Look — we’re all bummed that the highly anticipated heavyweight clash between Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic has been delayed as Jones works his way back to health, but the month ahead remains packed with compelling, competitive fights that should provide bushels of entertainment as the Saturday evenings start to get colder and darker a little quicker.
After a Saturday off to close out October, the recipe is the same for November, with three events running back-to-back-to-back in Sao Paulo, New York City, and Las Vegas before another bye week allows everyone to prep for the final three events of 2023.
This feels like a month where some questions will be answered about emerging talents and divisional landscapes could get a bit of a pre-winter overhaul, so get ready for the next three weekends of action inside the Octagon with our regular look ahead to what’s about to transpire.
This is The 10.
UFC Fight Night: Almeida vs. Lewis — Saturday, November 4 (Sao Paulo, Brazil)
Gabriel Bonfim vs. Nicolas Dalby
Given what we saw transpire last month when a pair of matchups like this headlined consecutive events at the UFC APEX, it was impossible not to include this contest in this collection.
Bonfim has looked outstanding through two fights, claiming first-round submission wins over Mounir Lazzez and Trevin Giles to push his record to 15-0 with 15 finishes. Now he steps in with the Danish veteran Dalby, who has posted three straight wins and is easily the most experienced and well-rounded fighter the young Brazilian hopeful has faced to date.
While not carrying the same immediate impact as the main event clashes between prospects and veterans from October, this one should still provide insights into where Bonfim is at in his development, how far he could potentially climb in the welterweight ranks, and how quickly he might be able to make that ascent. And if Dalby becomes the first man to defeat him, the soon-to-be 39-year-old will celebrate his birthday with a fourth consecutive victory and a likely date with a ranked opponent in his future.
Jailton Almeida vs. Derrick Lewis
Matchups like this always intrigue me because they carry that impossible to dismiss “what if” factor.
Through his first five UFC starts, Almeida has been unstoppable, amassing five wins and five finishes while swiftly working his way into the Top 10 at heavyweight through a combination of impressive strength and standout grappling. But Lewis remains a considerable challenge — a veteran contender fresh off an explosive victory in July, and brandishing the kind of power to shift a fight in a heartbeat.
We talk all the time about competitors with “fight-ending power” that can put opponents away with one shot, at any time, but Lewis is one of the few fighters that has routinely shown those skills, and although Almeida enters as the obvious and understandable favorite, the omnipresent threat of Lewis’ menacing power adds a great deal of intrigue to these proceedings for me.
UFC 295: Prochazka vs. Pereira — Saturday, November 11 (New York, New York)
Tabatha Ricci vs. Loopy Godinez
One of three strawweight matchups featured in this space, this one pits a pair of ascending talents against one another at Madison Square Garden.
Ricci is a perfect 4-0 since returning to her natural weight class after dropping her UFC debut to flyweight contender Manon Fiorot. “Baby Shark” continues to improve as a striker, but her grappling remains the key piece of her offensive game inside the Octagon. Extremely active through her first two-and-a-half years on the roster, Godinez has won three straight heading into this one. She looked better than ever last time out, running roughshod over Elise Reed at Noche UFC, and appears to have really elevated her game since making the full time move to train alongside flyweight champ Alexa Grasso.
Both are positioned in the bottom half of the Top 15 at the moment, but another victory for either should produce an opportunity to face one of the more veteran names stationed ahead of her in the rankings. Each currently stand as dark horse contenders to watch going forward, and the winner could very well shed the “dark horse” portion of that label with an impressive outing here.
Matt Frevola vs. Benoit Saint-Denis
Banger Alert! Banger Alert! Banger Alert!
Long Island’s Frevola returns to MSG having pushed his winning streak to three with a first-round stoppage win over Drew Dober last time out. Saint-Denis arrives in Manhattan on a four-fight run of success, having earned a quartet of stoppages since returning to the 155-pound weight class after making his promotional debut at welterweight.
This is an “all gas, no brakes” matchup between two men intent on continuing to make waves in the talent-rich lightweight division. Because the weight class is flush with established, familiar, headlining talents, forcing your way into marquee matchups takes high-impact wins, and both Frevola and Saint-Denis have proven themselves capable of delivering highlights and posting victories, and their pairing at UFC 295 should absolutely produce fireworks.
Jessica Andrade vs. Mackenzie Dern
The second of this month’s three key strawweight pairings features a pair of athletes eager to cement their positions in the 115-pound weight class.
Andrade makes her fifth appearance of the year and third straight in the division, entering on a three-fight slide where she has been finished by contenders Erin Blanchfield, Yan Xiaonan, and Tatiana Suarez. Dern carries an 8-3 record inside the Octagon into this one, most recently having earned a unanimous decision win over Angela Hill in May.
The former champ Andrade needs to show her recent setbacks are a function of who she’s been fighting and not signs of a precipitous decline, while Dern is looking to register the kind of victory that finally establishes her as a genuine contender. Stylistically, this one could get interesting, as Andrade will have the clear edge on the feet, while Dern’s grappling skills could be a nightmare for the Brazilian.
