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Fantasy Matchups; Light Heavyweight Edition

The Dream

We all have our fantasy matchups. To keep on track we’re just focusing on the light heavyweight division today. My all time dream matchup is Kazushi Sakuraba vs Rickson Gracie. This would happen with Pride rules in 1997. We MMA fans have just a few organizations that set up fights. One of those organizations has a monopoly on fighter talent, for the most part, so there aren’t a lot of matchups that go unmatched. That is why this article will be about current contenders.

The State of Things 

The light heavyweight division used to be the crown jewel of the UFC. The fighter that was once the lynchpin of the division, chosing food over legacy. It’s not the first time a great 205’er has aligned his loyalty with snacks over the LHW belt.
The last year has been especially hard. There have been vacancies of the belt, confusing title matches, and just outright bad contenders. A glimmer of hope was Glover Teixeira’s title run and win. His short reign showed what was possible in martial arts. It was a true underdog story, and who doesn’t love an underdog story?
Other contenders have been less inspired. Some of the UFC’s experimentation with bringing football athletes into combat sports washed out into the heavier divisions. Greg Hardy showed there was a floor to what was possible when a freak athlete doesn’t progress in the technique aspect of fighting. Dominick Reyes was a brief contender, flaming out under intense conditions. His athleticism carried him to a title shot. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to recreate his early success. 

A New Hope

205 has been undergoing a few “building years” when it comes to rounding out its roster. It’s lost some great fighters, Paul Craig, Glover Teixeira, Jon Jones, all respectively choosing diets, retirement, and a robust bulking phase. Lucky for 205 fans, the company is bringing in some great talent to replace them.

Glover Teixeira’s training partner, Alex Pereira, has been chewing up the UFC’s roster for a little over a year now. He’s an incredible kickboxer who has been able to make a focused style work in MMA. This is more than rare in the UFC in 2023. 

Other notable specialists in the top rankings of the UFC are; Israel Adesanya.  Maybe Leon Edwards. That’s it. 

Alex Periera received a callout from the champ of the 185 division after absolutely nuking Sean Strickland. You can watch the full fight right here. It’s very short. Poatan then knocked Izzy out to take the belt. He lost the belt in their rematch after falling for a trap that Izzy had been setting over the course of three fights and two rounds. He then took the #3 contender’s spot in the Light Heavyweight division by grinding out a win against the very tough Jan Blachowicz. This has all been since November of 2021. He’s speed running at GOAT status in MMA. 

Image – MMA Fighting

Alex is Not Without His Controversy

His last win against Jan Blachowicz stirred the pot with the fans of the Polish Power. This does not concern me. Alex had the more effective striking while Jan opted to utilize takedowns and rarely advanced his position. In an MMA fight, if takedowns and ground control time aren’t utilized to create more damage or attack submissions, it can’t be graded as effective. Therefore, Alex’s effective striking overrules Jan’s effective grappling. Anyone who disagrees with me can, in fact, make like a tree and shut up

A Worthy Challenge at the Top

The last time I was truly moved by a 205 fight was when Jiri Prochazka and Glover Teixeira fought for the belt in June of 2022. That fight was on my short list for Fight of the Year. It was five rounds of pure blood and guts. Neither fighter stopped trying to end the fight the entire time it was going. Jiri finally did end the fight at four minutes and thirty-two seconds in the fifth round. Do yourself a favor and watch it right now.

Image – BBC

Before you come in and ask, “why did it take Jiri almost half an hour to submit a 73 year old man?” Consider what Glover did to Anthony Smith and Jan Blachowicz. Glover is no easy out, and he’s been shoring up Poatan’s grappling game over the last couple of years. 

Jiri is the kind of fighter that throws awkward strikes from every angle. He also throws crazy submissions from every position. He has twenty nine wins in MMA with twenty eight finishes. Jiri sent Dominick Reyes to the shadow realm with a spinning elbow. Jiri was another in a long line of inspiring 205 champs, until he vacated the belt to get shoulder surgery, rather than hold up the division. That kind act is a far cry from what Jon Jones has done in the past. 

Poatan vs Prochazka

They say styles make fights, and this one is a banger. Alex is a fearless kickboxer who thrives on aggressiveness and power shots. I know, “aren’t all kickboxers aggressive?” Yes, but Pereira is really, really aggressive.

“Hands of Stone”

Alex’s nickname is actually “Po Atan,” which literally translated means “Hands of Stone.” The Glory kickboxing champ likes to enter boxing range with well timed straight shots to get his opponents fighting off of their back foot, and once he gets their back to the ring or cage, he unleashes an unfettered barrage of power shots that crumples almost everyone that has to endure it. The main offender is his left hook. There have been many times where Pereira will just knock dudes out entering the pocket. Strickland is an example of this, however he is not the only one. Pereira will also throw a knee up the middle to enter striking range, which has been the last strike in many of his matches. He is an example of solid fundamentals displayed with brutality and grace.

“The Last Samurai”

Jiri has been in the UFC a little more than a year longer than Alex Pereira, and he’s racked up an impressive number of knockouts. His counter-striking is impressive, to say the least, throwing a shocking variety of strikes while in combinations off of his back foot. That’s not to say he is a back foot fighter. He comes forward, and when he smells a finish, he goes in for the kill with exemplary accuracy. They also say that it’s the shots you don’t see coming that knock you out, and Jiri throws shots from every angle. It’s impossible to see them all coming

The Light Heavyweight Fantasy in Summation

I really, really, really hope the UFC makes Jiri Prochazka vs Alex Pereira for the vacant light heavyweight belt. Not only is it genuinely terrifying dude vs genuinely terrifying dude, it’s just a fantastic style matchup that doesn’t disappoint. This fight is all I want for Christmas! 

What My Dream Matches Aren’t

Anything involving Jake Paul. That guy is an absolute doorknob. I woke up this morning and the first meme I saw was this. After realizing it was fake, I was in a bad mood the rest of the day (thanks a lot). Strickland would beat Jake Paul like a bottle of acyclovir. Look it up. 

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