This weekend, the UFC will host one of the more anticipated cards of the year as it returns to Madison Square Garden, New York City. After a slight card change and reshuffle due to Jon Jones' unavailability through injury, the main event will see Alex Pereira face off against the returning Jiri Prochazka for the vacant Light Heavyweight title. In the co-main event, fighting for the Interim Heavyweight title, Tom Aspinall will be stepping in on two weeks' notice to fight Sergei Pavlovich, initially the backup fight for the previous main event fight between Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic. Elsewhere, the card is stacked with exciting fights, including Mackenzie Dern and Jessica Andrade, Matt Frevola and Benoit Saint-Davies, and Diego Lopes against Pat Sabatini.
Kicking off the main card is the fast-emerging fan favorite Diego Lopes, who will compete in just his third UFC bout. In his first fight, he took on undefeated top-10-ranked opponent Movsar Evloev on short notice and performed way better than anybody had previously anticipated. Although losing the fight on all three of the judges' scorecards, Lopes certainly had his moments throughout the fight and threatened with dangerous submissions the entire time. Lopes would prove just how dangerous his submissions are in his next fight, where he submitted Gavin Tucker in the first round. His opponent this weekend, Pat Sabatini, is also known for his dangerous ground game, with 11 of his 18 wins coming via submission. Sabatini boasts an impressive record of 18-4 with a 5-1 record in the UFC. On the other hand, Lopes has a record of 22-6, with 12 of those coming by way of submission.
A Dana White's Contender Series graduate in Frevola will fight under the UFC banner for the 10th time, riding a 3-fight win streak, with all three victories coming via KO or TKO in the first round. With a record of 11-3 and 7 finishes, Frevola is known for his aggressive fighting style, and this fight is set to be nothing short of a barn burner. Saint-Davies will mark his 6th appearance in the UFC on a current win streak of 4, two coming via submission and two coming via TKO. An impressive record of 12-1 (1), with all 12 coming via finish. This fight certainly has all the makings of a classic, with both men extremely dangerous from the opening bell.
Coming off the back of a fight of the night bonus in a Main Event victory over Angelia Hill, Dern will be looking to make it back-to-back victories against a dangerous opposition in Jessica Andrade. With multiple ju-jitsu accolades to her name, it is no surprise that 7 of her 13 victories have come by way of submission. Dern has made her title aspirations known, and a victory over a former champion could set her on her way. On the other hand, the always dangerous Andrade is currently on a 3-fight skit for the first time in her career and has been finished in all three fights. The 10-year UFC veteran does hold notable victories over names such as, Rose Namajunas, Lauren Murphy and Angelia Hill. Andrade will look to get back into the win column this weekend and add to her 15 UFC wins.
The original main event backup fighter, Pavlovoch, finds himself in an interim title shot against another fast-rising star Tom Aspinall. The only blemish on Pavlovich's record came against Alistar Overeem in his UFC debut; since then, he has gone on to win his next six fights in the first round. Racking up wins over the division's best, such as Curtis Blaydes, Tai Tuivasa, and Derrick Lewis in the first round means Pavlovich has the second shortest average octagon time of any UFC athlete. The only other athlete to have a shorter UFC average octagon time is no other than his opponent this weekend. Aspinall returned in July this year after 12 months on the sideline due to a knee injury suffered in the opening seconds against Curtis Blaydes. With six victories in the UFC already, Aspinall will be looking to cash in on his short-notice opportunity. With two fighters colliding who rarely see a second round, this fight has everything you'd expect to be fireworks from the opening bell.
The card's new main event will see one of the year's most anticipated fights. Prochazka is returning from an extended period out of action, returning from what Dana White called 'the worst shoulder injury' he'd ever seen; there will undoubtedly be some questions and marks regarding the injury. That being said, Prochazka is currently riding a 13-fight win streak, finishing all his opponents. With 29 victories to his name, Prochazka has only gone to a decision once in his career. Standing opposite him will be Alex Pereria, attempting to become a two-division world champion in just his 7th fight in the UFC and his 11th professional fight. Known for his deadly left hook and incredible kickboxing abilities, the fans expect nothing but violence when these two goliaths meet.
If these fights deliver, this could be one of the year's best cards. As a member of the Verdict Community, let us know the matchup you're most excited about in the comments below.