In one of the most intriguing fight cards of the year, UFC 295 will feature two title fights with a chance for both fighters in the main event to make history. Former UFC light heavyweight champion Jiri Prochazka makes his return and will attempt to reclaim his title against former middleweight champion Alex Pereira, while Sergei Pavlovich and Tom Aspinall face off in the co-main event for the interim heavyweight championship.
The event will take place in New York, New York at the iconic Madison Square Garden. Three New Yorkers are featured on the card, though Nazim Sadykhov also has ties to Brooklyn while training out of the credentialed Longo and Weidman MMA team.
The 13-fight card will kick off with the early prelims beginning at 6 p.m. ET / 3 p.m. PT and the pay-per-view main card scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. ET.
Before the fights begin, view our predictions for each fight below.
Dennis Buzukja vs. Jamall Emmers prediction
Fighting 6'2' featherweight Sean Woodson in a UFC debut is tough, and fighting him on a week's notice is even tougher. Yet that's how Buzukja made his promotional debut, and he fared admirably considering his teammate Aljamain Sterling called his weight cut one of the worst he's ever seen. This is a tough second fight for Buzukja with a veteran like Emmers, but UFC fans will actually get to see who he really is on a full camp and start the night off with an impressive upset performance.
Prediction: Buzukja by decision
Joshua Van vs. Kevin Borjas prediction
Joshua Van impressed a lot of people in his debut and despite his young age, he looked very polished and composed. Kevin Borjas is an interesting prospect in his own right, but this is a tough debut to take and a big step up in competition against a guy like Van who has showed could already be a top-20 flyweight.
Prediction: Van by decision
John Castañeda vs. Kyung-Ho Kang prediction
On paper, this fight sets the table for a very fun fight. Kyung-Ho Kang has been very impressive lately, but Castañeda should still be primed for a bounce back. Castañeda has not looked great in his last two, but he has only lost to fringe top-15 fighters while still impressing with wins over Miles Johns and Eddie Wineland. This is super close, but Castañeda is just slightly more well-rounded with more activity and pressure.
Prediction: Castañeda by decision
Jared Gordon vs. Mark Madsen prediction
This is likely a much closer fight than the odds suggest, but it will be very interesting to see how both fighters come back from their last performance. Gordon has fared well against similar wrestling-heavy fighters to Madsen with wins over Joe Solecki and Leonardo Santos but did get thoroughly dominated by Grant Dawson. However, Madsen is clearly not at Dawson's level, having also lost to him. With Madsen approaching 40 and struggling mightily with Vinc Pichel and Clay Guida, Gordon should get back into the winning column.
Prediction: Gordon by decision
Nazim Sadykhov vs. Viacheslav Borshchev prediction
This fight should be Sadykhov's to lose, but it will all depend on the Russian's approach. If he keeps the fight standing, Borshchev — a former kickboxing world champion — is a live underdog. Sadykhov needs to pressure Borshchev and utilize his takedowns, and you can count on Ray Longo to drill that into his fighter's head all week. Borshchev has shown poor takedown defense thus far and little ability to get up. The Brooklyn man gets the first finish of the night either by ground-and-pound or submission.
Prediction: Sadykhov by submission in round two
Mateusz Rebecki vs. Roosevelt Roberts prediction
Passionate UFC fans will be happy to see the former TUF 31 contestant back in the octagon but the feel-good story will end once the door locks. Rebecki would be a very tough fight for Roberts under normal circumstances, and the Miami native is coming into this fight on extremely short notice. Rebecki's initial matchup with Nurullo Aliev would have been a crazy slugfest, but this is a lot to ask of a guy in Roberts on just four days' notice with a 4-4 record in the promotion.
Prediction: Rebecki by knockout in round one
Tabatha Ricci vs. Loopy Godinez prediction
Loopy Godinez looked like a future title challenger at Noche UFC and would take a big step towards that goal with a win at UFC 295. The problem is, Tabatha Ricci might be the worst fight for her out of everyone in the back end of the UFC strawweight rankings. Ricci is extremely fundamental, but more importantly, will match Godinez's physicality. Godinez may be able to get a takedown or two, but she won't ragdoll Ricci the way she has done to opponents in the past.
