Alex Pereira (@alexpoatanpereira/Instagram page)

UFC 303: Pereira vs. Procházka 2 Preview and Predictions

There have been many moving parts and at times it has seemed like the UFC was playing musical chairs but alas International Fight Week is here. UFC 303 was originally scheduled to be the long-awaited return of Conor McGregor but an apparent pinky toe injury has forced the former double champ out of his slated fight with Michael Chandler. In his stead, Alex Pereira and Jiri Prochazka will rematch atop the fight card with Pereira looking to defend his light heavyweight title that he won in the pair’s first meeting. Prochazka will look to even out the series and avenge his first UFC loss.

The co-main event is also a late notice affair with a showdown of elite featherweight fighters. Brian Ortega is perhaps the best grappler in the featherweight division and has shown that with eight career wins by submission. His striking has improved drastically over his career as well and he is now a very well rounded mixed martial artist. He will need to bring all of his skills to the cage if he wants to secure a win over Diego Lopes. Lopes is dangerous anywhere the fight goes, with ten career knockouts and twelve submissions. Still several months shy of his thirtieth birthday, Lopes has a huge opportunity to catapult himself to the top of the featherweight division.

Also on the main card is a highly anticipated welterweight clash between Ian Machado Garry and Michael “Venom” Page. Undefeated through fourteen fights, Garry stormed into the UFC and has passed every test the promotion has put in front of him. This will be MVP’s sophomore appearance under the UFC banner, outdueling Kevin Holland in his debut. The two dangerous strikers have very different styles on the feet that should play out in a fan-friendly affair.


The UFC 303 early prelims air live on ESPN+, ESPN and UFC Fight Pass starting at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the preliminary card on ESPN+ and ESPN at 8 p.m. ET. The main card airs on ESPN+ pay-per-view at 10 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Dan Kuhl and Matt Petela preview the action in this week’s edition of Toe-to-Toe.

The first meeting between Alex Pereira and Jiří Procházka was fun while it lasted; will the short-notice rematch be just as exciting?

Kuhl: Yes, the rematch between Alex Pereira and Jiří Procházka is going to go just like the first one. It will be exciting as hell, and it is not going past the first round. After his back-to-back demolitions of Procházka and then Jamahal Hill, we have seen Pereira as a dominant force at light heavyweight, and all of the questions about his grappling prowess have gone unanswered. Procházka tried to solve the Pereira puzzle once, and he was unsuccessful. I expect this one to go even quicker. Pereira knocks him out in Round 1.

Petela: I don’t think this fight ends with Alex Pereira holding onto his belt. I know that he fought successfully at middleweight but he is absolutely huge and the weight cut from taking this fight on short notice at his age is going to be absolutely grueling. That is a problem against someone as wild as Prochazka. All Prochazka has to do is not get hit for the first round. Easier said than done, especially with his style but I think he avoids the big shot early and capitalizes on a quickly emptying gas tank of Pereira in the second or third round.

This still won’t answer the grappling questions, and Pereira deserves a ton of credit for putting his belt on the line in a short notice affair but his title reign ends and the Jiri Prochazka era at light heavyweight begins.

Diego Lopes has the biggest opportunity of his career as he takes on former title challenger Brian Ortega; can Lopes shine or will Ortega make it back-to-back wins for the first time since 2018?

Petela: Two of Brian Ortega’s three losses came in championship bouts and the third was a shoulder injury against eventual interim titleholder Yair Rodriguez that Ortega would avenge in the rematch. That is all to say that the question makes it seem like Ortega has had an up and down career over the past six years, but that really isn’t the case. He has been on the precipice of a title for several years and just hasn’t quite gotten over the hump. At 33 years old, he is still in his prime and has a couple years before the downslide starts. He is without a doubt the best submission artist in the featherweight division, and that will be on display against Diego Lopes.

Lopes might just be the most underrated featherweight on the roster, and he is a talented grappler in his own right, having secured 12 wins by submission thus far in his career. I actually think that his confidence in his submission skills will be his downfall against “T-City” at UFC 303. Whereas most fighters try to avoid getting entangled with Ortega on the ground, Lopes will welcome the grappling and there will be a number of fun exchanges and transitions between the pair. Ultimately, Ortega’s superior submission skills will prevail and in the third round he will capitalize on the smallest of openings and grab hold of Lopes’ neck and not let go until he forces a tap. This is going to be the best fight on the card and it ends with Ortega’s hands raised and him calling for the next shot at the title.

Kuhl: I’m going the other direction on this one. Diego Lopes is young, tough, well-rounded, and, other than an unsuccessful bid on the Contender Series, his only real UFC loss was in his promotional debut on five days’ notice when he went the distance with Movsar Evloev. And, even in that loss, he still earned a Fight of the Night bonus. Since then, he finished three opponents in a row, all in the first round, including Sodiq Yusuff last just two and a half months ago.

I know that Ortega is known for his grappling skills. He is a 20-year veteran of the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in California, but Lopes began competing in jiu-jitsu before Ortega even started training in it. In MMA, Lopes may not have had the level of opponents that Ortega has up until this point, but he has shown a tremendous balance between grappling and striking that Ortega just doesn’t have. He’s a much more well-rounded fighter.

This one is not going to be pretty for Ortega. Lopes has three-inch height and reach advantages, has more than enough defensive grappling skills to fend off Ortega’s attacks, and he is a more proficient striker on the feet. Ortega is going to look for the takedown, and, Lopes will oblige, fending off any attacks. Lopes takes this one by TKO before the midpoint of Round 2.

Who’s the biggest winner at UFC 303?

