A thrilling morning of action is upon us as two powerhouse contenders, Alex Pereira and Jiří Procházka, take center stage at Madison Square Garden early this Sunday at the UFC 295 fight show. The light heavyweight division champion belt will finally (hopefully) find its owner right after we get to know who will become the interim heavyweight champ from the duel between Sergei Pavlovich and Tom Aspinall. Of course, it’s the main event that attracts the most attention, so let’s take a closer look at it.
Originally scheduled to feature Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic, the main event at UFC 295 saw a significant change due to Jones’ injury. This unfortunate turn of events resulted in a shuffle of matchups, with Tom Aspinall and Sergei Pavlovich stepping in for an interim heavyweight title fight. Meanwhile, the co-main event between Jiří Procházka and Alex Pereira was upgraded to the headline status, vying for the vacant light heavyweight belt.
Procházka, the first-ever Czech UFC champion, aims to reclaim the light heavyweight title he had to relinquish due to injury in 2022. Meanwhile, Pereira, a former middleweight champion, seeks to add a second weight-class championship to his resume after holding the middleweight title from November 2022 to April 2023. This matchup will hopefully bring much-needed stability to the ever-changing light heavyweight division.
How They Match Up
Both Procházka and Pereira are known for their striking prowess. The 31-year-old Czech has finished an impressive 25 of his 29 wins with strikes, while Pereira, with a background in high-level kickboxing, has 6 knockouts in his 8 MMA wins. It’s worth mentioning Pereira’s kickboxing record as well. The 36-year-old had amassed 33 wins, 21 of them by KO, before making a career switch to mixed martial arts.
Although Procházka may appear to be the more formidable knockout threat, Pereira’s statistics tell a different story. The Brazilian has a better striking accuracy rate (62% to 55%) and a superior defense rate (51% to 40%). These stats make it evident that Pereira is a refined and truly efficient striker.
Both fighters predominantly rely on their striking skills and have rarely attempted takedowns. However, their 100% takedown success rates stem from their minimal attempts in the UFC. The limited ground game experience might change in this fight, with the possibility of either fighter opting for a takedown to nullify their opponent’s strengths. Procházka holds a slight edge in this department due to his extended MMA experience.
Ironically, the Czech secured a submission win against a seasoned BJJ black belt, Glover Teixeira, which ultimately won him the champion title last June. With two pre-UFC submission wins, Procházka’s jiu-jitsu skills appear to be more developed than those of his opponent, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise if his ground game comes into play during the upcoming fight.
There’s no denying the possibility that Procházka’s long layoff due to a severe shoulder injury could affect his performance. However, the fighter himself is confident of the success of the recovery process. “I’m here in New York to win”, the Czech stated in an interview. “The injury is over. I’m ready to continue what I started.” He is currently riding a 13-fight win streak, having suffered his last and only third career loss back in December 2015. Keeping that streak alive may prove to be an extra motivation.
Meanwhile, Pereira’s close connection with Glover Teixeira, his mentor and training partner, could provide valuable insights into Procházka’s game. One of his better weapons is calf kicks, which, as we’ve seen before in his previous fights (against Adesanya as a prime example), help nullify his opponents and deal serious damage to their legs. It is definitely in his best interest to put those kicks to use and control the distance between him and Procházka.
What are the odds?
This duel is challenging to predict, as both fighters possess the capability to deliver knockout blows. However, Procházka’s slightly more refined striking and experience in MMA might give him an edge. Expect intense stand-up exchanges early in the fight, with Procházka potentially utilizing his grappling skills in later rounds to secure victory.
Despite these logical presumptions and the fact that it will be only his second bout in the light heavyweight division, Pereira will enter the fight as a slight favorite with the odds of 1.83. Meanwhile, OlyBet sportsbook has rated Procházka’s success at 2.02.
Regardless, UFC 295 promises to be a memorable event, with a main event featuring two elite light heavyweight fighters – a true must-see for all combat sports enthusiasts. The excitement is palpable as the fighters gear up for the showdown at the iconic Madison Square Garden.
The light heavyweight championship belt has been tossed around like a hot potato in the past year, but it’s time to finally find its rightful owner and the face of the division. Procházka or Pereira? We’ll find out already this weekend.