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UFC Vegas 25 preview, ‘Reyes vs Prochazka’ predictions

UFC light heavyweight Dominick Reyes... Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Digital First Media/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will look to separate contender from pretender when Dominick Reyes and Jiri Prochazka go to war in the UFC Vegas 25 light heavyweight main event tomorrow night (Sat., May 1, 2021) inside the promotion’s APEX facility LIVE on both ESPN2 and ESPN+. It’s up to “The Devastator” to prove he’s still got what it takes to compete for the title after successive losses to Jon Jones and Jan Blachowicz, while “Denisa” attempts to win his twelfth straight, second under the UFC banner.

In the UFC Vegas 25 co-headliner, well traveled featherweight veteran Cub Swanson tries to put a halt to the rise of Georgian “Ninja” Giga Chikadze, winner of seven straight, with five of those victories coming inside the Octagon. Swanson appears to have returned to form, recently capturing back-to-back wins over Kron Gracie and Daniel Pineda.

Before we dive into the main and co-main events, be sure to check out the UFC Vegas 25 preliminary card breakdown expertly deconstructed by effervescent analyst Patrick Stumberg here and here. Resident MMA champ Andrew Richardson did most of the heavy lifting for the rest of the UFC Vegas 25 main card right here. For the latest “Reyes vs. Prochazka” odds and betting lines be sure to check out the updated numbers right here.

Let’s get to work ...

205 lbs.: Dominick Reyes vs. Jiri Prochazka

Dominick “The Devastator” Reyes

Record: 12-2 | Age: 31 | Betting line: +110
Wins: 7 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 3 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 6’4“ | Reach: 77” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.53 | Striking accuracy: 48%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.16 | Striking Defense: 49%
Takedown Average: 0.20 (16% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 82%
Current Ranking: No. 3 | Last fight: Technical knockout loss to Jan Blachowicz

Jiri “Denisa” Prochazka

Record: 27-3-1 | Age: 28 | Betting line: -130
Wins: 24 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 1 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 6’3“ | Reach: 80” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 5.67 | Striking accuracy: 45%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 7.05 | Striking Defense: 55%
Takedown Average: 0.00 (0% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 100%
Current Ranking: No. 5 | Last fight: Knockout win over Volkan Oezdemir

Dominick Reyes was widely considered the second-best light heavyweight in the world, and depending on how you scored his fight against Jon Jones, there may be an argument that he was, in fact, the top dog at 205 pounds. That’s why “The Devastator” closed at -300 for his Jan Blachowicz showdown at UFC 253 last September, only to learn what happens when you disrespect “Polish Power.” That performance was enough to downgrade Reyes to also-ran, leaving him the slight underdog for this weekend’s headliner. I guess the question for this fight, is whether or not Reyes was exposed by Blachowicz, because if you look at his record inside the Octagon — eight fights dating back to June 2017 — it’s not that impressive. Of his six victories, only one of those opponents is currently ranked in the light heavyweight Top 10 and that’s Volkan Oezdemir, who dropped four of his last six and was recently stopped by Jiri Prochazka. In addition, Chris Weidman and Jared Cannonier are both middleweights while Jeremy Kimball and Joachim Christensen were cut more than two years ago. The best thing we can say coming into this fight is that Reyes nearly beat Jones, but so did Thiago Santos, so we may have to wonder if “Bones” is still the same fighter these days, post-picogram.

The scouting report on Prochazka can be equally challenging, simply because we don’t yet know what kind of impact “Denisa” will have in the 205-pound division. If we temper our excitement for “The Devastator’s” win over Oezdemir, then we must do the same for Prochazka. Stopping “No Time” just isn’t the feather in the cap it was back in 2018. Prior to that, what we find is a trail of carnage on the international circuit, to the tune of 10 straight wins with nine knockouts, an impressive feat no matter where you’re competing. Still, I’m not breaking out the party hats for violent finishes over CB Dolloway and Fabio Maldonado, or the once-dangerous Muhammad Lawal. Prochazka has seen a couple of missteps along the way, including a knockout loss to “King Mo,” but it’s hard to put much weight behind performances that took place nearly six years ago when “Denisa” was just 22 years old. And to his credit, he’s been perfect ever since and an absolute nightmare for opponents across the globe. His last three stoppages were completely lights out and something tells me there's a lot more of that to come.

