UFC 295 has come and gone and there’s no doubt the foundation of the UFC was shaken to its core following the results of the event. Two new UFC champions were crowned, though not without controversy. Alex Pereira secured the light heavyweight title under suspect circumstances as it appeared the referee stepped in to save Jiri Prochazka a bit early. The former champion rapidly sprung to his feet and expressed his displeasure at the stoppage. Prochazka did back off the idea in his post-fight interview some, but that won’t silence all the doubters.
There was no doubt about Tom Aspinall’s victory over Sergei Pavlovich at the UFC 295 co-main though. Pavlovich was undisputedly out cold when the referee pulled Aspinall off, crowning a new UFC interim heavyweight. If there was anything Aspinall could have done to improve his chances of being the next to fight Jon Jones, I can’t think of it. He eliminated the UFC’s most dominant KO king in just over a minute, putting the Madison Square Garden crowd into a frenzy.
How the UFC handles these situations will be interesting. There will be a strong desire from some to see Pereira and Prochazka have an immediate rematch following their controversial stoppage rather than Jamahal Hill. For the heavyweight division, there’s going to be a contingent who would rather see Jones fight Aspinall rather than Stipe Miocic. I wouldn’t count on either happening, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any rumbles about it.
But who were the real winners and losers of UFC 295? Sure, 12 UFC fighters officially had their hand raised in victory, but that doesn’t always mean they are the true winners of the night. Same with those who didn’t get their hand raised. Just like not all wins are created equal, not all losses are either. I’ll give you the lowdown on who the biggest winners and losers of the event were. I’ll limit it to three in each category, doing my best to avoid having the same combatants of a contest in both categories. Let’s dig in!
UFC 295 Winners
It wasn’t a surprise Aspinall won at UFC 295. The fight was a coin flip according to the odds. But given how close the odds were, it was hard to confidently foresee either side emerging victorious. Thus, Aspinall’s victory creates a degree of shock… and that’s not because of the quick finish. That was expected, no matter which way the outcome. Regardless, the Aspinall victory was the UFC’s preferred outcome as he becomes just the third Englishman to claim UFC gold after Michael Bisping and Leon Edwards. Given his youth, there’s reason to believe Aspinall could continue to improve too. That’s a scary thought.
If the UFC continues with its present course of having Jones and Miocic clash, it seems like a waste for the UFC to keep Aspinall on the shelf. Jones recovery time is expected to be eight months. Then he would have a camp for Miocic. Then whoever wins that fight will have to heal up from injuries before preparing to fight Aspinall, which could be close to two years from now… if they opt to continue fighting. It would surprise no one if Jones and/or Miocic retire after they complete their business. Thus, for all intents and purposes, Aspinall should be viewed as the real champion in all but name only as he’s likely to be defending his belt.
I came thisclose to giving the spot to Diego Lopes as his UFC 295 finish was just as impressive. Ultimately though, I went with Saint-Denis as he has more momentum behind him – he’s on a five-fight win streak – and did so despite suffering one of the most lopsided defeats in his UFC debut in the history of the organization. There’s an outstanding chance Saint-Denis will have a number next to his name by the time the official UFC rankings are published a few days from now. I suppose it’s possible for Lopes too, but I wouldn’t put money on it. I would in regards to Saint-Denis following his brutal head kick KO of Matt Frevola.
What’s scary about Saint-Denis is he’s still incredibly raw. He made his professional MMA debut in 2019 and rarely seems to be using his judoka base very much. In other words, the skills he has been leaning on are skills he’s only picked up in the last few years. There’s no reason to believe Saint-Denis won’t continue to improve over the next couple of years. Granted, the final steps to becoming a champion are the hardest steps to traverse, but Saint-Denis has the drive and talent to make that a reality. I wouldn’t go so far as to predict that, not yet at least. But no one predicted the current run he’s on either.