Kuhl: Diego Lopes will be the biggest winner, by far. With a big TKO of Brian Ortega, his stock will jump immensely, and he could soon see a title shot.

Petela: Jiri Prochazka. Getting put into a main event on a major pay-per-view card comes with a heavy bag of cash. Plus, the circumstances are ripe for him to get his title back. Furthermore, evening out the series with Pereira at one win apiece will set up a monster payday in the trilogy.

Who’s the biggest loser at UFC 303?

Petela: This is as low hanging as fruit gets but it has to be Conor McGregor. His return was a long time coming and having to pull out with a toe injury can’t be how the former double champion wanted this to play out. He is the same guy who chided Rafael dos Anjos for pulling out of their fight with a foot injury and now he is at the butt of the jokes. The longer it goes, the less likely it is that McGregor ever fights again and even if he does fight again it is highly unlikely that fans see the same talent that he once had that allowed him to talk heaps of trash. From here on out he won’t be able to take over and he will be lucky if he is even able to take part.

Kuhl: The fans who paid an arm and a leg to see Conor McGregor and Michael Chandler fight are getting totally screwed. And, even with that bout, the card was good, but not great for an International Fight Week marquee event. There are fighters coming in off losing streaks, ones that are on the bubble or nearing the end of a career, and match-ups where most mainstream fans have probably never heard of either fighter. Anyone who is paying the current resale rates of $300 to $3,000 for tickets to this event are not getting the product that one would expect. There are some hastily-matched bouts and some fights that are pretty meh. The ones paying to go to this show live are losing the most.

What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?

Kuhl: Andre Fili is definitely on the chopping block. He’s been in the UFC for a long time, has not really done much, and a loss to an aging Cub Swanson would put him at 2-3 in his last five fights. He needs a win to avoid the walking papers.

Petela: Michelle Waterson-Gomez. Wow, does she need a win. The last time the “Karate Hottie” was victorious in the UFC was a narrow split decision win against Angela Hill in 2020. That is actually her only victory in her last seven fights. Her opponent, Gillian Robertson has won three of her last four outings and has looked as good as ever lately. This is an uphill battle for Waterson-Gomez with potentially her roster spot on the line.

Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?

Petela: Joe Pyfer vs. Marc-Andre Barriault. The last time we saw Pyfer fight, it was in a main event where he looked great until he faced exhaustion and lost a unanimous decision to wily veteran Jack Hermansson. Trying to get that taste out of his mouth, Pyfer will come out aggressively against Barriault. The man known as “Powerbar” got that nickname for a reason as he has a seemingly endless gas tank. When these two powerful athletes meet in the center of the cage with the pedal to the floor there is sure to be fireworks.

Kuhl: Charles Jourdain and Jean Silva are going to put on a great fight. Neither of these guys are boring to watch. Jourdain is a five-year veteran of the UFC, who has had many close decisions, finished guys, gotten finished, and he lives and dies by the sword. Silva is only making his sophomore UFC appearance, and he has only two career losses, both by decision. Almost every other fight he has been in has resulted in a win by finish. These two are going to put on a show.

Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?

Kuhl: Michael “Venom” Page is going to hand Ian Garry his first professional loss with a dazzling knockout to earn himself and some extra cash for the flight home.

Petela: Roman Dolidze. Moving up to light heavyweight is a risk but a calculated one as he is going up against an aging Anthony Smith. He will end up knocking out Smith early on in the fight and doing more than enough to score one of the post-fight bonuses.

Pair this card with…

Petela: Delivery pizza. Some of the most memorable nights are the ones where plans fall through and you end up splitting a couple pies with a few buddies. That is kind of what happened with UFC 303. The Conor McGregor fiasco put a damper on the event initially but the replacement card is going to outshine the Irish star’s potential return. So hit up your favorite local pizza joint and enjoy the show with some close friends and don’t fret about the fact that the sport’s biggest star is probably never going to fight again.

Kuhl: This is going to be a long event, so grab some lighter beers. A radler always goes good on a sweltering summer evening, and grab some random basic appetizers to spread out over a long evening. Nachos, wings, pigs in a blanket, and other things you can snack on throughout the evening without getting full will be the way to go.

Fight Kuhl’s Pick Petela’s Pick
Main Card (ESPN+ pay-per-view, 10 p.m. ET)
LHW Championship: Alex Pereira vs. Jiri Prochazka Pereira Prochazka
FW: Brian Ortega vs. Diego Lopes Lopes Ortega
LHW: Anthony Smith vs. Roman Dolidze Dolidze Dolidze
Women’s BW: Mayra Bueno Silva vs. Macy Chiasson Bueno Silva Chiasson
WW: Ian Machado Garry vs. Michael Page Page Page
Preliminary Card (ESPN+/ESPN, 8 p.m. ET)
MW: Joe Pyfer vs. Marc-Andre Barriault Pyfer Pyfer
FW: Cub Swanson vs. Andre Fili Swanson Fili
FW: Charles Jourdain vs. Jean Silva Jourdain Jourdain
BW: Payton Talbott vs. Yanis Ghemmouri Talbott Talbott
Early Prelims (ESPN+/ESPN/UFC Fight Pass, 6 p.m. ET)
Women’s StrawW: Michelle Waterson-Gomez vs. Gillian Robertson Robertson Waterson-Gomez
HW: Andrei Arlovski vs. Martin Buday Buday Buday
FlyW: Carlos Hernandez vs. Rei Tsuruya Tsuruya Hernandez
BW: Ricky Simon vs. Vinicius Oliveira Simon Simon