UFC VEGAS 25: ‘REYES VS PROCHAZKA’ is all done and dusted. The bulk of the card wasn’t all that much to write home about, but fortunately the show closed on some fantastic top-tier violence. Jiri Prochazka announced himself as the true wildcard in the light heavyweight title picture. Giga Chikadze picked up his first real signature win of his MMA career. And Sean Strickland made his case for a top 10 opponent.
So, how long must we wait before Prochazka gets to fight for UFC gold? Is anyone going to want to step up for a chance to eat a ‘Giga kick’ straight to the liver? And what about getting Merab Dvalishvili one of those former champs he called out?
To answer those questions – and one or two other things – I’ll be using the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking methodology from the UFC of years past. That means pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent up against one another. Hopefully, by following that model, a few of these bout ideas will actually make it off the page and into the Octagon. Now, let’s get to the fights.
It’s hard not to love what Jiri Prochazka is doing in the UFC right now. The man is taking the fight to the light heavyweight elite with pure confidence, aggression, and power. That may not make for the cleanest, prettiest victories out there, but with back to back KO wins over Volkan Oezdemir and Dominick Reyes, the results are speaking for themselves.
If this were all a tale of fairness and paying one’s dues, there’s a solid argument that Prochazka should fight the likes of Aleksandar Rakic or Magomed Ankalaev before getting his chance at UFC gold. But, the truth of the moment is that ‘Denisa’ is raw magnetic violence energy. The idea of this 29-year-old one-man wrecking crew taking on calm, collected vets Jan Blachowicz or Glover Teixeira for light heavyweight gold has such a fantastic, chaotic vibe. Prochazka is unquestionably the most fun title challenger of the moment. So strike while the iron is hot and book him with the Blachowicz/Teixeira winner.
A hard fall back to earth after Reyes bulled his way into title contention. He hit the UFC at 6-0 with only three years pro experience, and fought for the belt the first time at 12-0 just three years after that. At only 31-years-old, that should leave the ‘Devastator’ still right in his prime. But, once a fighter reaches the top in the UFC, step backs in competition are difficult to come by. And unfortunately, that seems to be exactly what the Cage Combat fighter needs right now.
Fights against Misha Cirkunov, Nikita Krylov, Ryan Spann, or Anthony Smith all seem like they’d be about the right speed. After all, it doesn’t need to be a huge step down—just maybe not someone in immediate title contention. Of those, I think Krylov is the fight I’d be most interested in. He’s got the chin to take Reyes’ shots, and the kind of scrappy, aggressive game to make the fight a thriller all the way through. Dominick Reyes vs. Nikita Krylov seems like the right step back, and a great opportunity for the ‘Miner’ to get a high profile win.
This was lined up to be a big moment for Chikadze if he could get the win—and he absolutely rose to the occasion. The Georgian kickboxer landed a nasty liver kick early in round 1 against Swanson that handed the classic WEC vet just his second career TKO loss. Big things for the rising featherweight contender.
After the bout he called out Max Holloway and Calvin Kattar. I doubt he gets the Holloway bout, but a fight with Kattar would be one hell of a scarp. Contests with Arnold Allen or Josh Emmett would also be excellent.
Just because I don’t think Chikadze takes on Kattar off the ‘Boston Finisher’s recent rough loss, I’ll say the UFC should book Chikadze against Allen. The Brit’s boxing has come a long, long way lately, but I doubt he’d want to stand at range in front of Chikadze. Does he have the wrestling to take the fight over on the mat though? Worth finding out. Chikadze vs. Allen, see if the Georgian is ready to break into the top 10.
At one point, Cutelaba seemed like he had a reputation for indefatigable energy. Whether it was his USADA bust for IV usage that got him, or simply a failure to adapt as opponents worked harder to figure him out, that reputation seems like a distant memory at this point. The ‘Hulk’ came out of the gate running against Jacoby, but couldn’t find the positional control out of all his wrestling work and gassed hard because of it. Didn’t end up with a loss, but it’s not much of a victory either.
Bouts against Da Un Jung, Devin Clark, or Ed Herman would all be pretty reasonable. The Korean fighter is the guy on a hot streak looking to build his resume at the moment. Let’s see if he can grab a victory over a more seasoned vet like Cutelaba. Da Un Jung vs. Ion Cutelaba seems like a good chance for Da Un to add a name to his resume, or for Cutelaba to prove he’s still a fringe top 15 talent.
Jacoby kinda go run over out of the gate. But, credit to him, he never stopped fighting his way to his feet and made Cutelaba burn a ton of energy trying to control him on the mat. The fact that Jacoby was able to control the bout the rest of the way made it an especially impressive performance, even if the end result wasn’t a win. I don’t really need to see these two run it back, draw or no. Instead fights with Alonzo Menifield, Shogun Rua, or the winner of OSP vs. Maxim Grishin would all work for Jacoby. Of those, Menifield is the guy coming off a win right now. Menifield vs. Jacoby seems like the best possibility to keep Jacoby busy and see if he can extend his win streak.
No finish, but a one-sided standup performance for Strickland behind a persistent jab, low kicks, and a laser right hand. ‘Tarzan’ has crafted himself into an incredibly difficult fighter to deal with at 185, behind a constant output of clean strikes, a good chin, and lots of patience. This win firmed up his place in the top 15, and it’s time to take on another ranked opponent. That could be Kevin Holland, or Uriah Hall, or the winner of Brad Tavares vs. Omari Akhmedov. Hall might have something bigger on his plate after beating the former champ, however, and Holland is coming off a loss. So I guess that leaves the Tavares/Akhmedov fight. May not be a thriller, but it seems like a super logical next step for Strickland as he marches his way into the title conversation. Strickland vs. the Tavares/Akhmedov winner is a good step forward.
Another fight, another dominating win behind a constant wrestling and power striking attack. Dvalishvili is becoming a real problem at bantamweight, especially as his boxing has tightened up. Stamann came in ready to defend everything and even landed some takedowns and good strikes of his own, but he just couldn’t handle the Georgian’s pace. That should line up Dvalishvili for a surefire top ten opponent next time out.
He called out Dominick Cruz, and I wouldn’t be against seeing that fight—especially given how good the ‘Dominator’’s wrestling is. But there are also potential bouts with Frankie Edgar, Pedro Munhoz, or even Marlon Moraes. Of all those, I feel like Pedro Munhoz is the guy most in his prime at the moment. He’s also a fighter who is devilishly hard to take down, and dangerous enough on the mat for people not to want to hang out there with him. Seems like the perfect style clash for Dvalishvili. Munhoz vs. Dvalishvili is a perfect test to see if Dvalishvili is ready for a title run.
OTHER BOUTS: Cub Swanson vs. Alex Caceres, Krzysztof Jotko vs. Gerald Meerschaert, Cody Stamann vs. Casey Kenney, Luana Pinheiro vs. Montserrat Conejo, Randa Markos vs. Hannah Cifers, TJ Brown vs. Luis Saldana, Kai Kamaka III vs. Matt Sayles, Luana Carlonia vs. O’Neill/Procopio winner, Poliana Botelho vs. Liliya Shakirova, Loma Lookboonmee vs. Jessica Penne, Sam Hughes vs. Lupita Godinez, Andreas Michailidis vs. Jacob Malkoun, KB Bhullar vs. Pickett/Wright loser, Felipe Colares vs. John Castaneda, Luke Sanders vs. Anthony Birchak