There are bigger names who had just as good of a night as Van at UFC 295. I’m even willing to listen to arguments they had better nights. But Van has the look of a major player in the UFC. For the second time in as many UFC appearances, Van dropped the first round to a more experienced opponent, only to make adjustments and keep up the pressure to wear them down. In the process, Van managed to easily outwork Kevin Borjas down the stretch, securing the come-from-behind victory.
If Van was an experienced veteran, I might not be making such a big deal about this. Given he’s a 22-year-old who made their professional debut just two years ago, it’s hard not to be impressed. Most youngsters tend to be front runners, relying on a sudden stoppage if they’re to make a comeback. In both of his UFC fights, Van hasn’t wavered in the face of adversity. I’m more impressed by someone of Van’s experience able to pull that off than one running over less talented fighters. It’s early to say it, but Van has the potential to go all the way to the top of the UFC flyweight division.
UFC 295 Losers
Understand, this is in no way a reflection upon Pereira’s performance. He was clearly in the driver’s seat and there’s something in the neighborhood of a 90% chance he definitively puts Prochazka away if the referee lets the fight continue on just a little bit longer. But even if it’s not Pereira’s fault, that isn’t what happened. Given Pereira is the one who benefits from the controversy, he’s the one who is going to receive the blame for the outcome. Think of Aljamain Sterling. It wasn’t his fault Petr Yan threw and landed the illegal knee. But he instantly became someone fans love to hate as a result.
Admittedly, this isn’t as egregious of a situation as Sterling. Regardless, some fans will instantly dislike Pereira for the outcome, particularly those who took an active rooting interest in a Prochazka victory at UFC 295. Pereira does have a couple of things in his favor. He can make everyone forget how he won the belt if he can deliver a highlight reel KO, something of which he has already produced. Plus, he’s a favorite of the UFC brass. Regardless, it’ll be a surprise if he doesn’t suffer some from fans displeasure over the final outcome. After all, the crowd response to the end of the UFC 295 fight was muted.
It turns out divorced Dern isn’t the mythical creature we all made her out to be when she demolished Angela Hill. In fact, Dern appeared to have regressed severely. After brutalizing Angela Hill, Dern looked completely lost on the feet against Jessica Andrade at UFC 295. While any woman would understandably be nervous about eating a punch from Andrade, one would hope Dern’s team did more to prepare her for Andrade’s power. The UFC broadcast – Din Thomas in particular – put it best when they mentioned it might have been a mistake for Dern to move out from under Jason Parillo’s purview.
Even though many have it in their head that Dern is still a prospect, she’s now 12 fights into her UFC career. That isn’t to say Dern can’t improve, but she’s far more of a finished product than some would like to admit. Her MMA career began seven years ago and her striking is still atrocious. No one would realistically believe someone is going to suddenly make huge strides after that many years. Dern’s ground game is good enough to take her all the way to UFC gold, but it’s going to be a hell of a chore for her to do so.
The first four minutes of his fight with Jared Gordon, Madsen looked better than he has at any point of his UFC run. His striking looked sharp and he was able to bully the smaller Gordon around in the clinch, delivering some brutal shots. After four minutes, Gordon managed to land some clean punches of his own in the clinch, eventually dropping the former Olympic wrestling silver medalist, the fight being called with 18 seconds left in the opening round. There’s no shame in losing to Gordon; he’s a quality opponent. However, UFC 295 may be the end of the line for Madsen.
Madsen opened his UFC career with four consecutive wins before dropping his last two. That should be enough for him to keep a spot on the roster, if he wants it. The reason why I believe it may be the end of the line is Madsen didn’t join the UFC with hopes of picking up a few wins. Even though it was a longshot, Madsen believed he could win the title.
However, at 39, it would take a miracle on par with parting the Red Sea for that to happen. Madsen began his MMA career in earnest too late for anyone to take his UFC title aspirations seriously. They’re officially dead now. Thus, I can see Madsen calling it a career.
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