UFC’s 30-year anniversary celebration has wrapped but there are always more fights to make. There are intriguing options on the table now that Alex Pereira and Tom Aspinall are light heavyweight and interim heavyweight champions, respectively, after UFC 295 in New York City on Saturday.
The futures of the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions look promising. Pereira has remarkably become a two-division UFC champion just seven fights into his UFC run. Aspinall has the makings of a great heavyweight champion. The rises of Pereira and Aspinall come at the expense of Jiri Prochazka and Sergei Pavlovich, but there are opportunities for redemption.
It was a short night with five knockout finishes on the main card. Take a look below at the fights fans deserve to see in the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions in the aftermath of UFC 295.
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Light heavyweight division
UFC light heavyweight championship — Alex Pereira (c) vs. Jamahal Hill: Pereira vs. Hill mirrors the story of Pereira vs. Prochazka. Both Prochazka and Hill defeated Pereira’s close friend and mentor Glover Teixeira to become champion. Prochazka and Hill did not lose their titles in a fight but were forced to vacate due to injury. Prochazka can no longer claim to be the light heavyweight ace, but Hill still has a legitimate case for being the division’s best fighter. If Pereira wants to complete the revenge arc and eliminate all doubt to his rule, he’ll need to best Hill in an exciting striking duel.
Jiri Prochazka vs. Aleksandar Rakic: There is a bit of bad blood between Prochazka and Rakic from their days as rising contenders. It should play nicely into a pay-per-view main card or Fight Night headliner. Rakic was a promising face in the division before he was sidelined with a knee injury early into his fight with Jan Blachowicz. UFC should consider booking this fight if Rakic can best Blachowicz in their rumored rematch. If not, the promotion is supposedly rebooking Magomed Ankalaev vs. Johnny Walker. Matching the winner of that fight with Prochazka or immediately booking one of them against Prochazka instead are suitable alternatives.
UFC interim heavyweight championship — Tom Aspinall (ic) vs. Ciryl Gane: An interim champion is usually paired with the undisputed champion, but Aspinall admitted the odds of that happening are low. The UFC is planning to reschedule Jon Jones vs. Stipe Miocic at a later date for the UFC heavyweight title, but there is a prevailing belief that both men will retire after that fight. Even still, Jones will be sidelined for at least another six months to recover from a torn pectoral muscle. If that happens, the interim champ automatically graduates to undisputed status. Whatever the label, it’s unlikely Aspinall will fight Jones or Miocic next. Gane looked very sharp against Sergey Spivak and plugged some of the wrestling holes haunting him. Candidly, it would have been nice to see Gane tested against a formidable grappler with a more well-rounded game, but these are the woes of being a title contender in a shallow division. Aspinall vs. Gane could produce sublime striking chess if Gane can negate Aspinall’s grappling edge.
Sergei Pavlovich vs. Alexander Volkov: Volkov has never looked this good in the UFC. The former Bellator champion is finally firing on all cylinders six years deep into his UFC run. Volkov has earned his chance to become a No. 1 contender after stopping Tai Tuivasa, Alexander Romanov and Jairzinho Rozenstruik in consecutive fights. It’s a make-or-break scenario for Volkov. His last two losses came against Aspinall and Gane. Pavlovich completes the triad of the new heavyweight elite. If Volkov can’t crack the code, his days as a bubbling contender are officially over. It’s also a much-needed rebound for Pavlovich who will eventually need to prove he’s got more than five good (or bad) minutes in him.