Jiri Prochazka vs. Alex Pereira
Time is the fourth dimension of reality used to describe events in three-dimensional space. Any unchanging system is said to be timeless. In sports, time is undefeated. Or was. Until, at forty-one years old, Glover Teixeira smashed an hourglass and did a bump, went on Maury, took a DNA test, and proved Father Time wasn’t his paternal. "You are... NOT the father." Glover won the light heavyweight title eight years after his only shot at the belt. So, what do you call the man who beat the man who beat Father Time? Infinite. Jiri Prochazka is Infinite. You heard of Hell; well, he was sent from it. His style is boundless, endless, greater than any known measurement. Prochazka flows eternal, Kobe’s number eight sitting sideways like Paul Wall. He’s MMA’s E-40; his style can’t be replicated, imitated, or duplicated. This Saturday night, the undefinable will meet the definition, the archetype of an elite traditional striker, Alex Pereira. Styles make matchups, and this one couldn’t be anymore discordant.
After just two UFC bouts, Jiri Prochazka received a title shot and won the belt in what was the best light heavyweight title fight in the history of the promotion. Possibly the best title fight period. The momentum swings were like being on a faulty carnival ride, that pirate ship that swings like a pendulum. Every time I thought the fight was over, one of them crawled out from the depths of defeat like The Ring girl crawling out the well. In the end, just seconds away from defeat, Prochazka submitted Father Time’s daddy. Who is your daddy, and what does he do? He finishes fights. Twenty-eight of Prochazka’s twenty-noine career dubs came via finish, including twenty-five TKO/KOS and three subs. The best way to describe Prochazka’s stand-up is: Not To Be F**ked With. He fights like he’s blind, often appearing as if there isn’t a rhyme or reason for his movement. But, trust, his style is equal parts method and madness.
Jiri’s uniqueness begins with his stance; he maintains a low profile while strafing this way and that and switching stances all the while. Beyond traditional hand and hip feints, Jiri’s general movement acts as a feint. He hides his strikes behind his herky-jerky, constantly morphing stance switches. Who needs speed when you have surprise? Jiri’s strikes ambush you like Mel Gibson in The Patriot. They just appear out of nowhere from the woodworks like the minutemen fighting the British. He uses movement and footwork to camouflage spinning shit, flying attacks, and traditional strikes. You have no tell as to what is coming next. Jiri is proficient with all ancient battle weapons; his elbows are scimitars, and his hands are swinging maces and clubbing war hammers. Changing shoulder levels allows him to attack your guard from differing arm angles. Overall, Jiri is the definition of a flow-state striker, the equivalent of a QB who calls his own plays at the line. He feels his attacks; he doesn’t preprogram them or plot them as he goes along.
Major Malfunctions? Yeah, Jiri has plenty. Constant movement can be a gift and a curse. Jiri tends to run into heavy strikes and even got dropped by Glover. Slipping and rolling and pivoting and switch-stepping usually require a low hand position. Jiri rarely defends with a traditional hand guard, and, as a result, even in fights he ends in devastating fashion (the Dominick Reyes fight), he tends to eat a lot of heavy punches. Alex Pereira’s left hook isn’t a punch he can walk through as he has walked through Glovers, Reyes’s, and Oezdemir’s punches. It only takes zigging once when you should’ve zagged to end your night against Pereira. Prochazka will use volume and constant pressure to keep Pereira on his back foot and hesitant to engage. A big key for Jiri will be defending the calf kick. A wide base is the foundation of Jiri’s movement, and Pereira has shown a keen focus on using low kicks in his last two bouts. Prochazka’s Uno Wild Card: He’s got a little Jack Sparrow crazy and that Cerberus three-headed Hound of Hades dog in him, a Tupac and Big L Deadly Combination.
Alex Pereira no longer needs an introduction. Similar to Jiri, Pereira earned a title shot and subsequently won the belt after just three UFC bouts. Everybody knows about his Predator shoulder missile for a left hook, but his best weapon may be him. As in, just looking at him. He is Him. Wanderlei Silva and Alex Pereira might be the two scariest-looking MFs ever-ever. Pereira’s size and Anton from No Country for Old Men countenance can strike fear in even the baddest BMFs. This guy wouldn’t crack a smile even if you told him the funniest joke of all time: Do you like fish sticks? The only thing that can bring this man physical pain is a grin. Why so serious? Cuz ain’t a damn thang funny. This is the hurt game. Hurt Locker. A sport you don’t play. Pereira is all business everything.
Also, like Jiri, Pereira’s success starts with his stance. Pereira uses an upright Bas Rutten-like squared stance. Square from his feet to his hips to his shoulders. The advantage of a squared stance is it lends power to both hands, almost as if you have two crosses instead of a traditional jab and cross. What you lose in range in the lead hand, you gain in power. His "jab" is more of a power punch than a setup or range definer. Now that I think about it, Pereira’s right hand is a Voltron shoulder missile, and his left hook is the Predator gauntlet with the nuclear countdown activated; it’s only a matter of time before it lands. Then it’s mushroom clouds and Hazmat suits. But the key to Pereira’s striking is the calf kick. Before Izzy went full Danny Glover and slayed the Predator in the sequel to their first fight, Pereira was taking over the fight with calf kicks. Izzy was compromised early, and it was creating openings for Pereira’s hands. Pereira used a similar tactic against Jan Blachowicz. What makes an effective calf kicker isn’t power; it’s speed. Many fighters turn the hips over, as is fundamental in Muay Thai round kicks. But power isn’t required when kicking below the knee. The key is not turning the hips over and hinging the kick at the knee instead. This makes it quicker to the target and nearly impossible to get a read on to check it. No telegraph.
Pereira’s major malfunction as a striker is his defense. He relies on his Mt. Rushmore Black Hills granite chin. He has a Jay Leno chin and relies on it to absorb strikes rather than moving his head even a fraction of an inch. The overhand right is Mother Nature’s way of balancing Pereira’s destructive effect on the earth. He doesn’t defend his lead shoulder, and that was the very reason Izzy was able to fight off the cage and leave Pereira asleep with his eyes open. They say when you go out with your eyes open... Also, Pereira’s striking is a little too robotic, almost AI-generated. It almost seems devoid of the human element. He moves in straight lines, and most of his attacks are basic, day-one techniques. Jiri will be by far the more diverse and unpredictable striker.
The numbers: Despite their polar opposite styles, they have similar striking stats. Jiri averages five and a half SLpM, to Pereira’s just over five. Pereira is 8-2 for his career with six TKO/KOs. The biggest difference is experience. Jiri has over thirty professional fights to Pereira’s ten. BUT (big but), Pereira has been active, fighting four times since Jiri last stepped inside the Octagon. Also, Jiri is coming in fresh off a devastating shoulder injury that forced him to vacate the belt. Alex Pereira will be the (-130) favorite, and Jiri will be the (+110) live dog. I think the play for both fighters is a finish. This fight is almost guaranteed to stay standing, and the combination of a lack of defensive prowess and an excess of offensive prowess from both fighters favors a finish one way or the other.
We Frank the Tank streaking again after "Pops" Jailton Almeida grounded Derrick Lewis for five rounds without any video games or iPhone. I Got an embarrassing farmer’s tan since I last went streaking. The vitamin D feels good to ya, baby Bubba. I’ve put off this pick for so long. This might be one of the toughest fights to pick all year. In the end, I think Pereira can hobble Jiri with the leg kicks and eventually catch him running into that left hook. I could also see another Jiri spinning elbow... but I have to choose one. Alex Pereira via TKO, round three. Put that ish on wax if you can’t roll it down the street.
Pereira: TKO/KO (+110) Sub (+2000) Dec (+850)
Prochazka: TKO/KO (+180) Sub (+800) Dec (+700)
Sergei Pavlovich vs. Tom Aspinall
Cue "Bodies" by Drowning Pool: "Let the bodies hit the floor! Let the bodies hit the floor!"
