US mixed martial arts fighter Jon Jones celebrates after defeating French mixed martial arts fighter Ciryl Gane during their UFC 285 heavyweight title bout at T-Mobile Arena, in Las Vegas, Nevada, on March 4, 2023.

FILE–US combined martial arts fighter Jon Jones.(Picture by Patrick T. Fallon / AFP)

Checklist among the marquee principal occasions to headline UFC playing cards at Madison Sq. Backyard — Conor McGregor, Georges St-Pierre and Daniel Cormier are among the many winners — and Jon Jones vs. Stipe Miocic might have topped all of them.

The heavyweight championship conflict as an alternative acquired KO’d.

Jones, on the brief checklist of nice MMA fighters of all time, tore a pectoral tendon off the bone throughout coaching final month. The UFC heavyweight champ wanted surgical procedure and was off the cardboard. So was Miocic. The 2-time heavyweight champion didn’t get a substitute battle and can sit out Saturday’s UFC 295 present at Madison Sq. Backyard.

Simply as they do on Broadway, UFC known as on the understudies.

Now, No. 2 heavyweight contender Sergei Pavlovich fights No. 4 Tom Aspinall for the interim heavyweight championship in a late add to the cardboard. The battle for the vacant gentle heavyweight title between Jiri Procházka and Alex Pereira was bumped to the primary occasion.

Former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade faces Mackenzie Dern in one other key bout on the primary card.

What the cardboard lacks in star energy simply could also be made up for in energy, interval.

Procházka (29-3-1) has 25 knockout wins and Aspinall (13-3) has 10. Pereira (8-2) is a former UFC gentle heavyweight champ and appears to develop into a two-division UFC champion in simply his seventh battle for the promotion. Pereira fought in the primary occasion of UFC 281 final November at MSG and defeated Israel Adesanya to say the 185-pound championship. The Brazilian knockout artist misplaced the title again to Adesanya in April.

UFC cranked the hype machine to get followers pumped for Saturday within the wake of late shuffle, noting it marked “4 of essentially the most thrilling fighters within the planet competing for UFC gold.”

But even the fighters are looking for the fun in competing at MSG. “On the finish of the day, mate, it’s one other area,” Aspinall mentioned.

As for the unique principal occasion, the bout might be rescheduled for as early as subsequent summer season, relying on Jones’ well being.

Jones ended a three-year sabbatical from the UFC in March and moved as much as its highest weight class to choke out Ciryl Gane and win the vacant championship in the primary occasion of UFC 285. Jones mentioned after that battle he needed Miocic. UFC President Dana White mentioned it could have been “full disrespect” to supply Miocic an interim title battle. So Aspinall and Pavlovich will slug it out to seek out out who actually is the baddest heavyweight in UFC. Properly, you recognize, apart from these different two guys.

Right here’s a take a look at the 2 main fights principal card, and the betting traces for every battle, per FanDuel SportsBook.

Procházka vs. Pereira, 205-pound title battle.

Pereira took his time attending to UFC after a profitable kickboxing profession. The 36-year-old fighter didn’t make his UFC debut till November 2021 and earned the championship match in opposition to Adesanya in simply his fourth battle. Three matches later, he’s again for one more title shot and — with a win — would all of a sudden discover himself within the firm of the nice Brazilian fighters in MMA historical past.

“I don’t know the standards for calling somebody the best,” he mentioned by way of a translator. “I don’t give it some thought an excessive amount of. I simply do my job.”

He has accomplished it very properly.

Procházka received the UFC gentle heavyweight crown when he submitted Glover Teixeira in June 2022. Procházka later suffered a shoulder damage that worn out a scheduled championship rematch and compelled him to give up the title.

“It was the proper alternative,” Procházka mentioned. “The present should go on. The division should nonetheless develop.”

Procházka not solely hasn’t fought since final yr — he hasn’t misplaced a battle anyplace since 2015, a span that features three straight UFC wins.

Pavlovich vs Aspinall, interim heavyweight bout.
Pavlovich (18-1) is on a six-fight win streak and Aspinall is 6-1 total in UFC. Not like Miocic, each heavyweights are of their prime and this one might a slugfest between two fighters getting an surprising shot at an interim belt.

Simply don’t take a toilet break throughout this one.

Pavlovich has had all seven UFC fights (together with a loss) finish within the first spherical. Aspinall has made it to the second spherical simply as soon as in his seven UFC fights.

Even when they’re simply holding the highest of the division heat till Jones returns, it is a probability for every fighter to get on the map and be greater than a footnote on the cardboard.

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“I’m not the kind of man who’s going to fly internationally, signal a contract and present up if I don’t assume I’m going to win,” mentioned Aspinall, a British fighter.

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