Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns later tonight (Sat., May 1, 2021) to stage UFC Vegas 25 featuring a Light Heavyweight bout between former title contender, Dominick Reyes, taking on rising sensation Jiri Prochazka. In the co-main event, Cub Swanson returns to battle Giga Chikadze in Featherweight action.
After starting his mixed martial arts (MMA) career at a perfect 12-0, including winning his first six UFC bouts which includes wins over Chris Weidman, Jared Cannonier and Volkan Oezdemir, Dominick Reyes has lost his last two fights inside the Octagon. After coming so close to dethroning Jon Jones from the top of the Light Heavyweight mountain at UFC 247 in Feb. 2020, Reyes went on to lose to Jan Blachowicz via knockout six months later in his second straight title fight, suffering a broken nose in the process. In desperate need of a win, things won’t be getting easier for “The Devastator” when he faces off against former RIZIN 205-pound champion Jiri Prochzka.
Winner of 11 in a row — 16 of his last 17 — Prochazka quickly made his presence felt inside the Octagon by knocking out the aforementioned Volkan Oezdemir in his UFC debut in July 2020 (see it here). Many may wonder why Jiri is being thrown in with the sharks right away in his first two UFC contests, but they shouldn’t be. That’s because he is as experienced as they come with 31 pro fights on his resume. And diving into the deep end is the only way Prochazka would want it since he is trying to fulfill his UFC dreams of being champion sooner, rather than later. Jiri is in prime position to earn a crack at the throne — or at the very least a title eliminator fight — if he can get past Reyes.
Currently ranked No. 5, he can shoot up to No. 3 if he can wipe out Reyes, which means the only man possibly standing in his way of a title shot would be Aleksandar Rakic. Speaking of which, a fight between those two 205-pound beasts would be a sight to behold. First things first, Prochazka has to take out Reyes, who is undoubtedly hungry to step back into the win column and stop the bleeding of his current skid.
I’m not feeling the matchmaking decision when it came to booking Dustin Jacoby against Ion Cutelaba. I get it, Jacoby agreed to step in after Devin Clark was injured, but he is currently riding a four fight win streak while Cutelaba is on a two-fight skid. If you ask me, it’s a high risk, low reward situation for Jacoby on this one. Cutelaba — despite his recent woes — is as dangerous as they come, but he doesn’t have the big name value that will catapult you with a win. Those were my initial feelings, but after watching Cutelaba trying to snatch Jacoby’s neck during the weigh-ins, the fight is now one to watch given the extra added heat.
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
Swanson was initially set to face Gavin Tucker at this event, but after Tucker was booked to face Dan Ige earlier this year the promotion enlisted the services of Giga Chikadze to face Swanson. After T.J. Laramie bowed out of his fight against Damon Jackson, the promotion booked Luke Sanders as his replacement. That fight, however, also went up in smoke after Jackson suffered an undisclosed injury. Sanders was ultimately booked to face Felipe Corrales, who lost his initial opponent for the event — Journey Newson — to injury. Shamil Abdurakhimov couldn’t straighten out his visa issues so he was forced out of his fight against Augusto Sakai. As a result, Sakai was promoted to the headlining act of an upcoming Fight Night event against Jairzinho Rozenstruik on June 5, 2021.
Gabriel Benitez was looking for his first back-to-back win streak in two years when he was scheduled to face Jonathan Pearce in Lightweight action. But after Benitez came in heavy, Pearce and his team rejected the 30 percent of Benitez’s purse as penalty and the fight was called off.
Ji Yeon Kim was forced out of her scheduled bout against Poliana Botelho with an unfortunate injury and was ultimately replaced by Mayra Bueno Silva. In turn, Silva suffered an injury of her own and was replaced by Luana Carolina. After Devin Clark bowed out of his scheduled Light Heavyweight showdown against Ion Cutelaba with an injury, UFC matchmakers pegged Dustin Jacoby as his replacement to face “The Hulk.”
Luana Pinheiro brings her six-fight win streak to the Octagon to face longtime veteran, Randa Markos, in “Prelims” action. Pinheiro earned her way to the big show with a big win on “Contender Series” in Nov. 2020. All six of her wins on her current run have come by way of first-round stoppage. That said, Markos is in for a tough outing if she plans on snapping her three-fight losing streak.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
Loma Lookboonmee, real name Konklak Suphisara, is also looking for just her second win inside the Octagon as she battles Sam Hughes in women’s Strawweight action. Hughes came up short in her UFC debut, a short-notice fight against top contender Tecia Torres.
After starting off his career a perfect 11-0, Luke Sanders has been unable to win on a consistent basis once he made it to the big show. While he did win his UFC debut against Maximo Blanco via first round submission, he has since gone a paltry 2-4 and another loss could send him packing. His opponent, Felipe Corrales, hasn’t done much better during his short stint with the promotion, going just 1-2 with his lone win coming via razor-thin split decision against Domingo Pilarte.
K.B. Bhullar will look to score his first UFC win after coming up short against Tom Breese in his UFC debut in Oct. 2020. The loss was the first of his MMA career, which started off at a perfect 8-0 before running into Breese. In his sophomore UFC effort, “The Bengal” will face Andreas Michailidis, who also failed to make a splash in his UFC debut, losing to Modestas Bukauskas in July 2020 on “Fight Island.”
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Randa Markos is currently in need of a win just to stay on UFC’s roster. Markos has lost three straight and is just 1-4 in her last five fights inside the Octagon with her last win coming in Oct. 2019. If she comes up short against Luana Pinheiro on the undercard, it could mark the end of her six-year run with the promotion.
Interest Level: 6/10
It’s a pretty decent card with some intriguing matchups that could produce fireworks. Sean Strickland and Krzysztof Jotko will collide in a Middleweight bout that could very well steal the show. Winner of three straight, Strickland is eying a move higher than his current No. 15 ranking while Jotko is simply trying to break in. Jotko has also won three in a row after going through a horrid three-fight losing skid inside the Octagon.
Bantamweight standout Merab Dvalishvili will finally get the chance to return to the cage for the first time in nine months to face Cody Stamann in main card action. Dvalishvili’s return has been constantly postponed. He was originally set to face Stamann in Dec. 2020 but the bout was cancelled after Stamann pulled out. His replacement, Raoni Barcleos, ultimately pulled out, too. As for Stamann, he is looking to bounce back after suffering a unanimous decision loss to Jimmie Rivera on “Fight Island” in July 2020.
In the co-main event, Swanson returns after scoring an impressive knockout win over Daniel Pineda at UFC 256 in Dec. 2020, giving him his first back-to-back win streak since 2016-2017. He will look to go for three in a row against Giga Chikadze. It will be a tough task to say the least because Chikadze is scorching hot at the moment with seven straight wins, going undefeated inside the Octagon (5-0). Though Giga has had some close split-decision wins that could have gone the other way during his run, he is an explosive fighter with tons of momentum behind him at this time. A win over a long-time veteran like Swanson definitely raises his stock a few shares.
Enjoy the fights!
UFC Vegas 25 Full Fight Card:
UFC Vegas 25 Main Event on ESPN2/ESPN+:
205 lbs.: Dominick Reyes vs. Jiri Prochazka
UFC Vegas 25 Main Card on ESPN2/ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):
145 lbs.: Giga Chikadze vs. Cub Swanson
205 lbs.: Ion Cutelaba vs. Dustin Jacoby
185 lbs.: Krzysztof Jotko vs. Sean Strickland
135 lbs.: Merab Dvalishvili vs. Cody Stamann
UFC Vegas 25 Prelims Card on ESPN2/ESPN+ (7 p.m. ET):
115 lbs.: Randa Markos vs. Luana Pinheiro
155 lbs.: Gabriel Benitez vs. Jonathan PearceCANCELED (details here)
145 lbs.: TJ Brown vs. Kai Kamaka III
125 lbs.: Poliana Botelho vs. Luana Carolina
115 lbs.: Sam Hughes vs. Loma Lookboonmee
185 lbs.: K.B. Bhullar vs. Andreas Michailidis
135 lbs.: Felipe Colares vs. Luke Sanders
*Fight card, bout order and number of fights remain subject to change due to COVID-19.*