MMA Junkie analyst Dan Tom breaks down the UFC’s top bouts. Today, we look at the main event for UFC 295.
UFC 295 takes place Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPNews and early prelims on ESPN+.
Jiri Prochazka (29-3-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC)
Height: 6’3″ Age: 31 Weight: 205 lbs. Reach: 80″
Last fight: Submission win over Glover Teixeira (June 12, 2022)
Camp: Jetsaam Gym BRNO (Czech Republic)/Bangtao Muay Thai (Thailand)
Stance/striking style: Switch-stance/muay Thai
Risk management: Fair
+ Former UFC light heavyweight champion
+ 2x RIZIN FF light heavyweight champion
+ 2x GFC light heavyweight champion
+ Amateur muay Thai accolades
+ 25 KO victories
+ 3 submission wins
+ 23 first-round finishes
+ Knockout power
+ Sporadic feints and footwork
^ Shifts stances/deceptive distance closer
+ Accurate right hand
^ Coming forward and off the counter
+ Hard kicks and knees
+ Serviceable grappling ability
^ Scrambles hard off the bottom
+/- Coming off a 15-month layoff
Alex Pereira (8-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC)
Height: 6’4″ Age: 36 Weight: 205 lbs. Reach: 79″
Last fight: Decision win over Jan Blachowicz (July 29, 2023)
Camp: Teixeira MMA/Glover’s Garage (Danbury, Conn.)
Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
Risk management: Good
+ Former UFC middleweight champion
+ 5x Glory middleweight champion
+ Glory light heavyweight title
+ Pro kickboxing record: 33-7 (21 wins by KO)
+ Amateur kickboxing record: 25-3
+ Kickboxing black belt
+ 6 KO victories
+ 3 first-round finishes
+ Knockout power
^ Superb proprioception and accuracy
+ Devastating left hook and right cross
^ Times splits and counters well
+ Dangerous knees up the middle
+ Strong inside the clinch
^ Underhooks, overhooks and separations
+ Limited but serviceable grappling game
Point of interest: Chaos vs. "Chama"
The main event for UFC 295 features a light heavyweight title fight that pits the chaotic nature of Jiri Prochazka against the cool, calm and collected firestarter, Alex Pereira.
Walking a fine line between martial artist and madman, Prochazka embodies his own unique brand of offense that has become a hallmark of his game.
Seldom taking a back step in the spirit of retreat, Prochazka traditionally comes forward with an unpredictable mix of sporadic feints and shifting footwork that he uses to create offensive opportunities. Whether Prochazka’s charging his chakras on the resets or using his long arms for karate-style frames, the fighter from the Czech Republic can quickly and deceptively close distance off of odd looks and tempo changes.
Prochazka also seems to pack a solid spread of dynamic attacks in his arsenal, almost always appearing to be primed to launch flying knees in the face of level-changing threats. And despite his amateur muay Thai accolades, Prochazka typically tends to lean into a crouch variation for his attacks and counters.
— Dan Tom (@DanTomMMA) April 28, 2021
But with counters being a potent two-way street in these sorts of matchups, Prochazka will need to respect the powerful hooks that Pereira uses to punctuate exchanges.
Although many will immediately point to the counter left hook, it is ultimately the proprioception of Pereira that makes him so accurate and dangerous in all that he does.
Whether he’s hitting his opposition with surprising spin kicks or splitting right hands inside of the danger zone, Pereira demonstrates a preternatural instinct to find and hit targets in motion. This could also be why his defensive layers can seem lackadaisical at times, but the Brazilian does a decent job of playing off his lowered guard and purposefully slow prods in order to invite opponents into awkwardly angled counters.
And when Pereira is the one pushing opponents on the back foot and towards a barrier, he wields one of the more understated jabs in MMA.
Already submitted my #UFC287 breakdown for this week, but couldn’t help throw this video together after hearing @TeddyAtlasReal talk about the jabbing dynamic between Alex Pereira and Israel Adesanya.
Tacked on George Foreman-Gullick to help illustrate his Pereira comparisons: pic.twitter.com/Clws9Re94N
— Dan Tom (@DanTomMMA) April 4, 2023
Pereira’s kicks, though improved (particularly when being used for returns), also come with an awkward kicking gate in tow, almost as if he’s trying to stay planted for counter-hook attachments at all times. That said, I’m not sure how much either man will be looking to kick given both of their knacks for countering said attacks.
Point of interest: Potential grappling threats
Despite both fighters primarily being strikers by trade, no one should be shocked if this party ends up hitting the mat this Saturday.
Prochazka, who is far from a fish out of water on the floor, proved how dangerous his ground game was in his last outing opposite Glover Teixeira.
The product of the Czech Republic has always been an urgent scrambler and opportunistic threat, but Prochazka has made clear efforts to sharpen up his wrestling in recent years. Even though most of those improvements have shown themselves in the defensive realm, one can’t help but wonder how much of Prochazka’s offense has improved.
— Dan Tom (@DanTomMMA) November 9, 2023
Prochazka’s lone successful shot in the UFC didn’t look completely awful, but his opponent, Dominick Reyes, appeared to have successfully defended the takedown attempt until deciding to drop back for a guillotine choke.
Pereira was smart enough to not make this mistake in his last time out opposite Jan Blachowicz, but Prochazka is a wildman who is more than happy to take the road less traveled in order to get to a destination. In fact, Prochazka – despite not being known for shooting a ton of takedowns – will mix in a healthy amount of level-changing threats that could help freeze up “Poatan.”
Pereira, to his credit, has shown clear improvements in grappling tie-ups and getups since working with the former champion, Teixeira. That said, you can argue that Pereira is at the stage of his career where he’s still trying to balance out striking and grappling defense – so the more offensive looks from Prochazka the better.
Point of interest: Odds and opinions
Despite the Czech fighter being opened as the favorite, public money has come in on Poatan, listing Pereira -120 and Prochazka +100 via FanDuel.
I understand both the opening odds and the subsequent line movement, but this ultimately feels like a pick’em fight at the end of the day.
Prochazka is a more proven MMA product with a wider array of weapons to win this fight on paper, so I don’t blame anyone backing the underdog at the betting window.
Aside from insanely accurate right hands that could tax Pereira either coming forward or off the counter, Prochazka’s ground-and-pound could also change the complexion of this fight with a single successful stanza from topside. That said, I can’t help but see Prochazka getting caught speeding in this spot due to some long-time trends of his.
Aside from the fact that Prochazka’s propensity to crouch to his right puts him in line with a disproportionate amount of left-sided power shots, the self-appropriating samurai’s unique fakes and prods arguably give his opponents just as much to work with from a rangefinding perspective.
Jiri's hand fighting is going to be extra risky against Pereira.
Especially the open stance lead hand fight, which could leave him open to the left hook.
Against a powerful fighter like Pereira who can offer parity in the proprioception and reach realm, Prochazka’s reaching tics could cost him his consciousness if he’s not careful.
Whether it’s a left hook like the one cited in the tweet above or a crashing right hand that splits the sporadic timing of Prochazka, I can’t help but see Pereira landing a knockout blow within the first fifteen minutes.
A Prochazka win wouldn’t shock me in the slightest, but I’ll officially pick Pereira to survive an early first-round storm in order to find the knockout in round 2.
Prediction: Pereira inside the distance
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 295.