Pasar al contenido principal
Tom Aspinall of England prepares to face Sergei Pavlovich of Russia in the interim UFC heavyweight championship fight during the UFC 295 event at Madison Square Garden on November 11, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Fight Coverage

The Bigger Picture | UFC 295: Procházka vs Pereira

Following Each PPV Event, The Bigger Picture Will Take A Look At What Transpired Inside The Octagon, What The Results Mean For The Victors & The Vanquished, & Some Of The Larger Storylines And Talking Points To Emerge From The Event That Just Concluded

It’s always a special night when the UFC touches down at Madison Square Garden, and Saturday was no different.

UFC 295 was electric from the outset — an action-packed card that began with a rapid finish and closed with five straight stoppages, including a pair of championship victories that further elevated the standing of the two men that now carry gold in the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions, but also feels like something even greater.

Putting Alex Pereira’s Success into Perspective

In 2021, Alex Pereira won his UFC debut at Madison Square Garden.

A year later, he claimed the middleweight title at “The Mecca,” pressuring and putting away Israel Adesanya in the fifth round of a fight where the only way of winning was securing a final-round stoppage.

Saturday night, back at MSG, Pereira claimed the vacant light heavyweight title with a second-round knockout victory over returning former champion Jiri Prochazka.

In just two years, “Poatan” has gone 6-1 inside the Octagon, becoming the first person to hold both the middleweight and light heavyweight titles while earning victories over different UFC titleholders. What makes his unmatched success even more impressive is that he’s done all this while still being a relative neophyte in the sport, as Saturday’s main event was just his 11th professional mixed martial arts appearance.

The towering, powerful Brazilian has essentially done all of this in three years, as he only returned to MMA in November 2020 with a first-round knockout win under the LFA banner. A year later, he made his UFC debut, and the rest is history.

Photo Gallery: UFC 295 In Pictures

There is a tendency and desire to qualify everything — to affix a “yeah, well…” to every milestone achievement and unparalleled triumph as if speaking highly of someone and heaping deserved praise upon them is unacceptable — and that’s something we should avoid doing at all costs; not just with Pereira, but with everyone.

For me, there is something more meaningful about Pereira claiming the title and reaching these heights on the UFC’s 30th anniversary show — something about a decorated kickboxer transitioning into the Octagon, rapidly asserting his dominance, faltering in April, and then dusting himself off before ascending to championship heights once more.

Alex Pereira of Brazil celebrates with Glover Teixeira after defeating Jiri Prochazka of the Czech Republic by TKO in the UFC light heavyweight championship fight during the UFC 295 event at Madison Square Garden on November 11, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Alex Pereira of Brazil celebrates with Glover Teixeira after defeating Jiri Prochazka of the Czech Republic by TKO in the UFC light heavyweight championship fight during the UFC 295 event on Nov. 11, 2023 in NYC (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

On a night where I was thinking about all the greats that have stepped on those canvases, competed inside those eight walls, Pereira’s victory was a reminder of the incredible stories that play out inside the Octagon all the time, and a rare talent claiming his place in the pantheon of all-time greats.

I won’t make any comparisons or try to draw parallels between the success of the 36-year-old light heavyweight champions and others that scaled the ranks with haste because there is no comparison.

UFC 295 Breaks Another Madison Square Garden Record

Pereira is a one-of-one, who has accomplished someone no one else has done in UFC history, and for him to do it on an historic night, in an historic building, feels fitting.

Fresh Options, Intriguing Possibilities

The championship victories by Pereira and Tom Aspinall, who stopped Sergei Pavlovich in the first round to claim the interim heavyweight title in the co-main event, were not only highlight reel efforts and tremendous wins for each man, but they also have the potential to serve as the start of fresh, new periods in a pair of weight classes that have been disjointed and sluggish for the last several years.

Tom Aspinall Post-Fight Interview | UFC 295
fight pass logo
Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

This video is not available in your country

There was a problem while loading content. Please try again.

Tom Aspinall Post-Fight Interview | UFC 295
/

Pereira has made two appearances in the light heavyweight division, having bested Jan Blachowicz at UFC 291 in the summer to earn his place opposite Prochazka on Saturday night. A date with injured former champ Jamahal Hill will happen at some point when “Sweet Dreams” is back to full health, but he has no real history with anyone else in the division, which means whatever contenders emerge in the coming months are all fresh, viable options for the UFC to consider.

While Aspinall pushed his record to 7-1 in the UFC with his 69-second win over Pavlovich over the weekend, he has limited experience with the top-end contenders in the heavyweight ranks. Outside of Pavlovich, the only other fighter currently stationed in the Top 5 that the British standout has faced is Curtis Blaydes, and that fight lasted all of 15 seconds, ending with Aspinall writhing in pain after tearing his ACL.

RELATED: Aspinall Post-Fight Press Conference

Ciryl Gane, Jailton Almeida, and Blaydes are all intriguing potential dance partners should the UFC and Aspinall choose for the interim titleholder to defend his belt rather than sitting on the sidelines waiting for Jon Jones to recover and share the Octagon with Stipe Miocic. Both men could also eventually find themselves back in the cage with the individuals they faced this weekend in New York City, as both Prochazka and Pavlovich remain elite contenders and shouldn’t be more than a couple quality wins away from once again challenging for championship gold.

UFC 295 RECAP: Final Results | Official Scorecards | Bonus Winners

In recent years, these divisions have felt messy, cursed or stale at different times, but Saturday’s results feel like a tremendous potential reset point for the UFC.

New champions have ascended to the top of each weight class, each with a limited history against the current crop of contenders.

Now is the time to map out what the future could look like — not just for the next round of matchups, but for the next 12-18 months; I’m talking whiteboards and flowcharts and different colored markers that depict the various new and exciting possibilities on the horizon at both heavyweight and light heavyweight.

