Jiri Prochazka appears destined to be champion.
I don’t know whether due to divine intervention or careful career management, but Prochazka’s path to the title has remained remarkably clear since the moment he walked away from Volkan Oezdemir’s slumped body. Watching the then-27 year old melt an experienced former title challenger in his UFC debut to score his 11th straight win, the future felt immediately and undeniable: this man is coming for the belt.
Oezdemir knocks people out with half punches, and Prochazka walked through plenty of his shots. Dominick Reyes hits very hard too, and he just fought like his life was on the line, battling tooth-and-nail to stop Prochazka’s forward advance. It didn’t seem to matter much to the Czech fighter, though. Prochazka marched on as if invulnerable, regardless of the fact that some of Reyes’ left hands wobbled his knees. Prochazka fights as if he’s seen the future, like he’s seen the title wrapped around his waist already, and he’s in a rush to get to that moment.
When Prochazka’s punches couldn’t seem to fully put Reyes away, he just spun into an elbow. Why not?
After his win, Prochazka is very clearly the next man in line for a title shot once Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira finish their business. Regardless of who wins that bout, Prochazka’s foe will be at least a decade older than him, and it will be just his third UFC fight.
I would expect Prochazka to be the favorite in either match up.
Prochazka’s surge up the UFC ranks came at a perfect moment. Besides his high-risk style of kickboxing, Prochazka’s historic weakness appears to be takedowns, yet it just so happens Prochazka joins the promotion after the majority of the established wrestlers have left the division or the UFC roster entirely.
There are no wrestlers in the Top Five at Light Heavyweight. Glover Teixeira is the closest thing, and he’s a jiu-jitsu guy whose takedowns only seem to active once he’s been knocked mostly unconscious. Magomed Ankalaev is the division’s current true wrestler, a credentialed Dagestani with the skill to control perhaps anyone in the world.
Ankalaev, however, is no problem yet. Prochazka has rocketed right past him, skipping up the ranks in less than a year. All other potentially rough, spoiler-type match ups — the Nikita Krylov’s of the world — were made unnecessary by Prochazka’s Rizin title and subsequently high-level entry to UFC competition.
Prochazka’s path to the title was free of obstacles ... or at least clear of ones he couldn’t quickly knock out.
Do we know if Prochazka’s takedown defense has really improved since his earlier career struggles? Not really. The better question: who cares? He is too much fun to watch to think on it too much. Prochazka attacks with a madman’s zeal, the type of nonstop intensity only matched by pre-Eddie Alvarez Justin Gaethje. Unlike “The Highlight,” however, Prochazka has not been forced to learn or adapt by setbacks suffered inside the Octagon.
Instead, all of us fans get to see his attempt to take gold in his current form. It’s an absolute privilege.
For complete UFC Vegas 25: “Reyes vs. Prochazka” results and play-by-play, click HERE!