In the absence of Jon Jones, the UFC is in need of a new superstar in the light heavyweight division. Jiri Prochazka recently proved that he has the tools to fill the role.
The up-and-coming Czech fighter demonstrated that he's ready for the big stage after finishing former title challenger Dominick Reyes in the main event of UFC Vegas 25. Jiri Prochazka unloaded with a right elbow, followed by a thunderous spinning back elbow to send an unconscious Reyes crashing face-first to the canvas.
Former UFC middleweight champion and commentator Michael Bisping perfectly summed up the biggest story out of UFC Vegas 25:
"Right elbow, left elbow. Finds the target. Out like a light. Job done. My word, we've got a new contender."
Based on his recent performance, Jiri Prochazka showed that he's on his way to become more than just a contender. If you're not convinced after UFC Vegas 25, we can give you five reasons to buy into the Jiri Prochazka hype.
5 reasons why Jiri Prochazka could take the mantle from Jon Jones
#5 Jiri Prochazka is young for a UFC light heavyweight
The top five in the UFC light heavyweight rankings are made up of aging veterans with the exception of a couple of fighters.
Number one contender Glover Teixeira has enjoyed a late-career resurgence after collecting five straight wins. But at 41, Teixeira's best days are certainly behind him. Meanwhile, 4th-ranked Thiago Santos is already 37 years old and has floundered in his last two outings.
Even defending champion Jan Blachowicz can no longer be considered young for a professional athlete. The Polish star is a late bloomer and has just started his title reign at 38 years old.
Besides Jiri Prochazka, 29-year-old Aleksandar Rakić is the only contender at light heavyweight still in his prime.
At 28, Prochazka will have a youth advantage in a title match against either Blachowicz or Teixeira. If Prochazka fails on his first try, he's still young enough to claw his way back into title contention.
#4 Jiri Prochazka is a highlight factory
Prochazka is the exact opposite of that. The surging star finished his last nine opponents in the second round or earlier, with the exception of Muhammed Lawal at Rizin 15.
That's not to say, however, that Prochazka's style is better than the one that Jon Jones emloyed. 'Bones' is entertaining in a different way, as he outshines his opponents in every aspect of MMA.
But if Prochazka wins the UFC light heavyweight title, he will usher in a new era in the 205-pound weight class. No disrespect to Blachowicz but Prochazka, as the champion, will be a much-needed breath of fresh air following Jon Jones's long and complicated reign at the top of the light heavyweight division.
#3 Jiri Prochazka is charismatic
Talent and good performances don't always help fighters rise to superstardom. Great fighters also need to possess intangible qualities for fans to latch on to them
In that sense, Jiri Prochazka has everything that fans are looking for in a superstar fighter. He has one-punch knockout power and a flashy move set to go with it. He looks unique with his warrior braid hairstyle. And he also has a great sense of humor.
At the UFC Vegas 25 post-fight press conference, Jiri Prochazka jested that his distinct hairdo had something to do with his highlight reel-worthy KO:
“That was just the flow. Just the flow, it comes. That’s why I have this antenna, to catch these ideas."
Prochazka was in the mood to make jokes, but never at the expense of his opponent. In an era where many prospects think talking trash is the most effective way to garner publicity, seeing Prochazka remain humble after a dominant win is refreshing.
#2 Jiri Prochazka can beat any contender at light heavyweight
The upside of having knockout power – especially in a higher weight class, like 205 – is that one shot is all it takes for Prochazka to secure a victory at any given point in a fight.
However, Prochazka is far from a polished fighter. His lax defensive stance needs to improve if he wants to avoid absorbing heavy shots to the head. Against Reyes, Prochazka's inability to defend against counterpunches almost led to his downfall.
At one point, Reyes looked like he was about to make an epic comeback after stunning Prochazka with a huge left hand. But the Czech showed that he too was resilient as he recovered and ended the fight spectacularly.
#1 Jiri Prochazka will have a built-in fanbase
Non-American UFC stars tend to reach a high level of fame, thanks in part to their local fanbase at home. Local supporters of non-American fighters are more enthusiastic than the average UFC fan as they are also rooting for their country whenever their favorite athlete fights.
Georges St-Pierre has Canada, Conor McGregor has Ireland, Francis Ngannou has Cameroon, and the list goes on and on. If Jiri Prochazka could capture the UFC light heavyweight crown, he would surely have the full support of the Czech Republic behind him.
More than that, having a foreign UFC champion opens an opportunity for fight fans to learn more about a different culture.