What mattered most at UFC 295 at Madison Square Garden in New York? Here are a few post-fight musings …
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Loopy Godinez makes history despite a puzzling scorecard
Judge Bryan Miner did his best to rob Loopy Godinez of history with a perplexing 30-27 scorecard for opponent Tabatha Ricci in their strawweight bout on the prelims, but thankfully, the other two judges showed sanity, and the right person won.
Godinez (12-3 MMA, 7-3 UFC) continued her frenetic fighting schedule with a split decision win over Ricci, making her the first female in UFC history to earn four octagon victories inside a calendar year. That’s a record that will never be taken away from her, but in the bigger picture, it was more momentum for the Mexican-Canadian, who has won six straight overall at 115 pounds.
The improvement in Godinez’s game since joining champion Alexa Grasso’s camp in Mexico has been evident, and she’s slowly but surely climbing the divisional pecking order. If she continues this pace, it won’t be long until she’s a bonified contender.
A new most violent lightweight?
The lightweight division has had some destructive, vicious forces over the years. Dustin Poirier, Justin Gaethje and Eddie Alvarez are just a couple of names who come to mind. Although he’ll need more of these performances against higher-level competition before he joins that group, France’s Benoit Saint-Denis appears to be well on his way.
“The God of War” kept his 100 percent career finishing rate intact when he laid out Matt Frevola with an absolutely nasty head kick just 91 seconds into their main card fight. It was a beautiful piece of work, and his five-fight UFC winning streak at 155 pounds is currently only bested by champion Islam Makhachev at 12.
That gives grounds for Saint-Denis (13-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC) to make the bold callouts he delivered post-fight to the likes of Poirier, Gaethje and Mateusz Gamrot. He might not get any of those right now, but one win against someone on the lower end of the rankings like Jalin Turner or Renato Moicano, and he might truly be in business.
Thus far, Saint-Denis has shown himself to be a compelling overall package with his fighting and mic skills. He has me wanting to see much more.
Tom Aspinall pulls off 'a Bisping,' and now he needs Jon Jones
Tom Aspinall delivered on his promise to channel his good friend and fellow Brit Michael Bisping on short notice and claim UFC gold. He did it with an unreal 69-second knockout of the man he continuously dubbed as “most dangerous in the UFC” in Sergei Pavlovich.
It was truly a sight to behold, and one of the great moments in recent UFC memory with Aspinall (14-3 MMA, 7-1 UFC) pouring out all his emotions after the fact.
He could not have possibly done more to make his case as the best heavyweight on earth, and his win creates massive interest in a title unification showdown with Jon Jones. The question is, will he get it? The outlook seems grim, especially with Dana White doubling down on plays for Jones vs. Stipe Miocic when both are healthy and ready to go. But if we’re being sincere, Aspinall vs. Jones is the fight UFC needs to make.
It would be harsh to push Miocic to the wayside when he was ready to step into the octagon on this night and Jones was the one who couldn’t make it due to his pectoral injury, but it’s a cruel world, and if the UFC is honest about giving the fans what they want most, serious consideration needs to be given in terms of changing course.
If the promotion can convince Jones to make a promise of staying around to unify belts with Aspinall in the almost certain scenario he beats Miocic, then it would be much more palatable to have that fight first. But the consensus among fans, media and fellow fighters seems to be he’s not going to commit to that, and would rather retire than risk his legacy against Aspinall.
Given what Aspinall has done, however, it’s not going to be the best look if Jones’ end point to his career is tied into avoiding a fight with Aspinall. A win over Aspinall right now, in my opinion, does far more for his legacy than beating a 41-year-old, hasn’t-fought-in-three-years Miocic.
Jiri Prochazka's graciousness in defeat
If you were to judge the main event stoppage purely off the reaction of the commentary booth and social media community, you’d think Jiri Prochazka got totally screwed by referee Marc Goddard and should have grounds for outrage for the manner in which his fight with Alex Pereira ended.
The overwhelming majority of outsiders aired frustrations over the final sequence, but the one person who took it on the chin both figuratively and literally was Prochazka (29-4-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) himself. He validated Goddard’s decision to halt the action by admitting he went unconscious for a moment during his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, and said it was fair for Goddard to wave things off.
That quickly forced the “controversial stoppage” debate to fizzle, and that’s a seriously commendable move from the former light heavyweight champion. Max Holloway’s post on X resonated particularly well, in that he said many fighters wouldn’t have been as graceful about the situation as Prochazka was, and that should be truly commended.
Many fighters in his position would’ve cried foul and tried to cause a stink that could’ve potentially led to immediate rematch discussions or something of a similar narrative. We probably shouldn’t be surprised Prochazka handled it so well, because he seems to be an honest warrior at every turn we get to know him.
We’ll see if his tune changes as time goes on and he needs to start building some cache toward his next fight or another encounter with Pereira down the line, but as of now, it’s hard to put together a long list of names who have handled such a heartbreaking moment with the class of Prochazka. For that, he should have everyone’s respect.
Alex Pereira's historic run in short time
Alex Pereira is doing unprecedented work under the UFC banner after claiming a second title in just his seventh octagon appearance courtesy of a second-round knockout win over Prochazka.
It’s hard to properly contextualize the feats Pereira (9-2 MMA, 6-1 UFC) has accomplished in the two years since he made his octagon debut, but I’ll do my best.
The glaring historical statistic is the speed at which Pereira got here. Yes, he was fast-tracked to a middleweight title shot against Israel Adesanya due to their kickboxing history, but he had to win the fights to make that happen. He also had to overcome what many believed to be a stylistic nightmare against Jan Blachowicz in his light heavyweight debut in August to set up this opportunity at a second belt.
In just seven fights, he became the ninth name in UFC history to achieve belts in multiple divisions. What makes him different, though, is that no one else had joined the exclusive club in less than nine octagon appearances. Of his seven promotional wins, four of them have come against current or former UFC champions. That’s just a ridiculously impressive work rate from the Brazilian.
Add all this to the fact Pereira also rose to two-division championship status as a kickboxer under the GLORY banner, and we’re now talking about one of the greatest combat sports athletes we’ve ever seen. Pereira is not done yet, either.
If Pereira can actually defend this 205-pound title – which he was unable to do at 185 pounds – then his legacy will only go further into rarified air. He’s got a good shot at it, too, because while there are a few difficult matchups for him from a strategic standpoint, his skillset for MMA is only getting better, and his striking pedigree makes him a knockout threat against literally anyone who he steps in the cage with.
Everyone needs to enjoy this run from Pereira for as long as it lasts, because it’s truly one of the most remarkable stories in MMA history.
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 295.