Jiri Prochazka is looking to prove he is one of the world’s best after a stellar career in RIZIN, but Dominick Reyes is in his way and seeks redemption at UFC Vegas 25.
— UFC (@ufc) February 9, 2020
Sports can be cruel, particularly so in the fight game. A few punches away from upsetting the GOAT Jon Jones and winning the UFC light heavyweight championship, Dominick Reyes left Houston last February with nothing but a split-decision loss and uncertainty. After months of speculation about whether a rematch would materialize, Jones went on to vacate the title and Reyes was booked for a fight for the vacant title against Jan Blachowicz. Though heavily favored, Reyes was stopped by Blachowicz in brutal fashion in the second. In the aftermath, talk of overconfidence and a struggle to adjust to the time difference on Fight Island dominated the conversation about what led to his performance.
Going into his latest bout, Reyes is in a precarious position. On paper, the matchup looks poised to give him a return to form against the less proven UFC newcomer. Considering Reyes turned away veterans such as Jared Cannonier, Ovince Saint Preux, Volkan Oezdemir, and Chris Weidman, “The Devastator” is rightfully favored. However, it is no secret that a loss at this juncture would be a letdown of massive proportions. Arguably the uncrowned champion a year ago, a loss would see him crash well out of the upper echelon of the rankings and looking at a year of reinvention rather than title contention.
Striking on POINT 💥
Should @Jiri_BJP be nominated for Debut of the Year?
— UFC (@ufc) December 15, 2020
Jiri Prochazka may have operated outside of the spotlight, but he has nonetheless put together a respectable resume en route to his biggest opportunity to date. A part of the Japanese promotion RIZIN since 2015, Prochazka put together a ten fight win-streak before entering the Octagon last year. During his time in Japan, Prochazka earned victories over UFC and Bellator veterans such as CB Dolloway, Muhammad Lawal, Brandon Halsey, and Fabio Maldonado. Prochazka is notably also one of only two people to have defeated current Bellator light heavyweight champion Vadim Nemkov.
The Czech contender stopped Volkan Oezdemir last October, but Saturday’s contest is another level of competition entirely. He also notably is one of the few notable fighters to perform well in RIZIN and make the jump to the UFC. Currently, former RIZIN champion Manel Kape (who did not lose the belt in competition) is the only other standout from the promotion to make the jump and has currently gone 0-2 in the promotion. Though the expansion of MMA has led to more talent being signed and discovered worldwide, there remains a stigma that the promotions in Asia pad records by pitting their stars against lesser competition. A win over Reyes would serve to boost the credibility of Prochazka’s win-streak and set him up for a high profile matchup that could get him into title contention.
Stylistically, the length and reach of Jiri Prochazka will be the biggest asset in the fight against the more technical Dominick Reyes. Though regarded as one of the taller fighters in the division, Reyes is only an inch taller and actually has less reach than Prochazka. As such, footwork and timing will be crucial in avoiding a brawl with the more forward pressing Czech fighter. Prochazka should look to wear down Reyes with kicks and shots to the body as he presses forward. Reyes by comparison should look to get in-and-out and focus on keeping his head off the center line as Prochazka will be looking to exchange at every opportunity.
LHW contenders stepping up 😤
— UFC (@ufc) April 30, 2021
The winner of the UFC Vegas 25 main event will likely look for another contender ranked in the top five where opponents such as Anthony Smith or Aleksander Rakic stand out as possible options for all parties who are looking to move forward towards the title.