Welcome to the fold, Jiri Prochazka

 

The light heavyweight division just got exponentially more interesting. Jiri Prochazka has been in the UFC since July of last year, but he only truly arrived last night. After an incredibly entertaining fight with former title challenger Dominick Reyes at UFC Vegas 25, Prochazka has officially inserted himself into the title conversation. The performance warranted fight of the night honors, and perhaps a whole lot more.

It takes two to tango, and Reyes most certainly came to dance. From the beginning of the first round it was on, both men jumped into the fire and one hell of a contest ensued. Prochazka’s unique style is something to behold, he keeps his hands low, switches stances, and does a lot of feints and fakes. Whether it be faking an entry for a takedown or ducking his head down and up in a really quick manner, the Czech has a great ability to make opponents bite on his bait and move in to land significant strikes.

The new contender has a long reach and uses it well, but not like most fighters with long reach do. Most of the time when a fighter has a long reach, it’s the jab that gets a lot of the focus to dictate distance, and serves as a strong line of defense. Prochazka utilizes his reach to cause damage, and he has great success in doing so. His understanding of distance gives him a lot of confidence, it doesn’t take long for him to establish his range. Once he does, he knows exactly where to be positioned such that he can land on his opponent, and not get hit.

Like he showed last night, he uses that long reach to land massive head hooks and uppercuts. He also is in the rare percentile of MMA fighters who throw big combinations. He creates openings, takes them, and makes it look easy. When the hands are high he’s touching the body, and when the hands are low he is touching the head. It sounds easy on the surface, but at the moment, there aren’t many strikers in the UFC who flow to all of these openings with relative ease.

He is also incredibly accurate, his head hooks sometimes look a little on the loopy side, but his piston straight cross and jab busted up Reyes in short order . Not much of a telegraph on anything he throws, every punch seemed to be perfectly placed and the impact fully absorbed by Reyes.

Fanduel had Prochazka as the -125 favorite to win, and on paper, it made perfect sense. People in the know realize how dangerous this fighter is. Although he only has one fight in the UFC, he was a champion in Rizin, and his UFC debut was a long time coming.

Last night’s performance against Reyes was sensational, it started with a bang and ended with one as well. After winning most of the exchanges on the feet, Prochazka got wobbled by Reyes, shot in for the takedown, and found himself inside a guillotine. What followed put the entire division on notice in a big way.

After escaping the choke, the fight ended up back on the feet and a battered Reyes trudged forward only to be answered with a barrage of strikes that backed him up to the cage. Prochazka uncorked a rear right elbow that missed but gave him the immense torque to swing right into the spinning back elbow that cracked Reyes and shut off the lights immediately.

The way Reyes went down was hard to watch, the moment he crashed to the canvass was the moment Prochazka secured his place at the front of the line for a title shot.

The UFC matchmakers did the right thing and gave Glover Teixeira the next title shot against champion Jan Blachowicz. It’s great to see, Teixeira earned that position and it’s rightfully his. But once Blachowicz and Teixeira settle their business, there is one terrifying Czech waiting in the wings. The path for Prochazka leads one way, a steady course right to the top of the light heavyweight rankings and straight into a championship title fight.

Are you ready to make your fight picks? Head over to fanduel and enter the fight night contest for this weekend!

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