Sergei Pavlovich vs. Tom Aspinall
This always felt like a fight that was going to happen with gold hanging in the balance somewhere down the line, and now we don’t have to wait any longer for it.
Since dropping his promotional debut to Alistair Overeem five years ago, Pavlovich has been an absolute wrecking machine, posting six straight first-round stoppage victories, with his last four all coming against ranked opponents during a devastating 13-month stretch. Aspinall seemed on a beeline to contention before suffering a torn ACL in his bout with Curtis Blaydes, but showed he’s still every bit as dangerous in his return to action against Marcin Tybura this summer in London.
Pavlovich has undeniable power, but it’s his precision and marksmanship that really make him a formidable force in the heavyweight division, while Aspinall is arguably the most well-rounded competitor in the division, having shown crisp hands and slick grappling while building a 6-1 record inside the Octagon.
Neither man has given any reason to believe they’re not capable of claiming this interim title and remaining a force atop the division for the foreseeable future, and another dominant outing from either one in New York City is sure to fuel speculation that the victor might genuinely be the best heavyweight in the UFC.
Jiri Prochazka vs. Alex Pereira
It’s been an unsettled couple of years in the light heavyweight division, but hopefully this clash for the vacant title will bring some order to the 205-pound ranks.
But even if it doesn’t, it should be all kinds of fun.
Prochazka returns for the first time since claiming the light heavyweight title at UFC 275, finally healthy after having to relinquish the belt after suffering a serious shoulder injury last year. Pereira looks to win UFC gold at The Garden for the second straight year and pick up a third victory in the famed arena after earning victories in his debut and his middleweight title fight with Israel Adesanya in each of the company’s last two trips to NYC.
This is one of those matchups where you could tell me 37 different scenarios that play out and I wouldn’t be able to dismiss any of them because Prochazka is a chaos agent and Pereira is a knockout merchant with an imposing physical presence. Whether it goes 25 seconds, 25 minutes, or something in between, this one is sure to have moments that leave fans gobsmacked and will set a course for the light heavyweight division heading into 2024.
UFC Fight Night: Allen vs. Craig — Saturday, November 19 (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Jonathan Pearce vs. Joanderson Brito
I love when great fights like this are tucked away on compelling Fight Night shows because they often feel like the hidden gem I’m able to tell people about in this space.
Pearce is another fighter that dropped his debut up a division and has looked tremendous since moving back down, as the DWCS alum has posted five straight wins at featherweight to move to 14-4 overall. While Brito has been competing in the 145-pound ranks this entire time, he too has rebounded nicely since stumbling out of the gates, having registered three straight stoppage wins to land this matchup with Pearce.
Injuries have slowed Pearce’s momentum a little and forced him from a planned bout with Bryce Mitchell earlier this year, but that tells you where he stands in the division, while Brito has made quick work of short-notice opponents in each of his last two outings to show he’s clearly in need of a serious step up in competition.
Breaking into the Top 15 at featherweight is difficult, but a dominant effort on either side here could do the trick for Pearce or Brito, and, at the very least, should set the winner up for an even higher profile pairing next time out.
Luana Pinheiro vs. Amanda Ribas
It’s an all-Brazilian affair in the third strawweight bout to get the spotlight treatment this month.
Riding a nine-fight winning streak overall that includes victories in each of her first three UFC appearances, Pinheiro cemented her standing as a rising prospect in the division with a hard-fought, split decision win over Michelle Waterson-Gomez in April. Ribas, who is ranked at both 115 and 125 pounds, shuttles back to strawweight, where she owns wins over Dern and Virna Jandiroba, and hopes to build some consistency going forward.
This is a fascinating matchup to me, as Pinheiro is now that much further removed from the knee injury that sidelined her for all of 2022 and has already shaken off the rust with her win at UFC 287. On the other side, Ribas has shown solid improvements in her striking, but has struggled to establish any real momentum since the early days of her UFC run, while still presenting as a step up in competition for her fellow Brazilian here.
The winner will lay claim to a place in the Top 10, while the vanquished fighter should remain ranked, as well, which means both should come out firing on all cylinders looking to take that next step forward on the third Saturday of the month.
Brendan Allen vs. Paul Craig
The November action wraps in the middleweight division with an outstanding clash between ascending talents Brendan Allen and Paul Craig.
A highly regarded prospect heading into DWCS appearance in 2019, Allen has gone 10-2 in a dozen UFC starts, and enters his first main event booking on a five-fight winning streak that includes three straight rear-naked choke finishes. Craig posted eight wins in 15 appearances inside the Octagon at light heavyweight, and looked like a menacing force in running through Andre Muniz in his middleweight debut back in the summer, dispatching the Brazilian with a barrage of elbows.
There are a number of interesting wrinkles to this one and questions that could be answered, as both are at their best on the ground and could benefit from another statement effort here. Will Allen add to his winning streak and keep moving up the ranks or will Craig halt his ascent, usurp his place in the hierarchy and pick up a second straight middleweight win?
UFC Fight Night: Almeida vs Lewis took place live from Ibirapuera Arena in São Paulo, Brazil on November 4, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!