Nothing is ever guaranteed in this wild, unpredictable sport, but chances to set a course of a division like this don’t come around too often, never mind two critical, high profile divisions, and breaking down all the possible ways things could play out will help highlight what’s at stake each time a ranked competitor steps into the Octagon and illuminate the different paths that could lead eventually lead to championship opportunities in the future.

Now is the time to step back, take a look at the bigger picture in each division, and chart all the potential courses each could take over the next two years before sitting back and seeing where  we end up.

Good Luck Finding Them Opponents

I can’t imagine there are going to be many individuals volunteering or happily agreeing to share the Octagon with either Benoit Saint Denis or Diego Lopes after Saturday night.

Lopes opened the main card by storming through Pat Sabatini, hitting him with a short uppercut that rocked him as he looked to change levels and continuing to pummel him with a wave of rapid-fire punches until the bout was finally halted. In the very next fight, Saint Denis caught Matt Frevola with a left high kick as the Long Island native was hurriedly trying to escape into open space after feeling the initial pressure and power of the streaking French lightweight.

Diego Lopes of Brazil celebrates defeating Pat Sabatini in a featherweight fight during the UFC 295 event at Madison Square Garden on November 11, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)
Diego Lopes of Brazil celebrates defeating Pat Sabatini in a featherweight fight during the UFC 295 event at Madison Square Garden on November 11, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)

After impressing in his short-notice debut against Movsar Evloev in May, Lopes has earned consecutive first-round stoppage wins to establish himself as a nightmare matchup in the featherweight division. His comfort working off his back affords him the ability to attack on the feet with impunity, and he carries enough power to not only keep his opponents honest, but put them away, as he showed on the weekend.

OCTAGON INTERVIEWS: Saint Denis | Lopes

As for Saint-Denis, there is a menacing presence to him inside the Octagon — a ferociousness that comes through in the way he stalks the opposition and is constantly in attack mode. We speak all the time about fighters “imposing their will” on their opponents, but the surging French standout is the embodiment of that term, marching forward, unconcerned with what his opponent might want to do because he has plans of his own and they must be carried out.

Each man stands as the kind of high risk, low reward opponent that those stationed ahead of them in the rankings will think twice, maybe three times, about signing up to fight, because while neither has a number next to their name at the time of this writing, both feel and have performed like Top 15 talents, and halting their respective ascents won’t necessarily come with the plaudits doing so would actually deserve.

Jessica Andrade of Brazil (R) punches Mackenzie Dern (L) in a strawweight fight during the UFC 295 event at Madison Square Garden on November 11, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Jessica Andrade of Brazil (R) punches Mackenzie Dern (L) in a strawweight fight during the UFC 295 event at Madison Square Garden on November 11, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

We’ve seen this countless times in the past and will surely see more of it in the future as more of these rapidly ascending, clearly dangerous threats work their way to the fringes of the rankings and the point where they should be facing Top 10 or Top 15 competitors.

I know they just fought on Saturday, but I’m already fascinated to see who each man gets matched up with next.

Quick Hitters

Jessica Andrade made it clear that reports of her demise where greatly exaggerated by punishing Mackenzie Dern on the feet. The second-round stoppage win halted a three-fight slide for the former strawweight titleholder, who briefly hinted at the mountains of challenges she’s faced outside the Octagon over the last year while going through a divorce. If “Bate Estaca” is back and focused, the 115-pound ranks just got even more interesting.

Loopy Godinez Post-Fight Interview | UFC 295
fight pass logo
Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

This video is not available in your country

There was a problem while loading content. Please try again.

Loopy Godinez Post-Fight Interview | UFC 295
/

Loopy Godinez became the first female fighter in UFC history to earn four wins in a calendar year by registering a split decision win over Tabatha Ricci on Saturday’s prelims. The Mexican-Canadian has actually won four fights in the last eight months, and continues to show more improvements and greater refinement of her game each time out, having taken major strides since connecting with “Pancho” Grasso and the crew at the Lobo Gym in Guadalajara.

Let’s get Mateusz Rebecki a big ol’ step up in competition next time out, just to see where the surging Polish standout really stacks up in the lightweight division. The 31-year-old pushed his overall winning streak to 16 with a first-round submission win over short-notice replacement Roosevelt Roberts, and profiles as the kind of fighter that merits being dropped in with a Top 15 opponent or someone just outside the rankings as a way to gauge where he stands in the talent-rich 155-pound weight class.

Cool moment and great message from Queens native Jared Gordon on Saturday, who registered an impressive first-round stoppage win over Mark Madsen before sharing a message of hope based on his personal struggles with addiction. Fighting at home, at MSG, was a long-time coming for the 35-year-old, and it was great to see him get to have such a special moment on the weekend.

One Last Thing

Very few people are going to be talking about John Castaneda or Jamal Emmers coming out of UFC 295 — there was too much that happened at the top of the card and on the main card for the veterans that fought early in the night to get much shine.

But both are skilled, experienced hands that can be counted on to deliver quality efforts, win or lose, each time out.

Jamall Emmers Post-Fight Interview | UFC 295
fight pass logo
Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

This video is not available in your country

There was a problem while loading content. Please try again.

Jamall Emmers Post-Fight Interview | UFC 295
/

Fighters like Castaneda and Emmers are vital to the flow of their divisions,  and they’re constantly in there with tough outs, ascending prospects, or tenured veterans looking to bounce back or keep things rolling.

On a night where we’re rightfully celebrating new champions, ascending contenders, and a few promising prospects, I wanted to make sure to shout them out here, as well.

That’s a wrap on UFC 295; see you next month as we close out 2023 at UFC 296.

UFC 295: Procházka vs Pereira took place live from Madison Square Garden in New York City on November 11, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass