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UFC 251: Oezdemir v Prochazka Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

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Fighter on Fighter: Breaking down UFC Vegas 25’s Jiri Prochazka

Former Rizin Light Heavyweight kingpin, Jiri Prochazka, will look to take another step toward an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) title opposite fellow power puncher, Dominick Reyes, this Saturday (May 1, 2021) at UFC Vegas 25 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Even if you followed his career in Rizin, it was tough to know exactly what to expect from Prochazka inside the Octagon. It only takes a few minutes of fight footage to understand that the Czech athlete is an impressive talent, gifted with serious knockout power and speed. However, his resume is rather light on wrestlers, which is always something of a concern. His UFC debut muddied the waters further. Knocking out Volkan Oezdemir is huge, but it was a strange performance, one where Prochazka was rocked a couple times and kept fiddling with his gloves prior to the ultra crisp one-two combination (watch highlights).

Hopefully, his sophomore UFC performance will leave no doubt. Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:

Striking

Prochazka is an amateur champion in Muay Thai, which has almost nothing to do with his current striking style. Instead, he fights more like a boxer, maintaining low hand position and a side-on stance to make the most of his quickness.

Before anything else, Prochazka’s stance has to be addressed, because it’s odd. He leaves his lead leg extremely vulnerable to outside low kicks — even C.B. Dollaway was blasting the leg at will. Prochazka’s hands stay low for the most part, but he’ll also hold his lead arm high in front of his opponent’s face, measuring his foe as if he were about to break a board in karate.

The bright side of Prochazka’s side-on stance is speed. With his foot turned inward, Prochazka is able to rebound quickly from a forward bounce, which really helps open up pull counters. Plus, with his lead hand low, Prochazka’s already fast jab can become nearly invisible.

Following Prochazka’s jab is very often a flurry of punches. If nothing else, the man always works in combination. He’ll follow up with his cross then let it carry him into Southpaw, where Prochazka will look to work around the guard with lead hooks and uppercuts. In addition, Prochazka will alternate between the jab and a wide slapping hook, designed to raise the guard and open up different targets.

In general, the uppercut is a major weapon of Prochazka. He’s always looking to convince his opponents to duck beneath his cross, and in general, Prochazka is more willing to stand in the pocket than most of his peers. That may mean he’s sacrificing a bit of his 80-inch reach, but it also means that Prochazka’s uppercut lands where many would fall short. In the clip below, Prochazka cracks Dollaway with an uppercut before catching him trying to pivot out of the corner with a fight-ending left hook.

Another layer of offense is Prochazka’s flying knee. Since he stands somewhat hunched over already, he’s always in position to explode, and his angled power punches likely have his foe covering up anyway. Prochazka likes to flash a jab then jump forward, and the results have been impressive: he’s got at least four stoppages that include a flying knee at the start.

Prochazka’s ability to string together knockout punches from both stances is a huge part of what makes him special. He’s simply fearless in the ring, marching forward and taking big chances in order to keep throwing. Even after getting punished for his aggression by Muhammed Lawal (GIF), Prochazka continues to fight as though he’s immortal.

Oddly enough, Prochazka kicks infrequently for a man with a Muay Thai background. He’s most active with his front kick, which he often throws from his back leg within the punching range. The opportunity for his opponent to counter is there from that distance, sure, but he’s also pretty much guaranteeing a good connection between foot and chest. It’s a scary thing to have a man standing directly in front of you throw his foot at your face, and Prochazka understands this well. After a couple front kicks has landed, he’ll begin showing the strike before coming forward with punches.

Against Volkan Oezdemir, Prochazka spent most of the first round getting out-boxed. He was landing some good jabs, but he stayed in Oezdemir’s face to such an extent that the Swiss athlete’s own lead hand seldom missed. “No Time” hits hard and builds smart combinations, not to mention the leg kicks — he was a seriously dangerous opponent given Prochazka’s high-risk style of striking.

Between rounds, someone in the Prochazka corner must have told him to throw kicks, and it immediately made all the difference. A single low kick set up a high kick moments later that wobbled Oezdemir, and Prochazka went on the offensive. He was stinging Oezdemir from all angles, and when the former title challenger backed into the fence, Prochazka scored a pretty perfect overhand straight to the jaw (GIF).

The final aspect of Prochazka’s striking is his counter punching. Prochazka does a nice job of pulling back at an angle, putting him in good position to fire if his foe comes up short. Often, he does so with a quick interrupting jab, looking to prevent longer combinations from his foe. Alternatively, Prochazka will stand in place, ducking his head off to the side as he attempts to time his foe with a right hand.

Wrestling

I don’t know how Prochazka’s wrestling will stand up against top-flight UFC grinders, but it is very clear that he’s come a long way. Comparing his 2015 battle with future Bellator champ Vadim Nemkov to his 2019 rematch with “King Mo” is night and day. In the first bout, Prochazka was taken down largely at will, offering little defense until he began scrambling on the mat.

Rizin - Iza Saltation Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

A few years later, and Prochazka’s defensive reactions looked solid, He was sprawling very quickly and looking to punish shots with clinch knees. When Lawal attacked the single leg, the Czech fighter quickly pulled away and returned to a striking battle.

Now, Lawal was not a fresh young wrestler in 2019, so he’s not exactly an analogue to someone like Magomed Ankalaev. Still, it was clear improvement, and that’s always a positive sign.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Two of Prochazka’s 27 professional victories came via submission, but as of late, he’s spent almost no time rolling on the canvas. We have to look back to his earlier career, in which there are glimpses of an aggressive guard, like the quick armbar he nearly landed on Nemkov. Again, we’ll just have to wait and see what Prochazka looks like on the mat against elite competition.

Conclusion

Prochazka is a really unique athlete, absurdly dangerous and entertaining. He throws power punches-in-bunches, and he maintains that power later into fights. Given how UFC traded most of the division’s premier wrestlers away — Corey Anderson, Ryan Bader, Phil Davis — it may not even matter if Prochazka has a glaring weakness on the mat. Either way, it’s going to be a lot of fun finding out more about “The Czech Flying Monster” inside the Octagon.


Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 25 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+/ESPN2 “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+/ESPN2 at 10 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 25: “Reyes vs. Prochazka” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.

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