On the heels of a thrilling championship tripleheader at UFC 261, the UFC wastes no time getting back to action this weekend with UFC Fight Night: Reyes vs. Procházka. The names on the marquee are those of two top contenders at light heavyweight.
No. 3-ranked Dominick Reyes takes on the fifth-ranked Jiří Procházka. Reyes came up short against Jan Błachowicz in his last outing, failing for the second time to capture the championship. Procházka left Japan’s Rizin Fighting Federation as the promotion’s light-heavyweight champion and picked up right where he left off by stopping Volkan Oezdemir in his UFC debut. A second straight knockout victory will no doubt put Procházka on the short list to face the winner of the upcoming title showdown between Błachowicz and Glover Teixeira.
In the co-headliner, longtime featherweight standout Cub Swanson seeks to win a third straight fight since suffering through a four-fight skid for the first time in his career. Swanson faces decorated kickboxer Giga Chikadze, who last tasted defeat in 2018 on Dana White’s Contender Series. Chikadze has since rattled off seven straight victories.
The main card also includes a light-heavyweight contest between Ion Cutelaba and Dustin Jacoby. Cutelaba is coming off the first two knockout losses of his career, both at the hands of Magomed Ankalaev. Jacoby enters this fight after picking up his fourth straight victory and his second consecutive since rejoining the UFC.
Middleweights Sean Strickland and Krzysztof Jotko clash in a main-card affair in which each fighter attempts to extend their winning streak to four. Meanwhile, ranked bantamweights Merab Dvalishvili and Cody Stamann square off in a showdown between elite grapplers with vastly different approaches in how they get their fights to the ground. The main card opens with a women’s flyweight fight between Poliana Botelho and Luana Carolina.
UFC Fight Night: Reyes vs. Procházka takes place in Las Vegas, back inside the UFC Apex. The prelims kick off at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and ESPN+. The main card commences at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+. Combat Press writers Andrew Sumian and Matt Petela preview the action this week as they go Toe-to-Toe.
American fans were likely not very familiar with Jiří Procházka before his impressive Octagon debut against Volkan Oezdemir. Does the Czech fighter do it again and put himself firmly into light-heavyweight title contention when he takes on former title challenger Dominick Reyes?
Sumian: If Procházka hopes to win this bout and secure an eventual title shot, then it will require a very different game plan than the one he chose to utilize in his UFC debut. Although he pulled off a highlight-reel knockout over Oezdemir, the Czech native fought wildly and irresponsibly. Procházka danced around the cage while leaving his head out on a silver platter for any decent striker to land on. Luckily for him, Oezdemir was unable to take advantage of these questionable tactics and fell victim to a thunderous knockout punch.
Reyes is a very different fighter than Procházka’s previous foe. The former title challenger will absolutely take advantage of any mistakes made by the up-and-coming Procházka. Reyes has fought elite light heavyweights over the last few years of his UFC career and is more than capable of putting Procházka’s lights out if given the opportunity to do so.
Procházka will come out calm and composed in this bout, though. He’ll land a shot that hobbles Reyes and leads to an eventual finish. A European showdown between Błachowicz and Procházka will follow at some point in 2021.
Petela: It is strange to think that Reyes is on the verge of a three-fight skid if he comes up short against Procházka. Despite the Czech’s impressive debut performance, fans are still likely not as familiar with Procházka as they should be, given his talent level. If Reyes does falter here, then it would likely leave a vast amount of fans questioning if he is truly an elite fighter. His last victory came over Chris Weidman in the former middleweight champ’s one and only appearance at light heavyweight.
Fortunately for Reyes, this will end up being a confidence-boosting victory for him and a step backward for Procházka. It will go the distance, with “The Devastator ” outpointing the Rizin veteran throughout the contest. Procházka is not going to change the flashy style that leaves him open to counters, and Reyes will take advantage and use his technical boxing skills to repeatedly touch up his opponent.
There may be a moment or two in the fight where Procházka lands flush and seems to have Reyes in trouble, but he won’t be able to finish the American. Despite Reyes not landing with the same authority, his volume will be more than enough to get the nod from all three judges. Don’t let this fool you, though. Fans have not seen the ceiling for Procházka, who will likely wear UFC gold before his career is finished.
Outside of the headliner, this lineup is fairly light on big names. Which fighter is capable of breaking through to become a star from this bill?
Petela: Giga Chikadze.
The last time Chikadze fought, he picked up his first TKO since joining the UFC. On the heels of that performance, he now finds himself in a co-headliner against longtime featherweight contender Cub Swanson. If he scores the victory, it would be the biggest of his MMA career. Furthermore, against a high-octane, unorthodox opponent like Swanson, the win would surely come in exciting fashion.
It had recently looked as if Swanson was coming to the end of his run in the UFC. He had dropped four straight contests before seemingly finding a second wind and rattling off back-to-back wins heading into this showdown. Unfortunately, he is running into the best version of Chikadze and will ultimately succumb to a knockout before the end of the second round.
Unlike Kron Gracie and Daniel Pineda, Chikadze will be able to use Swanson’s name as a landmark victory to announce himself as a threat to the elite in the featherweight division.
Sumian: Merab Dvalishvili.
