Jiri Prochazka has arrived. The Georgia native Republican established himself as a legitimate UFC light heavyweight competitor on Saturday night by knocking Dominick Reyes out of the way with a twisting elbow.
It was the most impressive performance on a map that featured several high-level fighters.
ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim break into the main storylines of Fight Night on Saturday in Las Vegas.
Helwani: Prochazka’s next fight should be for the title
There’s a new light heavyweight competitor, and he’s one hell of a fun one too.
Jiří Procházka is a promoter’s dream: he is unique, funny, wild and powerful.
He’s got a great look too – I mean the hair is just great – and he’s now won 12 in a row.
And what an opportunity to extend his UFC record to 2-0. His fight – or should I say brawl? – We’ll be speaking against Dominick Reyes on Saturday for sure in December during the awards season.
That knockout with a twisting elbow, only the third in UFC history, was as shocking as it was beautiful. That first lap was exciting and brutal.
It was everything Procházka needed to cement his place as a legitimate player in a wide-open light heavyweight division.
Of course, we know that light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz will defend his title against Glover Teixeira on September 4th.
The question now is: will you save Procházka for the winner or do you dare to play him off against someone in the meantime?
When he’s done with that, I would save him. His style is too wild and this win was too big to risk against others. There are certainly options like Aleksander Rakić or Anthony Smith, but I would keep Procházka on hold. Let him fight the Blachowicz-Teixeira winner, repeat this fight as often as possible and hope that his hair will look even better when he fights for the belt.
And yes, I know the UFC usually doesn’t give title shots after two fights, but if you’ve been knocking out people like Volkan Oezdemir and Reyes like before, not to mention his success before the UFC, you’ve done enough.
As for Reyes, how can you not feel for him? A little over a year ago, he should have defeated the great Jon Jones to win the light heavyweight title. Instead, the judges in Texas sided with Jones. Then he’s knocked out by Blachowicz in his attempt to win the vacant £ 205 title, and now this.
The fighting game is cruel. One day you’re a previously undefeated fighter losing an oh-so-tight decision to the greatest light heavyweight ever, and the next you’re on the receiving end of a knockout on a highlight reel against a rising star.
Raimondi: Giga Chikadze receives Signature Win with Signature Kick
During the pandemic, Giga Chikadze appeared to be struggling every few weeks. Chikadze entered the Octagon five times between September 2019 and November 2020 and won every fight. He was 4-0 last year alone. In his last fight, Chikadze finally took his first place, a TKO in the first round against Jamey Simmons last November.
All of these five were fine victories. But Chikadze was missing one thing to make him a true featherweight competitor: a signature win over a big name. The native Georgia republic has that now. Chikadze sent Cub Swanson, a featherweight, with a liver kick and punches in just 63 seconds on Saturday. Chikadze called this body kick the “Giga Kick” from his time in Glory Kickboxing. And he used it to get the biggest win of his career at the UFC Fight Night: Reyes vs. Prochazka.
The only thing to do now is give Chikadze a contender fight. He has won six consecutive times with two consecutive KOs. The karate black belt is a legitimate force at 145 pounds – there is no longer any doubt about that. I would love to see him there with someone like Calvin Kattar, Arnold Allen, or even Bryce Mitchell.
Wagenheim: Merab Dvalishvili takes his step
Before the explosive eliminations in the Main Event and Co-Main, this was a night of decisions, decisions and other decisions – eight of them by the judges and one by the referee who decided a disqualification. This isn’t usually the kind of battle card that shakes fans up, but there were actually some moments – one of the best from Merab Dvalishvili.
The bantamweight from trainers Ray Longo and Matt Serra is a constant movement. When he won his sixth straight fight, he scored 306 hits, beating 100 in each of the last two rounds. This is a very busy man. But his main weapon of attack was again his relentless pursuit of shutdowns.
Dvalishvili landed five of eleven shutdown attempts and kept Cody Stamann on the defensive all the way. This means that the Georgia-born player has lost 59 UFC losses, the most a fighter has ever had in his first 10 UFC appearances. The thing is, Dvalishvili only had eight UFC fights. He has two more Octagon trips to raise his record high.
However, the most significant number for Dvalishvili is five – his number of consecutive bantamweight victories. This makes him the second longest active streak in the division, one behind his teammate Aljamain Sterling, the champion. At the age of 30, Dvalishvili seems to be coming to the top of the weight class. And he makes his journey enjoyable to watch.