UFC: Prochazka Makes A Big Statement
By Harry Jensen
Before last night, Jiri Prochazka was known as the exciting prospect with one notable win against #5-ranked Volkan Oezdemir on Fight Island last year. Now, he is a confirmed title contender and possible superstar after his eye-catching finish against top contender Dominick Reyes.
The fight started with both men showing heavy hands, skipping the ‘feeling out’ phase of the fight. Prochazka had the better of the exchanges between the two men, whilst Reyes still managed to find small success countering on the backfoot, although this would not prove to be reliable, much like his previous showing against Blachowicz last September.
Round two saw Jiri get caught with a nice shot from Reyes, leading him to shoot for a takedown. After escaping a guillotine attempt from the Mexican-American, Jiri caught ‘The Devastator’ flush on the chin with a spinning back elbow, only the third finish of the kind in UFC history.
Jiri lived up to his name as a crazy, yet technically proficient, striker, landing a highlight reel finish on the big stage of a UFC main event.
After last weekends viral UFC card, the MMA promotion may have found an increase in viewership for the next card, and Jiri grabbed this opportunity with both hands, as his ‘Performance of the Night’ and ‘Fight of the Night’ bonuses prove that the Czech national is a force to be reckoned with in the 205lbs division.
He brings the Czech-republic audience with him, and his personality of appreciating ‘true mixed martial arts’ draws fans from all over the world, as the 28-year-old is taking advantage of the wide-open light-heavyweight division and shaping himself into a star in the sport.
In the co-main event, Georgian-native Giga Chikadze was given his biggest test to date in a fight against UFC legend Cub Swanson in the featherweight division, with both fighters finding themselves in good form as of late. Cub has the 2nd most wins in UFC/WEC featherweight history whilst being on a current win streak of 2, whilst Giga was on a 7 fight win streak with 8 first round finishes.
Chikadze lived up to his name of early finishes as he put away Swanson in the first minute of the very first round with a perfect roundhouse kick to the liver, a strike which is often available when fighters find themselves in a southpaw vs orthodox-stance match up.
‘The Machine’, whilst currently being #14-ranked in the increasingly-stacked 145lbs weight class, has tossed his hat into the ring of high level contenders, joining Arnold Allen in the group of recent impressive performers.
Surely he will be paying attention to the high-name and high-ranking bout between Shane Burgos and Edson Barboza who are due to fight in two weeks’ time on the UFC 262 super-card.
The Georgian takeover continued when Merab Dvalishvili put on another ‘Performance of the Night’ against NCAA Division II wrestler Cody Stamann in the bantamweight division to open the main card, where both fighters showed impressive cardio to maintain a high pace throughout all three rounds.
Ultimately, Merab heavily outworked Cody, landing over double the total strikes and mixing in six successful takedowns to win a unanimous decision on the judges’ scorecards.
Elsewhere on the card, Ion Cutelaba fought to a split-decision draw against Dustin Jacoby in a light-heavyweight bout.
Cutelaba’s incredibly fast start did not result in the finish he was looking for, as Jacoby miraculously got out of round one alive, despite being outlanded 45 to 11 in total strikes and suffering 8 takedowns.
Ultimately, his high pace proved to be his downfall as Jacoby fought his way back by winning the remaining two rounds. The fight was scored a split-decision draw, with two judges giving the fight to different fighters, and one scoring it a draw.
Cutelaba now finds himself without a win in 3 fights, whilst this draw snapped Jacoby’s 4-fight winning streak.
Sean Strickland put Krzysztof Jotko’s 3-fight winning streak to an abrupt halt with a display of relentless forward pressure as he stalked down the Polish prospect for most of the fight. Jotko provided a variety of strikes, ranging from upward elbows to roundhouse kicks, yet they are meaningless if they cannot connect.
Strickland showed a mature performance of his jab and blocking defence, leaving Jotko at a strike-landing differential of 19%.
Despite his inability to effectively cut off the cage, Strickland was not punished for his lack of lateral movement and took the unanimous decision win to get his own 3 fight winning streak.
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Zuffa