeing on Jessica Andrade’s head movement… when interviewing her at UNLV boxing back in 2017, Angelo Reyes really stressed Henry Armstrong’s style to both Andrade and her coaches before she decided to stay in Brazil, as something tells me she took it to heart: pic.twitter.com/9FfGI9MPGn
— Dan Tom (@DanTomMMA) April 23, 2021
Despite Andrade currently riding a three-fight skid, it’s important to remember that some fights were on short notice while others came up a weight class.
Whereas Dern, who got a gift from the judges in her fight with Tecia Torres, could arguably be 1-3 in her last 4 fights.
Don’t get me wrong: I get why Dern is favored and wouldn’t be shocked to see her score a club-and-sub on Andrade this Saturday.
That said, I can’t help but side with the more proven product in this spot.
Aside from Andrade being the better striker and wrestler by a country mile, I suspect that Dern’s porous striking defense and willingness to expose her back on head-and-arm throws will get her slammed or seriously hurt in this fight.
I’ll take a flier on Andrade to force a stoppage by the third round.
Sergei Pavlovich (-104) vs. Tom Aspinall (-118)
The co-main event in Madison Square Garden features an impromptu interim title fight between top-ranked heavyweights, Sergei Pavlovich/autotag] and Tom Aspinall.
As stated in my in-depth breakdown, heavyweight MMA can be a tricky thing to try and predict.
Although Aspinall has more paths to victory on paper, no one should be shocked if Pavlovich is able to knock the Englishman stiff this Saturday.
Aside from Pavlovich having the build of a 1950s refrigerator, Aspinall tends to play it a bit fast and loose with his defense standing.
Still, it’s ultimately hard to ignore the fact that Pavlovich has still yet to be tested on the floor since suffering a defeat in his promotional debut to Alistair Overeem.
For that reason, I have a hard time picking against one of the few heavyweights who can actually grapple. The pick is Aspinall by second-round submission.
Jiri Prochazka (+102) vs. Alex Pereira (-124)
The main event for UFC 295 will feature a vacant light heavyweight title fight between Jiri Prochazka and Alex Pereira.
As stated in my in-depth breakdown, this is a particularly volatile fight to forecast given the two parties involved.
Already submitted my #UFC287 breakdown for this week, but couldn’t help throw this video together after hearing @TeddyAtlasReal talk about the jabbing dynamic between Alex Pereira and Israel Adesanya.
Tacked on George Foreman-Gullick to help illustrate his Pereira comparisons: pic.twitter.com/Clws9Re94N
— Dan Tom (@DanTomMMA) April 4, 2023
Prochazka, who is a wildman of epic proportions, is nearly impossible to predict given his sporadic movements and off-beat timing. That said, Prochazka does tend to get hit with a disproportionate amount of left hands due to his propensity to dip to his right.
— Dan Tom (@DanTomMMA) April 28, 2021
Considering that Pereira is known for power from both sides, Prochazka can’t afford to have his usual lackadaisical defense.
But given that Prochazka’s wildness is baked into his game at this point, it’s hard to see the product of the Czech Republic drastically changing up his striking defense or wrestling offense.
— Dan Tom (@DanTomMMA) November 9, 2023
Although a Prochazka win wouldn’t surprise me, I have to side with “Poaton” to score a second-round knockout.