No one, including those in attendance, will walk out of the arena under their own power after this one. When it comes to MMA Boogeymen, look no further than Sergei Pavlovich. Sergei was discovered when he climbed the Empire State Building and started swatting planes out of the sky. In his first MMA bout, he scored a first-round TKO over Godzilla. This guy served as the backup for the Gane vs. Jones title fight earlier this year and was again set as the backup fighter for Miocic vs. Jones before Bones got injured. This is the guy nobody wants to fight. Nobody except Tom Aspinall. It is a fine line between confidence and crazy, and I suspect Aspinall is a little of both. Either way, Aspinall has Randy Marsh wheelbarrow cajónes not only for accepting this fight but for doing so on short notice. My initial reaction to this matchup was that Aspinall was Bodhi in Point Break, swimming out to ride a tsunami wave, knowing he wasn’t coming back. As was the case with Usman and Volkanovski saving UFC 294 by stepping up on short notice, this is how legends are made, and this GMO Swisher Sweet is to you, Tom.
Sergei Pavlovich fights like he’s driving the wrong way on the freeway. Every fight is like playing human chicken and decided by who blinks first. His last bout against Curtis Blaydes was the equivalent of an 1800s duel at ten paces while double-fisting Punisher Uzis. I’ll say this: Curtis Blaydes didn’t go out like a b**ch; he was landing as much as he was taking, but Pavlovich’s power was just too much. Nobody in the sport hits like Sergei Pavlovich. They use this guy’s punches for road construction to break up asphalt. He has Craig bricks in both hands and uses framed punches (arms locked at the elbows) and varying arm angles to deliver devastating blows. The only way to defend his punches is to make him miss. Covering up and using a traditional hand guard is not sufficient. He will punch the shit out of your arms and have them dragging behind you like Rick James’ legs. I’ve never seen someone consistently and literally lift people off their feet with their strikes. Opponents fly clear across the cage like Broadway play special effects whenever Pavlo lands.
Arm angles are the key to Pavlo’s striking. He alternates wide hooks while changing his shoulder position to attack over the top and from below and around the guard. He also has deceptive hand speed for a monster his size, and you can hear his punches whistling through the air when he throws. Pavlo’s special move: The long-range shovel uppercut. He throws it almost like a traditional cross from long range, fits it between the guard, and has finished multiple fights with this technique. So... is this guy invincible? Nah. He can get got. Pavlo is all offense and zero point-zero defense. 50/50 coin flip exchanges are all he knows. There is no situation that Pavlo can’t power his way out of until he can’t. Blaydes was landing big shots before he folded under Pavlo’s power, and it’s only a matter of time until he takes a shot that he can’t just walk through. Also, his ground game is highly suspect. In Pavlo’s debut, Alistair Overeem said, "Fook this shit," and took Pavlo to the mat, where Pavlo turned into a victim real quick. The Reem went on to TKO Sergei in the first round from the top position.
Which brings me to Tom Aspinall. I received a DM from Tom when he accepted this fight, and it said: "Life’s a risk, carnal." I said, "I ain’t your carnal, buddy." He said, "I ain’t your buddy, chief." I got the feeling Aspinall might know something we don’t. Like that, he plans to take this monstrosity to the mat as soon as the bell rings. Tom has the hand speed and tight boxing to beat Sergei consistently down the middle, but why take the chance when Pavlo has a clear hole in his game on the mat? On the feet, Aspinall moves like a welterweight and has slick slips and rips and unmatched speed in the division. The problem is that he relies too much on "pulls" and janky shoulder rolls for defense, and that may have worked against Marcin Tybura and Andrei Arlovksi, but that won’t work against Pavlovich. Tommy needs to get this fight to the mat, not now, but right now. At the glove touch. Backstage. At the weigh-ins. At the HoJo continental breakfast in front of the Belgium waffle station. Don’t stand and trade with this guy. The key to Aspinall’s takedowns is using head movement to make opponents miss, then level-changing when they are out of position. Tom needs to draw out Pavlo’s aggressive combos and level change under them and win this fight on the mat.
