UFC 295: Preliminary Fights to Watch

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UFC 295, set for Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York City, is bringing two title fights to the Big Apple.

Former light heavyweight champion Jiri Prochazka, who vacated after a gnarly shoulder injury, will fight former middleweight champion Alex Pereira in a vacant title fight. The two stone-cold warriors are all business, and an exciting fight filled with fireworks is all but promised. Jamahal Hill vacated the title after he suffered an Achilles injury, similar to Prochazka vacating after his own injury.

Heavyweights Sergei Pavlovich and Tom Aspinall will precede that fight for the interim heavyweight title, as champion Jon Jones suffered a pectoral injury.

The main card will also feature an important strawweight duel between Mackenzie Dern and former champion Jessica Andrade.

While the main card is poised to deliver, the preliminary card is to. Let’s take a look at five of the best match-ups on the UFC 295 undercard.

Steve Erceg vs. Alessandro Costa

Erceg makes his first appearance since climbing into the flyweight top-15 after his UFC debut. Erceg shocked many when he took a unanimous decision over David Dvorak – his toughest test to date – in just his first fight with the promotion. In his sophomore outing, he gets Costa and will put his No. 14 ranking on the line.

Costa himself as a chance to break into the top-15 in just his third UFC appearance. He was TKO’d by current No. 3 Amir Albazi and then TKO’d Jimmy Flick.

The well-rounded flyweights are the featured prelim and should produce a fun scrap with rankings implications.

Tabatha Ricci vs. Lupita Godinez

Ricci and Godinez are the only women’s MMA fight on the undercard – and one of only two on UFC 295. Ricci has won four straight since suffering her only professional loss to Manon Fiorot up a weight class. Since losing to the title contender, Ricci has dropped back to her natural weight class of strawweight and bested Gillian Robertson, Jessica Penne, Polyana Viana and Maria Oliveira.

She now draws her stiffest test since Fiorot in “Loopy Godinez,” a Mexico representative who put on one of the best performances of her career against Elise Reed after moving to Lobo Gym and training with flyweight queen Alexa Grasso. Godinez, a well-rounded fighter, has wins over the likes of Cynthia Calvillo, Emily Ducote and Ariane Carnelossi.

It’s No. 10 Ricci vs. No. 13 Godinez in a match-up that will determine how the strawweight top-15 looks on Monday. From a match-up perspective, it will be interesting to see how Ricci’s grappling prowess matches up against Godinez’s wrestling chops, as “Loopy” likely holds the boxing edge.

Mateusz Rebecki vs. Roosevelt Roberts

Rebecki, an 18-1 lightweight, draws Roberts for his third UFC outing. Roberts, once a blue-chip prospect, is back in the UFC following an initial 4-3 (1 no-contest) run that ended with two losses and the no-contest. Roberts won twice and then competed on The Ultimate Fighter where veterans fought prospects. He defeated Nate Jennerman but lost to fellow UFC veteran Austin Hubbard when veterans started competing against veterans.

Roberts now draws a highly-touted prospect in Rebecki for his first fight back with the UFC. Rebecki finished Loik Radzhabov in his last outing after decisioning Nick Fiore in his debut.

The current prospect takes on the one-time blue-chip in a battle that should see who deserves to keep advancing the lightweight rankings. This will be a high-level MMA fight fans shouldn’t miss.

Jared Gordon vs. Mark Madsen

Madsen will look to rebound from his first-ever professional MMA loss when he meets Gordon. Madsen was submitted by Grant Dawson almost a year ago. The wrestler had been 4-0 in the UFC and 12-0 prior.

Madsen was a silver medalist in the 75 kg wrestling weight class at the 2016 Summer Olympics and has since parlayed that into UFC success, defeating Vinc Pichel and Clay Guida. Now he draws another experienced fighter in Gordon, who holds a solid 7-5 (1 NC) UFC record. Gordon arguably defeated Paddy Pimblett in a controversial unanimous decision loss and then was knocked out when he and Bobby Green accidentally clashed heads – Gordon’s no contest. His victories include Leonardo Santos, Joe Solecki and Hacran Dias.

Gordon is an interesting test for Madsen with his motor and well-rounded game. Madsen will look to need to take Gordon down early and keep him there and avoid running out of gas. It’s always intriguing to see how “The Olympian” fares, and a win over Gordon could earn him a top-15 opponent.

Dennis Buzukja vs. Jamall Emmers

Buzukja, a featherweight prospect, draws a second tough test in as many UFC fights when he meets Emmers to open UFC 295. Buzukja was defeated by Sean Woodson in his UFC debut, though Woodson had nothing but supportive things to say about Buzukja’s future in the Octagon.

“I think he was my toughest opponent to date,” Woodson told MMASucka after his fight with Buzukja. “I think he’s a world-class fighter from a world-class gym … I truly believe he’s going to be a problem for a lot of guys in the featherweight division.”

Buzukja holds an 11-3 professional record. Emmers sits at 19-7 with a 2-3 UFC record. He handed Khusein Askhabov his first pro loss and also beat Vince Cachero. In his losses, he came up short against Giga Chikadze, Pat Sabatini and Jack Jenkins – all tough foes. While Buzukja appears to be a worthy prospect, he isn’t yet on the level of Chikadze or Sabatini.

Emmers may possibly be fighting for his job here, and while Buzukja may get a third opportunity even with a loss, he likely doesn’t want to chance it. There’s a lot on the line for both fighters in a stacked 145-pound division, and they’ll both bring the heat as a result.

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Michael is a big MMA fan who enjoys interviewing the sport's athletes, writing about the sport, and just discussing it. He earned his Master's in Journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and his B.A. in Journalism at Stony Brook University. He also enjoys hockey, football and baseball. Feel free to hit him up if you want to discuss MMA, or any other sport!

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