Whether it comes against Reyes is a tricky question. Obviously there were no Octagon jitters when Prochazka faced Oezdemir and he’s already racked up twice as many fights as “The Devastator.” We haven’t seen much wrestling from Reyes over the years; in fact, he’s got just one takedown to his credit in eight UFC fights — but has been taken down six times during that same span. Not that I think either combatant will be looking for the floor, but for prediction purposes, it’s good to know who will instinctively shoot when things start to go haywire. From what I’ve seen from both fighters, one of these captains will be going down with the ship. I can’t see a reason to pick Reyes when you look at the direction his career has been going, especially when compared to the career of Prochazka.

Prediction: Prochazka def. Reyes by knockout

145 lbs.: Cub Swanson vs. Giga Chikadze

“Killer” Cub Swanson

Record: 27-11 | Age: 37 | Betting line: +130
Wins: 12 KO/TKO, 4 SUB, 11 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 7 SUB, 3 DEC
Height: 5’8“ | Reach: 70” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.64 | Striking accuracy: 50%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.64 | Striking Defense: 60%
Takedown Average: 1.09 (51% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 60%
Current Ranking: No. 15 | Last fight: Knockout win over Daniel Pineda

Giga “Ninja” Chikadze

Record: 12-2 | Age: 32 | Betting line: -150
Wins: 7 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 4 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 6’0“ | Reach: 74” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.45 | Striking accuracy: 43%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.65 | Striking Defense: 60%
Takedown Average: 0.38 (33% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 68%
Current Ranking: No. 14 | Last fight: Technical knockout win over James Krause-Simmons

Cub Swanson has been around for what seems like forever, which is why most fans don’t remember him as the guy who made “death by flying knee” popular long before Ben Askren was starched by Jorge Masvidal. I think it says something about a fighter who can last a decade under the UFC banner and still find himself sitting far outside the Top 10. In fact, the only reason Swanson and opponent Giga Chikadze are ranked No. 15 and No. 14, respectively, is because Zabit Magomedsharipov was pulled due to inactivity, which is akin to winning a fight because your opponent got stuck in traffic and never showed up. That said, there are some things you can’t take away from Swanson, like his victories over Dustin Poirier and Charles Oliveira. “The Diamond” is ranked No. 1 in the world and the No. 3-ranked “Do Bronx” is about to fight for the lightweight title. I just don’t know if time traveling to late 2012/early 2013 when Poirier was 23 and Oliveira was 22 is the kind of research we want to use when building a case for Swanson at 37. Working in his favor are consecutive wins over Kron Gracie and Daniel Pineda, two very important performances because they establish Swanson as an experienced veteran with good boxing and the kind of grit to shuck off rising stars looking to validate their hype.

You can argue that Chikadze falls into that category.

Having failed to impress on Season 2 of Dana White’s “Contender Series,” the Georgian “Ninja” returned to the regional circuit to rack up two straight wins, as well as a spot on the UFC roster. What followed was five consecutive victories, including last November’s technical knockout destruction of James Krause-Simmons. Recency bias allows us to be excited about his future in UFC, but let’s not forget that two of his wins during that stretch ended in a split, with several outlets (including this one) scoring his UFC 248 fight in favor of Jamall Emmers. I also want to point out that Chikadze turns 33 in August, so it’s not like he’s some hot young prospect getting his chance to shine. I don’t want to come down too hard on him for his level of competition because you can’t blame him for decisions made by UFC matchmakers. At the same time, I can’t propose a toast and hand out cheese and crackers because he knocked out a regional bruiser who’s 0-1 in UFC. If Chikadze is for real, this is probably the fight to prove it.

Without a bigger body of work to go on, I’m sticking with Swanson. Seven submission losses should tell you just how putrid “Killer Cub” is when it comes to the ground game, but Chikadze is a former kickboxer and will no doubt be looking to stand and bang. Swanson has only been finished by strikes once in 38 professional fights and that came against Aldo’s kneecap in June 2009. Let’s also acknowledge that Chikadze wasn’t exactly running the table for GLORY, so it’s not like he was putting up Israel Adesanya-type numbers between the ropes. I do think we’re in for a fun, competitive fight and at the risk of using too many cliches, the old dog doesn’t need any new tricks, because the ones he’s been using for the last decade or so seem to be working, particularly when paired with the right opponent.

Prediction: Swanson def. Chikadze by unanimous decision

Remember, the rest of the UFC Vegas 25 main card predictions are RIGHT HERE.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 25 fight card on Sat. night, starting with the ESPN2/ESPN+ preliminary card bouts at 7 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN2/ESPN+ main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 25 news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here. For the complete “Reyes vs. Prochazka” fight card and ESPN2/ESPN+ lineup click here.

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