The numbers: Sergei Pavlovich is 18-1 with fifteen TKO/KOs, and sixteen of his fights ended in the first round. In 2017, somebody actually went five rounds with this guy. Tom Aspinall is 13-3 with ten TKO/KOs and three subs, and I think there will be a lot of value in an Aspinall submission. I’m surprised to see Aspinall as the slight (-120) favorite, while Pavlo will return even money. Aspinall’s return reflects his ability to get this fight to the mat. But if he doesn’t... All I know is that these guys better clear their browser history because one of them isn’t coming back. The play for both fighters is a finish. Make sure to tape your eyelids open; this one shouldn’t last long. Damn, I have no idea who wins this. I have to think Pavlo’s wrestling has improved since his 2018 loss to Overeem, and I don’t think Tom can withstand his power if Tom can’t get this fight to the mat quickly. Sergei Pavlovich via TKO, round two. On wax.
Pavlovich: TKO/KO (+120) Sub (+2000) Dec (+1600)
Aspinall: TKO/KO (+165) Sub (+350) Dec (+1400)
Jessica Andrade vs. Mackenzie Dern
There is plenty of talk about global warming; is it real? Is it a psyop for nefarious corporations to seize further control over the people they extract wealth from, and on and on? But one thing that is getting harder to argue is that the human spirit is amid an ice age. People are growing more desperate, and life is becoming increasingly more dangerous. As a girl-dad, now more than ever, it is important to teach our daughters and young ladies how to defend themselves. Above anything else, I hope the Weekly KO inspires/motivates you and yours to partake in martial arts. Even if it's only one beginner’s Jiu-Jitsu class. The feeling of vulnerability when you first step on the mats is eye-opening and essential for preparing for real-life conflicts, conflicts that are getting more difficult to avoid. I say all that to say this: Mackenzie Dern is THE example of how I hope my daughter will be able to defend herself someday. Say what you will about her skills/style inside the cage; the average man/woman can't fook with Mackenzie Dern. God help anyone in Gotham City who tries to mug her on the subway.
Return of the Mack-enzie. Win or lose, this lady fights with her entire spirit. On the feet, she makes up for severe technical deficiencies with aggression and volume, and on the mat, she is unrivaled. Mackenzie has Jiu-Jitsu world titles stacked on top of Jiu-Jitsu world titles on her coffee table with Jiu-Jitsu world titles propping up said coffee table’s uneven legs. When she gets you to the mat, she ties you in double Windsor's and folds you into origami swans. She puts you in positions you never knew existed even if you’ve been doing Jitz your whole life. So what? You can’t threaten me with a good time... I know, I know. But check it: Dern has some of the most diverse submissions in the whole promotion. Leg locks, kimuras, armbars, and Chokes Galore (sounds like a promising business venture).
Dern’s path to victory against Jessica Andrade will be on the mat. Andrade is no TLC scrub when it comes to wrestling/grappling, but she has never faced a true submission Banksy like Dern. Also, Andrade has been finished four times by submission, nearly half of the noine times she was finished in her career. BUT (big but), Dern’s major malfunction is her takedowns. Once she gets you to the mat, your chances of getting back to your feet are slim. But getting it to the mat is her issue. She has Jiu-Jitsu takedowns and needs the clinch to score with trips while lacking traditional wrestling level change double and single legs. If this fight stays standing, I think she can surprise Andrade. Jessica Andrade is a Brahman bull seeing red on the feet and will chase you around the cage and run face-first into strikes. And Dern throws nothing but wild Deontay Wilder haymakers on the feet.
Jessica Andrade’s game plan is no secret. She will come out bobbing side to side like a tiny Mike Tyson and look to unload alternating wide hooks. When I say she will chase you around the cage, I don’t gotta lie to kick it. She’s a 90s slasher movie personified. Andrade is like a 1/32 scale die-cast Wanderlei Silva who wades forward with nothing but bombs while eating punches and kicks and elbows and knees on the way in. She’s on that T-1000 walk-through everything you throw defense. The key for Andrade will be avoiding the clinch and doing what she does best, creating chaos and wild 50/50 exchanges where her power shines.