This man is the closest thing to a robot as we have seen in the Octagon. He will likely make a strong case to be considered as a top-10 bantamweight if he secures his sixth straight victory over fellow top-15er Cody Stammann. The Georgia native is a cardio machine who fights at an incredibly high pace while utilizing his elite wrestling and constant pressure to fluster his opponent for every second of every round. Despite a huge step up in competition, Dvalishvili will turn in another unanimous-decision victory against Stamman.
Luana Pinheiro — do we need to know this name?
Sumian: Absolutely. The Brazilian strawweight makes her Octagon debut after compiling an impressive 8-1 mark and most recently adding a victory on the Contender Series by way of first-round knockout. Pinheiro, who trains with the legendary Nova União team, is currently riding a six-fight winning streak. She’ll dominate Randa Markos and hand The Ultimate Fighter alum a fourth straight loss.
Petela: Agreed. Pinheiro is going to be a force to be reckoned with at strawweight. She is 27 years old and has shown continued improvement over her last several fights. She also has finished seven of her eight wins, including five by submission and a pair via knockout. The Brazilian will be a fun addition to the talent-rich division.
What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?
Petela: Randa Markos. It is nearly almost a sign that your career is headed in the wrong direction when, as a promotional veteran, you get matched up against a newcomer. This is certainly the case for Markos, who welcomes Luana Pinheiro to the company. Markos has lost three in a row and four of her last five fights. Her only win in this stretch came via split decision over Ashley Yoder. If she’s on the wrong end of a knockout loss against Pinheiro, then it will be all the UFC needs to cut ties with “Quiet Storm.”
Sumian: Markos is really the only clear answer here. However, let’s take a different approach here and look at Dominick Reyes. His tenure in the UFC may not hang in the balance, but his standing as a top dog in the light-heavyweight division does. Reyes has fought for the belt twice already and came up short both times. If he suffers another loss on the heels of those two failed title bids, then he’s likely to fall out of the top five and well out of the title mix. Reyes will have a long journey ahead of him in an effort to regain relevance.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Sumian: Sean Strickland and Krzysztof Jotko. This is going to be one to remember. These two surging middleweights have combined for 21 finishes. They are both riding three-fight winning streaks. The winner of this bout will earn a ranked opponent and a chance to break into the top 10. These guys will come out with their very best as they continue to climb the middleweight ladder.
Petela: Gabriel Benitez and Jonathan Pearce. “Moggly” has gone the distance in less than a third of his 30 pro fights and has almost an equal number of knockouts and submissions. “JSP” has a record of 10-4 and only twice saw the judges’ scorecards, once in victory and once in defeat. Don’t expect this one to go the distance, but do plan on being entertained for as long as it lasts.
Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?
Petela: Ion Cutelaba. The Moldovan brawler is in serious need of a statement victory after his pair of fights against Magomed Ankalaev. While the first loss was perhaps the worst stoppage in recent memory, the second knockout was as catastrophic as it gets. Luckily for Cutelaba, he has an opponent in Dustin Jacoby who is willing to stand and trade with him. The pair will put on a fun back-and-forth affair in the early part of this fight, but Cutelaba will close the show by knockout and take home a performance bonus and perhaps even “Fight of the Night” honors.
Sumian: Jiri Procházka. The Czech native will come out on top yet again and secure an eventual title shot when he stops Reyes in the second round. Procházka is a real threat to Jan Błachowicz’s title reign, and an eventual title bout between two of the most devastating knockout artists in recent memory will be one to look forward to.
Pair this card with…
Sumian: European food and/or drinks. The main card features some of Europe’s very best talent, including Merab Dvalishvili, Krzysztof Jotko, Ion Cutelaba, Giga Chikadze and Jiri Procházka. The results of this show could launch several of these standouts into high-profile fights for their next UFC appearances. To celebrate them, order some Georgian dumplings, Polish sausage, and Czech goulash. Make it an international afternoon!
Petela:St. Elmo’s Fire. This card isn’t getting the kind of recognition it deserves, but it is sure to be full of fun fights. It comes right after an action-packed pay-per-view and right before the return of T.J. Dillashaw, so fans aren’t hearing enough about the event. This is much like how St. Elmo’s Fire got lost between the other great “Brat Pack” movies. So, carve out a couple hours and watch this cinematic gem that includes some of the finest work Rob Lowe and Demi Moore have ever done.
Main Card (ESPN+, 10 p.m. ET)
LHW: Dominick Reyes vs. Jiří Procházka
FW: Cub Swanson vs. Giga Chikadze
LHW: Ion Cutelaba vs. Dustin Jacoby
MW: Sean Strickland vs. Krzysztof Jotko
BW: Merab Dvalishvili vs. Cody Stamann
Women’s FlyW: Poliana Botelho vs. Luana Carolina
Preliminary Card (ESPN2 and ESPN+, 7 p.m. ET)
Women’s StrawW: Randa Markos vs. Luana Pinheiro
FW: Gabriel Benitez vs. Jonathan Pearce
FW: Kai Kamaka III vs. T.J. Brown
Women’s StrawW: Sam Hughes vs. Loma Lookboonmee
FW: Luke Sanders vs. Felipe Colares
MW: K.B. Bhullar vs. Andreas Michailidis
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