If you’ve been living under a rock, I’ve got to tell you, Jiri Prochazka is the real deal. Last weekend he dominated (pun intended) Dominick Reyes and knocked him out with a beautiful spinning back elbow in the second round of the main event at UFC Vegas 25. Prochazka is the latest example of something I’ve been saying for a while: the UFC is losing it’s grip on top talent. With the emergence of Prochazka and Michael Chandler, I’d say yes. Let’s look at the two fighter’s rise to the title and what it means for fighters outside the UFC.
Jiri Prochazka: The Latest Contender at Light Heavyweight
As mentioned, Jiri Prochazka knocked out Reyes in the second round. But in his debut, he put away another title challenger in Volkan Oezdemir. I’ve called light heavyweight the new division to watch and Prochazka is proving so. After his two amazing wins, he’s next in line for a title shot against the winner of Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira. Prochazka’s knockout sent a cold, yet stern warning to light heavyweights: I’m here.
To be honest, I favor Prochazka in either of those matchups as well. Both Blachowicz and Teixeira have their hands full with the bushido Croatian.
But, Prochazka isn’t the first…
Enter, Michael Chandler
Michael Chandler’s rise to the top has been even more swift than Prochazka. With only one fight, a win over Dan Hooker that was a first round knockout, sees Chandler fighting Charles Oliveira for the title Khabib vacated upon retirement. Chandler has long been one of the best lightweights in the world and Bellator stans have been screaming it.
The UFC Lost It’s Stranglehold
Sure, the top of the UFC is still by and large the best in the world. Nobody outside the UFC has a shot at Kamaru Usman right now. But the fighters outside the UFC are catching up. With the Pitbull bothers, Vadim Nemkov, Kayla Harrison, and Bibiano Fernandes, it’s apparent that stars outside the UFC can emerge.
The UFC is missing out on all these stars, but that’s okay. It’s just further internationalization of mixed martial arts. It’s also a step closer to complete cross-promotional events, something that’s already starting now.
With RIZIN and Bellator teaming up, ONE Championship throwing their name into the hat and more, look for more collecting of belts, similar to how Kyoji Horiguchi captured the RIZIN and Bellator titles.
There are legitimate fighters not in the UFC now. With the UFC beholden to stockholders now after Endeavour’s IPO, look for that stranglehold on the best to dwindle, as the UFC will chase what sells the best, regardless of what’s best. That should prompt RIZIN, PFL, Bellator, and ONE to all become very loud and obnoxious about having the best. Get the fans talking about it. Make a case for “the best flyweight in the world not being Deiveson Figueiredo.” Make it loud. Fans will demand it, and then the shareholders will demand it.
Then we get the WBA and the WBC split in boxing, good or bad. At least we get Nemkov vs. Prochazka 2 in the future.