The UFC returns to Madison Square Garden in New York City this Saturday night with two title fights and a stacked fight card.
The main event battle is a UFC Light Heavyweight Championship showdown between Jiri Prochazka and Alex Pereira. Prochazka returns from injury and will attempt to reclaim the title. Pereira gets the opportunity to become a two-division champion in the UFC if he’s successful on the night.
Read on as we break down Prochazka vs. Pereira before sharing our predictions, picks, and best bets for this main event matchup.
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Prochazka vs Pereira betting odds
After Prochazka was available at odds of +120 for weeks, the betting lines have now tightened as it seems bets continue to come in on the former champion.
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Prochazka vs Pereira staff predictions
Jiri Prochazka is synonymous with one word. “Unpredictable”. The man is an anomaly among professional athletes of all disciplines and treats himself more as a samurai-esk martial artist than a professional athlete in presentation and training method.
This has allowed him to develop a fight style built on unorthodox movement, rhythms and angles, he will make long strides, stepping through from a bladed stance, which typically would seem to take too long and expose the legs, however because it’s something that rarely people train to deal with he tends to get away with it and it allows him to make contact from spaces that fighters aren’t used to.
Being as unpredictable as possible is his asset in this fight, as Alex Periera with his wealth of experience, has honed in on textbook practices against the highest level of kickboxers and what you would expect of a high-level kickboxer.
However, the creativity on the side of Prochazka does also require him to have space to be creative. Alex Periera should look to shut that space down so it’s important that Prochazka can do something to cause hesitation. Although he is not someone who will look to maintain and attack a wrestling-based gameplan, feinting the takedown and trying to execute them early could potential at least slow Periera’s forward movement. The idea that overcommitting could lead him to a Prochazka level change is important.
As well, although we may not see too many takedowns from Prochazka, he should also have the scrambling and grappling advantage in general. It would be wise for him to use any wild striking exchanges to incite some kind of scramble that ends up on the mat. Although Periera’s grappling is improving he still demonstrates holes to be exploited, potentially giving up his back or being caught in smash positions where he is unable to work through his own transitions. Prochazka needs to mix everything to expose potential submission opportunities for the win.
On the side of Periera, shutting down space and putting Prochazka on the fence is a must. Periera does an excellent job of moving between his left hook and right calf kick. He does the latter in an unusual manner where he throws his hips back in order to land the kick at a shorter range while still maintaining tha heavy power. It also keeps him in range to follow up with the left hook on an unbalanced opponent.
Attacking Prochazka’s legs and body early on would disable his movement to some degree, and a fighter like Prochazka that tends to rely on intuitive movement needs his body to respond to that. The more Periera can chip away, the less effective that becomes, the less likely Prochazka can flow through with his creativity and the less likely he can produce the power within scrambles to hold Periera down.
Ultimately, Prochazka is unique enough to throw someone like Periera off of his game, but I think it’s Periera’s fight to win or lose. If the Brazilian can cause early damage to the body and legs and establish himself as the forward moving presence I think the tide vastly shifts in his favor for the rest of the fight.
The main thing after that is not leaving himself open if he does find Prochazka hurt. Prochazka is as dangerous as anyone when he is desperate and seems to be out and Periera has gotten overzealous before. The more disciplined he comes into this fight the better the outcome for him I believe.
Pick: Alex Periera to win (-128 at BetUS)
Jiri “BJD” Prochazka, much like his opponent, was thrust into the rankings early in his career and it didn’t take long- only 2 UFC fights- for him to win the 205 belt. Jiri has a fun and weird style that is uniquely his own and uniquely effective. On paper, Prochazka is wild, hittable, and an unrefined striker. But, fights aren’t won or lost on paper. In the cage, those attributes have presented more as explosive, durable, and powerful. When he’s on, which he has been in all 3 of his UFC fights and for most of his career, Prochaska’s skills are that of the latter and they are impressive.
He is willing to win a fight in anyway necessary and has the ability to do so more often than not. If an opponent wants a more methodical kickboxing match, Prochazka will still bring the aggression and pressure but is also capable of sitting back and picking his shots at a high rate of success.
Then, if an opponent wants to get in tight and make the match more like a fight, Prochazka is all too happy to oblige and will happily engage in a dirty boxing fight with elbows, knees, and, often, plenty of blood. No matter the style of fight, Jiri consistently brings aggression and pressure into the cage along with huge power and a durability that, while tested in all 3 of his fights, has yet to falter.
Alex “Poatan” Pereira may just be on the list of the 5 guys you want to bring with you in the back alley if things go wrong at the bar. He is enormous -even for 205- is an elite kickboxer, and has one punch, death touch type of power. Said simply, he is a baaaddd man who can and often does end fights in an instant. Since joining the UFC, Pereira has only lost to Adesanya, after knocking him out the fight before, and has only gone the distance twice.
Typically, his fights end the same way, with a check left hook from hell that drops and finishes his opponent in one shot. Pereira’s background is as an extremely high level kickboxer and his flexibility, speed, timing, precision, and effortless attacks have all translated well to the MMA world. Characteristically, Pereira fights methodically, using feints and traps to bait an opponent into being overaggressive and leaving an opening.
He accomplishes this by standing tall but on the balls of his feet so he can explode the moment and opening is created. Then, he’ll feint with knees, kicks, and hands to force his opponent to react or counter. His goal is for his opponent to reactively counter a feint which leaves an opening to the body or head which Pereira can punish. If an opponent is unwilling to play “Poatan’s” game, then we get to see cracking calf kicks and a heavy jab which Pereira uses to add some substance to his feints. Regardless of how he creates the opening, because of his experience, athleticism, and technique, Pereira rarely misses an opportunity to end the fight.
To me, this fight is about as close as a fight can get with a unique mix of unknown factors that only add to the intrigue and difficultly making a prediction. If Jiri and AP fought 10 times, I think they would go 5-5 with an entertaining mix of finishes and FOTNs. Because both men are so evenly matched on paper, this fight likely comes down to which man shows up as the better version of himself on Saturday night. If either fighter is even a little bit off, the other has the skillset and propensity for violence to end the fight emphatically.
In a fight like this, I typically side with the underdog, but the odds are near pick’em. So, let’s go another level deeper and look at the out-of-the-cage factors. Prochazka is returning for the first time following a nasty shoulder injury and no one, not even he himself, can confidently predict how the injury or Jiri’s mentality will hold up in real action. Aspinall returned to the cage following an ACL injury and got a knockout without ever being touched. Meanwhile, Dillashaw reinjured his shoulder early in his return fight and promptly lost. Injuries, rehab, and health are all unpredictable which is a tally against Prochazka.
Pereira, meanwhile, gassed out after an average-paced three-round fight in his 205 debut. If he doesn’t end this fight quickly or fix his cardio, Jiri should be able to pull away in rounds 3, 4, and 5. Both fighters have enormously high levels of skill and an ability to end the fight quickly. Both also have question marks ahead of the bout. For me, though, a cardio problem is more fixable than a shoulder injury is reliable.
I think there is a higher percentage chance that Prochazka isn’t 100% compared to Pereira gassing out again. It’s a razor-thin edge but in a fight as close as this one is, a razor-thin edge may be as good as it gets. I’ll tentatively back Pereira to touch gold for the second time in his UFC career.
Best Bet: Pereira to win (-128 at BetUS)
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