Epic knockouts as Perreira and Aspinall hammer out pivotal title wins at UFC 295

Pereira entered the UFC history books as the promotion’s ninth fighter to become a two-weight world champion as late replacement Aspinall stops Sergei Pavlovich to win the interim heavyweight belt

By Reuters

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Brazil's Alex Pereira, left, punches Czech Republic's Jirí Procházka during the second round of a light heavyweight title bout at the UFC 295 mixed martial arts event ealry Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023, in New York. - AP
Brazil's Alex Pereira, left, punches Czech Republic's Jirí Procházka during the second round of a light heavyweight title bout at the UFC 295 mixed martial arts event ealry Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023, in New York. - AP

Published: Sun 12 Nov 2023, 12:42 PM

Alex Pereira scored a superb second-round knockout win over Jiri Prochazka to claim the light heavyweight crown at UFC 295 at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, 364 days after winning the middleweight title at the same venue.

The 36-year-old kickboxer landed a short left hook late in the second frame to stun his Czech opponent and followed it up with a flurry of fists and elbows that further impaired Prochazka, forcing referee Marc Goddard to stop the fight.

Brazil's Pereira, who knocked out Israel Adesanya on Nov. 12 last year to win the middleweight belt before losing it in April in a rematch, had some early success with some vicious leg kicks, but Prochazka's precise striking posed a problem.

The 31-year-old Czech continued to switch stances and press forward, but his aggression was eventually punished when he was caught out by some precise counter-punches by Pereira that paved the Brazilian's path to victory.

Pereira then used his post-fight interview to call on Adesanya to step up to light heavyweight and face him in a third title fight, saying "Adesanya, come to daddy."

Tom Aspinall of England knocks out Sergei Pavlovich of Russia. - AFP
Tom Aspinall of England knocks out Sergei Pavlovich of Russia. - AFP

In the co-main event, England's Tom Aspinall knocked out Sergei Pavlovich in the first round to win the interim heavyweight title.

Aspinall sat in the locker room in the hours before the fight that came together in a matter of weeks and really only had one thought:

“What am I doing,” Aspinall asked himself.

Aspinall could say it now, he pulled a muscle in his back and didn't have much of a training camp. The Englishman in New York — he walked out to the Sting hit song — had visa issues. Aspinall even had to cancel a planned vacation with his family.

So what was Aspinall doing? Try winning a championship in only his eighth UFC fight.

Alex Pereira used a series of elbows to Jirí Procházka's head to win the vacant UFC light heavyweight championship and Aspinall became the first British heavyweight to win gold in the UFC 295 title fights Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

“The UK guy is the world champion,” Aspinall said. “I'm the best in the world now.”

Well, Jon Jones might have a beef with that decree.

Aspinall knocked out Sergei Pavlovich in the first round for the interim heavyweight championship in front of a packed crowd that included former President Donald Trump. Aspinall then campaigned for a championship fight in England against Jones.

“Give me my dream fight,” Aspinall said. "Let me fight for my legacy, please."

The interim title fight was a late addition to the card after Jones tore a pectoral tendon off the bone during training late last month. He needed surgery and his heavyweight title defense against Stipe Miocic at the Garden was called off.

While UFC waits for Jones to return, it’s Aspinall who now holds the gold.

“It's been a crazy 2 1/2 weeks,” Aspinall said.

Jones congratulated Aspinall on social media, writing, “ that was an awesome performance! ”

Former U.S. President Donald Trump, UFC president Dana White, and Kid Rock pose during UFC 295 at Madison Square Garden. - AFP
Former U.S. President Donald Trump, UFC president Dana White, and Kid Rock pose during UFC 295 at Madison Square Garden. - AFP

Donald Trump and musician Kid Rock were greeted by cheers and “USA! USA!” chants as they walked to their cageside seats ahead of the start of the main card. UFC President Dana White accompanied Trump and Kid Rock and watched the fights with them. Trump slapped hands with fans and mingled with visitors.

The fighters couldn't help but notice the celebrities in the crowd.

“It was some pretty trippy scenes over there," Aspinall said, laughing.

Former UFC 115-pound champion Jéssica Andrade snapped a three-fight losing streak with a TKO win over MacKenzie Dern at 3:15 of the second round. Andrade became the first woman in UFC history to earn four knockdowns in a single fight and tied Amanda Nunes for most wins in UFC women’s history with 16.

UFC has run a major card in November at Madison Square Garden every year (except for 2020) since New York legalized MMA in time for a 2016 debut. Conor McGregor, Georges St-Pierre and Daniel Cormier all headlined pay-per-views at MSG and this one promised to perhaps be the biggest main event yet — Jones defending his heavyweight crown against Miocic.

Jones, on the short list of great MMA fighters, tore a tendon during training last month and was forced to withdraw. White then deemed an interim championship fight was beneath a fighter of Miocic’s stature. The two-time heavyweight champ, Miocic has not fought since March 2021.

The bout could be rescheduled for as early as next summer, depending on Jones’ health.

“That's the fight they want, that's the fight that makes sense, that's the fight that should happen,” White said.

Even without the anticipated fight, there was reason for the company to celebrate with 19,039 fans and a $12.4 million gate at MSG. UFC now holds the top-three spots for highest gate at the Garden. Also, Sunday marks 30 years since the company's debut show, UFC 1.

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