I wasn’t sure what to expect from Jiri Prochazka vs. Dominick Reyes other than some ultra violence. I wasn’t confident about who’d win. Reyes was a significant step up in competition, but I didn’t think Reyes being southpaw alone would hinder Jiri’s gleeful willingness to engage: something many of Reyes’ opponents have struggled with. Not only did Prochazka win, but he won in absolutely brutal fashion.
Of course, knockouts are always brutal, but a typical knockout is a quick display of the body temporarily hitting the off switch. The strike lands just right, and the body falls. The fall can be clumsy, and offer its own violence within the violence, but for the most part it’s all pretty rote. This, however, wasn’t an on-or-off switch being pressed. This was someone smashing the electrical outlet, and pulling out the wiring inside. Reyes’ body even managed to unlock a new bodied position; the stank neck.
Now with two UFC wins under his belt, Prochazka could be getting a crack at the UFC belt. Nothing is official, but since we’re on the verge, I thought it’d fun to look at the quickest routes to contendership. Oddly enough, Prochazka has no real corollary.
Because the women’s divisions are so new, you have a lot of statistical oddities. Ronda Rousey began her UFC career as champion because Dana White wasn’t about to give the women a shot at sportfighting without a guaranteed return-on-investment. Nicco Montano didn’t technically need a UFC win to get a UFC title shot, as she was part of a show meant to inaugurate a new UFC division: women’s Flyweight. Holly Holm is the only one to have taken a ‘traditional’ Wins Fights Before Challenging route to UFC gold, earning two UFC wins before fighting and beating Rousey.
As for the men, technically, Jose Aldo didn’t have to fight or beat anyone to be the UFC champion. He was promoted after becoming the WEC champion (WEC Never Die). Anderson Silva needed just one win in order to earn his shot at the title. Gilbert Melendez and Joe Soto fought for the lightweight and bantamweight championships, respectively, in their debuts. Brock Lesnar is the only true oddity of the bunch, having lost his debut (against Frank Mir), having beat Heath Herring, and then having fought for the title directly after. Hey — Heavyweight has had some dark times, which is ironic, since this was right after the Pride buyout.
There’s a common trend here, and none of them match Prochazka’s journey. Most of these fast tracks were either fast solutions to thin divisions (Holm, Soto), the creation of the division itself (Rousey, Aldo, Montana), or involved non-UFC fighters with strong non-UFC resumes (Silva, Melendez). For all of his faults, and criticism from fans, it’s hard to deny that Lesnar was the rare, perfect stew of freakshow and talent.
Still, it’s equally hard to deny that Lesnar getting fast-tracked was anything other than motivated by (primarily) money. Not an egregious cash grab, like the Jake Paul drama. After all, there wasn’t much for Couture after Gabriel Gonzaga knocked the block off a would-be Couture vs. CroCop crossover fight. By contrast, Prochazka is fighting in a division that is well-established without being some unique crossover. He’s simply putting in the work.
We can split hairs about the state of affairs all we want; ‘well Jon Jones is gone, and the division is in flux, bla bla bla.’ But it’s not like Jones left the division in disarray. Jones’ last fight at LHW was a razor-thin decision over Reyes. Who then got blitzed by Jan Blachowicz. As for Jiri, this weekend marked his 10th knockout win in a row. Knocking out Lawal and Dollaway, two fighters passed their sell-by date, may not be worth as much, but splattering Oezdemir and Reyes is a strict pattern telling us who Prochazka has the potential to be.
There will be plenty of things to say about Prochazka’s in-cage skills, and I’ll be sure to write about them. There’s a lot to say about the way he jabs, his unique way of entering the zone, that awesome top knot (which he calls his antenna), and the shifty way that good defense can come from good offense. Thankfully, plenty of better writers and superior eyes for the technical side will write about them before I do.
But for now, it’s just fun to appreciate what Prochazka is doing, and how he’s doing it. A lot of fighters have ‘eccentric’ styles, but it’s something that tends to be passive. Either their unique way of doing things is a means to an end, or it fails to enrich what they’re already good at. Prochazka’s style, and flow is an end in and of itself. As a result, his UFC journey to the title could be as short as his fights. He’s already in special company. Maybe, just maybe, that makes him a special fighter.