Fantasy-wise, Andrade averages six and a half SLpM to Dern’s just below three and a half. Crazy stat: Andrade averages two and a half takedowns per fifteen minutes, to Dern’s just below one. This illustrates Dern’s struggles to get fights to the mat, where she is the most dangerous. Andrade is 24-12 with noine TKO/KOs and eight subs, and she is riding a three-fight losing streak. Dern is 13-3 with seven submissions and is coming in off an NC-17 ass-whooping of San Diego’s finest, Angela Hill. Dern will be the (-190) favorite, and Andrade will be a valuable (+160) live dog. If it stays standing, she can win close rounds with her output alone. This main card is filled with toss-ups. It feels like that old computer game Minesweeper, and L’s got me surrounded. But I didn’t come here not to pick Mackenzie Dern. Mackenzie Dern via decision. Wax on, wax off.
Dern: TKO/KO (+700) Sub (+120) Dec (+400)
Andrade: TKO/KO (+450) Sub (+1200) Dec (+400)
Matt Fevola vs. Benoit St. Denis
With record inflation, it’s hard to get more ass-kicking for your buck than Benoit St. Denis. Denis’ specialty is his ground game, but he has been making a name for himself lately on the feet, instigating sadistic, violent exchanges that have to be blurred out for FCC purposes. And Matt Frevola has been quietly vaporizing people left and right with the quickness and is riding a three-fight first-round TKO/KO streak. At first glance, it’s easy to overlook this bout on the main card, given the main and co-main events, but this scrap will get in where it fits in and should turn out to be a toasty little firefight.
Matt Frevola reminds me of a UFC 5 Career Mode Create-a-Fighter Michael Chandler. Like back in the day when you had to create Michael Jordan because he wasn’t in any games. I thought this guy was a wrestler, but who needs wrestling when you’re sleeping people on the feet. Frevola closes his eyes wide shut, looks down at the mat, and unloads short hooks. He simps for the check hook and looks to land the overhand right behind it. His special move is the Christopher Reeves punch. The Superman punch is a kick feint turned into a punch and is usually set up after a series of kicks. Not for Frevola; he just throws it Willy-Nilly because that shit looks cool. Overall, Frevola fights kind of panicked, frantic, and a little jittery. He fights like he has a lot of nervous energy.
Although Frevola has excellent wrestling and averages over two takedowns per fifteen minutes, I think his path to victory is on the feet. St. Denis engages with wide-lopping punches, and Frevola’s short hooks can beat Denis to the punch. Also, Frevola rocks a forty-two percent takedown defense, and the last place you want to end up is beneath Benoit St. Denis. Frevola averages just over three and a half SLpM to St. Denis’ five and a half. But Denis relies on volume to make up for massive technical holes on the feet. Frevola can keep him at bay with the check hook and engage on his own terms.
After making his debut at welterweight against Elizeu Dos Santos and being left for dead in the Octagon, Benoit has won four in a row and owes a lot of his success to his aggressive stand-up. St. Denis is a grappler first, but his aggression on the feet is something to behold. He overwhelms better strikers with pressure and volume. His left leg is fully automatic and illegal in forty-noine states with mandatory minimums at sentencing. Benoit is wild; he howls at the moon. He tears tags off mattresses. Like a new car, your value depreciates significantly the moment you step into the Octagon with this guy; he breathes damage. His major malfunction is that he wears his heart on his chin; he engages in nothing but dangerous firefights while being a defensive atheist. He tends to take as much as he gives but can withstand the heat longer than opponents.
Benoit’s path to victory will be on the mat, where his ground and pound is just as aggressive as his stand-up. St. Denis is the perfect combination of position, damage, and submission from the top. He averages over four and a half takedowns per fifteen minutes and has noine submissions to go with three TKO/KOs and a one hundred percent finishing rate. Come Hell or high me, this guy will finish the fight.
St. Denis will be the (-230) favorite, and Frevola will be the (+190) live dog. Bring ‘em out! Bring ‘em out! Bust out the Piso Mojado signs. Matt Frevola will be dripping with value. If he can manage to stay upright, he will have the technical advantage. Frevola was the (+140) and (+185) dog in his last two bouts and went on to TKO Ottman Azaitar and Drew Dober in the first round. But I gotta take Benoit St. Denis. I think he has more ways to win, but he will have to be less reckless on the feet, or he will get got. Benoit St. Denis via rear-naked choke, round three.