Prediction: Ricci by decision
Steve Erceg vs. Alessandro Costa prediction
It is hard to gauge how good both of these fighters actually are, as both have very little high-level experience. Erceg did secure a big win over David Dvorak, but Costa may actually have been more impressive so far with a fairly competitive fight against Amir Albazi before demolishing Jimmy Flick. Erceg showed durability and sufficient striking in his lone UFC outing, but Costa has displayed a more well-rounded game. Assuming Costa does not get clipped early, look for him to wear on Erceg as the fight goes on.
Prediction: Costa by decision
Diego Lopes vs. Pat Sabatini prediction
Pat Sabatini is as solid of a fighter in the division, but you know what to expect from him by now. In the one fight he did not get to utilize his wrestling he got knocked out by Damon Jackson, so Sabatini will almost certainly attempt a takedown early. However, Lopes may just be the best grappler in the division on top of having a size advantage over Sabatini. Lopes has not completed a takedown in the UFC yet but loves to wait for his opponent to shoot on him before aggressively attempting relentless submissions in return. If there's one thing to criticize about Sabatini, it's that he leaves himself open to be finished both on the feet and in grappling transitions.
Prediction: Lopes by submission in round one
Matt Frevola vs. Benoit Saint-Denis prediction
Matt Frevola has been an underdog in almost all of his UFC fights to date and will be one again against Saint-Denis despite being the ranked fighter. This fight will undoubtedly be all action as both men will push the pace, but Saint-Denis' lack of striking defense so far is concerning. It's one thing to walk through shots from Gabriel Miranda and Thiago Moises, but that's a dangerous game to play with Frevola. Saint-Denis will be bigger than Frevola and should try to make this fight dirty, but Frevola has put on considerable size since his last fight and has not been significantly out-wrestled by any fighter other than Arman Tsarukyan. Frevola will set MSG on fire and get the pay-per-view card started with a bang.
Prediction: Frevola by knockout in round one
Jessica Andrade vs. Mackenzie Dern prediction
Jessica Andrade will be making her fifth walk to the octagon at Madison Square Garden despite just being 1-3 so far in 2023. There are a lot of questions surrounding the handling of her career this year, but regardless, she will be once again taking on a tough opponent. Besides all the questions surrounding Andrade, Dern looked like a completely different fighter against Angela Hill in May and if that same version of her shows up again, Andrade could be in a lot of trouble. Andrade could land a big shot to change everything, but Dern has never been knocked out and that's unlikely to change here.
Prediction: Dern by submission in round three
Sergei Pavlovich vs. Tom Aspinall prediction
Tom Aspinall is much more well-rounded, but Sergei Pavlovich's show-stopping power and precision striking simply cannot be ignored. Pavlovich will likely be the more prepared fighter as the intended backup for Jon Jones vs. Stipe Miocic and as fans saw in the main event of UFC 294, that can be a big factor. Aside from his knee injury, Aspinall has yet to face any trouble in the octagon but we've seen Pavlovich eat clean shots from Tai Tuivasa and Curtis Blaydes. Pavlovich gets it done this time but they will meet again.
Prediction: Pavlovich by knockout in round three
Alex Pereira vs. Jiri Prochazka prediction
Assuming Jiri Prochazka returns to old form, this fight will be purely chaotic for as long as it lasts. Prochazka's unique striking and wild approach can lead to anything happening but if there is one guy he should not leave his hands down against, it's Alex Pereira. Not only is Pereira perhaps the best striker and sniper the UFC has ever seen or even pound-for-pound the most powerful, but he could also be the most underrated leg kicker in MMA history. His leg kicks are never very powerful but extremely fast, precise, and almost always effective. Prochazka has not faced a leg attacker like Pereira and his awkward movement could be thwarted by such a move. Pereira nearly kicked Israel Adesanya's leg off before losing in their rematch, and there is of course the elephant in the room of Prochazka's shoulder injury. There are too many questions surrounding Prochazka and Pereira has shown time and again his ability to just do the most important thing: win.
Prediction: Pereira by knockout in round three