UFC 295 crowned two new champions in the division’s heaviest weight classes. It produced some Madison Square Garden magic, as it was full of finishes from start to finish. And, like every card, it allowed us the opportunity to brainstorm many new matchups for the future.
So, shall we? Here are some Fights To Make after this weekend’s UFC event from New York City, New York, USA. Let’s dive in.
Just one year after Alex Pereira claimed one belt, he has another. Yes, Pereira is your new UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. Okay, my job is pretty easy here. They announced Saturday that the plan is for him to face former champ Jamahal Hill, who vacated his title earlier this year due to injury. I have no objections to this pairing. It makes sense and could be good. I personally think the real question after this weekend will be what’s next for Jiri Prochazka…
Really, what an unfortunate night for Jiri Prochazka. After losing his belt not due to a loss but due to an injury, Saturday could have been his return to the throne. But when you face someone like Alex Pereira, things can end at any moment. That’s basically what happened.
Prochazka’s incredibly fast rise in the UFC means that he has only faced a few people in the division. That leaves us with tons of options for who to pair him up with next. But if I were to choose, there’s one matchup I would campaign hard for: I want to see Prochazka take on Magomed Ankalaev.
Ankalaev’s last fight ended on a sour note, as his fight against Johnny Walker ended in a no-contest. An illegal knee hurt Walker — except Walker and Ankalaev both protested the doctor’s move to stop the fight after that moment.
There’s fair reason to give Walker a rematch against Ankalaev, as their fight only went three minutes before its unceremonious end. However, I’m a big believer that when you have a big fight in front of you, you should do it. Maybe it’s controversial to say this, but I think that’s a matchup that deserves to skip ahead of the line.
I’ll throw some reason in here though: if it’s truly such a crime to move on from Ankalaev and Walker rematching, I think it would be fine to give Prochazka a fight against Jan Blachowicz too. Blachowicz is similarly a former champ coming off a loss to Pereira, so that’s a matchup I would support as well.
Safe to say though, Prochazka has options. A ton of options. Those are two that I support.
Heading into this weekend, it was clear that the heavyweight title fight would end via finish quite early. Who exactly would get that finish was certainly much harder to predict. But in the end, it was England’s Tom Aspinall who walked away with the interim title after a 69-second victory over Sergei Pavlovich.
This one is a little confusing, in my opinion. If you’re the interim champion, the Fight To Make™ for you should be pretty easy. The answer is to face the champion. But the champion is Jon Jones, who is nursing an injury that took him off this card and could keep him on the shelf until deep into 2024.
And once Jones comes back, the assumption is that he will face Stipe Miocic, who he was originally scheduled to face this weekend, right? So, considering these two things, I imagine Aspinall won’t be able to unify those belts for a long time. Madison Square Garden 2024? International Fight Week 2025? Who knows!
For fun, I’m going to suggest we give Ciryl Gane another title opportunity, going up against interim champ Aspinall. Gane’s two losses are Francis Ngannou and Jones. He’s coming off a win over Serghei Spivac from September. He’s the highest-ranked name that Aspinall hasn’t faced. I know people are probably over seeing Gane in title opportunities since he has challenged for the belt twice since last year. But in a situation where Jones and Miocic are frozen for the moment, I feel like that’s the best possible option.
It was a tough loss for Sergei Pavlovich this weekend, as title dreams were taken from his grip in a matter of seconds. Now the question is, who now?
I think that a fight against Alexander Volkov is a good choice for a fight next. I would have suggested Jailton Almeida, but I fear that giving him an opponent that is heavily striking-focused brings in the risk that he could have a similar performance to what he did to Derrick Lewis recently.
Volkov is on a roll, having won three straight via finish since mid-2022. He can be a real firework talent, which is a fair descriptor of Pavlovich as well. Let’s see this one happen.
Jessica Andrade has faced a good chunk of the strawweight division. In the top 10 of the class, she has not faced four of the nine fighters.
I believe that a rematch between Zhang Weili and Andrade is not for now, at least. Yan Xiaonan has a pretty solid case for a title fight, which includes a win over Andrade in May. So, we’re not going to do that next. What I will suggest is that first-place-ranked strawweight Carla Esparza could be the next opponent for Andrade.
Esparza hasn’t appeared since she dropped the strawweight title to Zhang last year. She’s a high-up name that had a strong six-fight winning streak going before her defeat at UFC 281. And, she’s a rare first-time matchup for Andrade near the top of the UFC rankings. That’s a pretty solid one!
To read the rest of UFC 295’s Fights to Make head on over to Substack. We discuss Mackenzie Dern, Benoit Saint-Denis, Steve Erceg, and Loopy Godinez. Plus, signing up gives you access to the rest of Bloody Elbow’s premium writing.
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