St. Denis: TKO/KO (+165) Sub (+225) Dec (+600)
Frevola: TKO/KO (+380) Sub (+1200) Dec (+650)
Diego Lopes vs. Pat Sabatini
The Travelocity lawn gnome, Pat Sabatini, is back, and so is the goth kid from South Park, Diego Lopes. This one will be grappler on grappler violence, featuring polar opposite styles. Pat Sabatini is a top position specialist, and Diego Lopes has an H.H. Holmes house of horrors guard, with submissions lurking around every corner and behind every armoire. There are firefights on the feet, and then there are rare grappling firefights like this one here. Like nearly every fight on this main card, this one won’t go the distance.
Since making his debut on short notice against the top ten Movsar Evloev, Diego Lopes has moonshot like DogeCoin. This is one of the few guys who makes the guard a dominant position. This guy has filthy submissions from his back, submissions that he not only uses to finish fights but to sweep and reverse position. Lopes has subs on deck swinging the donut and, in the hole, chewing dip on the dugout steps. He looks like he hangs out outside of Hot Topic, but don’t let that fool; Lopez has twenty finishes in twenty-two career wins, including twelve subs and eight TKO/KOs. On the feet, he kind of reminds me of Bryan Ortega, who fights aggressively because he’s never afraid of being taken down. Lopes dares you to take him down. Double dog dares you. His submission game and high guard should allow him to avoid damage from his back against Sabatini. When you throw as many subs up as Lopes does, it’s hard for the guy on top to mount any offense because he’s busy defending. Check it: Diego Lopes averages over five and a half sub attempts per fifteen minutes, which might be the highest I’ve seen.
Make Sabatini Martini mixers a thing. Pat Sabatini is built like San Diego legend Ed from 90 Day Fiancé and is set to play the lead antagonist in Leprechaun 32, but don’t get it twisted like Deion toes, Pat Sabatini is grappling dynamo. In his last bout, Sabatini made Lucas Almeida look like Charlie Z, a scrub off the street. Sabatini dominates fights from the half guard, which is an underutilized position for landing ground and pound. Pat doesn’t immediately rush to the mount, but when he does transition, he says, "Fook punching," and drops nasty elbows. In the first round against Almeida, Sabatini landed noinety-one strikes from the top position. Sabatini has solid level changes, but he likes to grate you against the cage like Olive Garden cheese and uses schoolyard trips to get you to the mat.
But Sabatini is a horizontal fighter; vertically, he ain’t it, figuratively and literally. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen wacker wrestler striking than Pat Sabatini’s. You know what that means: Sabatini will score a head-kick KO. If Lopes can keep the fight standing or can force scrambles back to his feet, he will have a massive striking advantage. The Fantasy value for Sabatini is takedowns and top control time. I don’t see him finishing Lopes on the mat with strikes or subs. Lopes value will be in a submission or TKO/KO on the feet. Neither fighter will light up the scoreboard with striking stats; Sabatini averages less than two SLpM to Lopes’ just above two. But Sabatini averages nearly four takedowns per fifteen minutes to Lopes zero. Lopez takes the scenic route, using sweeps, to gain the top position and doesn’t need traditional takedowns.
Sabatini will be the (-120) favorite, and Lopes will return even money. I think Lopes is the more dangerous fighter wherever the fight goes. He can land heavily on the feet and has far more subs from his back. I think Sabatini will have to take the Movsar Evloev route and dominate the top position for fifteen minutes while avoiding submissions. The red flag for Lopes is that when you play the Jitz game from your back and don’t find a submission, you pretty much give up the round on the scorecards. He has to find the perfect mix of sub-attempts and sweeps to get back to his feet. Diego Lopes via triangle choke, round two. On wax.
Lopes: TKO/KO (+350) Sub (+330) Dec (+550)
Sabatini: TKO/KO (+1100) Sub (+250) Dec (+275)