When Jiri Prochazka made his way to the UFC, he was advertised as non-stop action. The Czech native has lived up to that reputation and then some. It was a brutal slugfest for the nearly two rounds of Prochazka’s contest with Dominick Reyes tonight at UFC Vegas 25, each landing heavy leather on the other for almost the entirety of the bout. Prochazka had the upper hand for the majority of the contest, hurting Reyes in the opening round, but proving unable to finish him. When the second round picked up, it was more of the same only for Reyes to put Prochazka on an uneven base and jumping for a guillotine. Prochazka survived, took the fight to the feet, and found a spinning back elbow that put Reyes out cold.
Following up his KO win of Volkan Oezdemir was going to be a tall order, but Prochazka completely exceeded the highest of expectations. The fight with Reyes is on the short list for FOTY, the KO on the short list for KOoTY. Off the top of my head, the last time a fight was a contender for multiple Of The Year awards was the first encounter between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen. In the process Prochazka is officially behind Glover Texeira for an opportunity at light heavyweight gold. If the UFC plays its cards right, Prochazka could be a future star.
Reyes has nothing to be ashamed of in his performance. After all, he was the other half of a FOTY candidate. Unfortunately, it was his third loss in a row, effectively eliminating him from the title picture for the next little while. He’s still on the younger side of light heavyweight for at 31, so he can work his way back... provided his confidence hasn’t been shattered.
As for the rest of the card:
- Finally picking up a win over a name most MMA fans have heard of, Giga Chikadze has arrived. Landing a brutal kick to the body of Cub Swanson that crumpled the longtime mainstay of the division. A few punches later and Chikadze officially had his sixth consecutive win. There’s a good chance a top ten opponent awaits him.
- Ion Cutelaba was a dominant beast in the opening round, scoring eight takedowns and landing a series of heavy shots to put himself up 10-8 in the eyes of most on Dustin Jacoby. Unfortunately for Cutelaba, he faded after that – as he usually does – allowing Jacoby to pick him apart over the last two rounds, leading to a draw.
- A year ago, nobody was thinking Sean Strickland would be an emerging middleweight. Since returning from injury in October, Strickland has racked up three consecutive wins in the division, the latest a quietly dominant performance over Krzysztof Jotko, Strickland marching down the latter with low kicks and simple boxing combinations over 15 minutes. We see you now Sean, we see you.
- Living up to his nickname of The Machine, Merab Dvalishvili pushed an insane pace on a game Cody Stamann, outworking the stout wrestler over the course of 15 minutes for a clear decision. The wrestling and cardio wasn’t a surprise, but Dvalishvili’s improved striking caught many off-guard. The native of Georgia should get a top ten opponent next.
- And the Oscar goes to… Luana Pinheiro. Or does it? After eating an illegal upkick from Randa Markos, Pinheiro was deemed unable to continue, resulting in a DQ victory in her UFC debut. The MMA community was back and forth whether the blow legitimately put away Pinheiro or if she faked her way to the win. Only Pinheiro knows the truth and regardless of what that might be, there will be those who call BS anyway.
- There was controversy on the final scorecards, but I don’t think anyone wants to say TJ Brown wasn’t the rightful winner as he had several bright moments in his back-and-forth contest with Kai Kamaka. I’m just saying it was nearly unanimous on the Twitterverse that Kamaka was more consistent in producing those moments. Regardless of how the decision went, props to both men for leaving it all out there and entertaining fans.
- As expected, there was a lot of sloppiness between Luana Carolina and Poliana Botelho. What we didn’t get was the standup battle we were expecting as both ladies spent large chunks of time controlling the other on the mat. Botelho stormed out to an early lead, but faded down the stretch and allowed Carolina to steal away the win on the judges card.
- Why hasn’t the strawweight division figured out Loma Lookboonmee is dangerous in the clinch? Sure, she’s undersized, but she is such a technical beast from there, as Sam Hughes found out the hard way. Hughes found some success with her jab and controlled Lookboonmee in close quarters, but it didn’t match Lookboonmee’s damage and takedowns by any measure.
- So, KB Bhullar understood the goal was to win the fight… right? Bhullar did a lot of standing around occasionally throwing out a kick or punch that touched Andreas Michailidis. On the other hand, Michailidis was throwing serious heat and doing so with regularity. He faded down the stretch, but his aggression assured he took an easy decision.
- For the second week in a row, the UFC’s curtain jerker delivered in spades. Luke Sanders came thisclose to finishing Felipe Colares in the opening round only for Colares to return the favor in the following round. The third saw both exhausted, Colares’ late volume and well timed takedown securing the unanimous decision victory.