Jiri Prochazka took the light heavyweight belt at UFC 272 in one of the most thrilling title fights of all time. The 29-year-old Czech fighter, known for his unorthodox style and excellent striking, was already a fan favorite coming into the UFC, having a strong record Rizin. At UFC 272, Jiri was only two fights into his UFC career but had a great reputation and impressed with wins over Volkan Oezdemir and Dominic Reyes.
On Saturday, Jiri faced Glover Teixeria, who had previously rolled back the years to take the belt from Jan Blachowicz at the age of 41. While most didn’t rate Teixeria’s chances, he put on an impressive performance and was up on the scorecards before being submitted by Jiri in the final round. Before the fight began, Betway had the challenger at -164, while the champion was a slight underdog at +138. Both men gave everything they had, but in the end, Jiri did enough to win.
Now, Jiri Prochazka must defend his belt against the other light heavyweight competitors, but who could be first in line?
Smith has already called out Prochazka and looks to be one of the most likely options to next fight for the title. Since he last fought for the title against Jon Jones at UFC 235, Smith has had four wins and two losses, including to Teixeria. While his wins aren’t over the best of opposition, Smith is still one of the biggest names in the division and could very well be next in line. Currently, the 33-year-old fighter has a scheduled fight against Magomed Ankalaev in July, but a win in that fight could easily put him in the title picture.
The last time Smith fought for the title, he was soundly beaten in a unanimous points decision by then-champion Jon Jones. Since Jones left the division, the title has changed hands a few times, with no fighter able to defend it for long. Smith believes that his experiences and skills could make him the next successor in the light heavyweight lineage.
While Anthony Smith does have a good claim to the number one contender position, he has to get through Ankalaev first. The 30-year-old Dagestani fighter has proven to be a major problem for the division, racking up eight consecutive wins. He did lose his first fight in the UFC in a submission loss to Paul Craig, but since then, he’s looked better each time he fought.
Ankalaev will be a real challenge for Smith to get through, and if he wins, he’ll rightfully have a claim as the number one contender in the division. It’s not easy to win nine consecutive fights in any weight class, but the light heavyweight division, in particular, is tough. His fight against Smith will be a major test, and if he wins, he’ll certainly have earned a shot at the title. It will also be an interesting matchup for Jiri, as we haven’t seen much defensive wrestling from him yet.
Jon Jones has supposedly moved up to heavyweight, although more than a year on from his announcement, and he still hasn’t fought. It’s believed that he’ll fight Stipe Miocic in September, but seemingly nothing has been confirmed just yet. As the former king of the light heavyweight division, he never lost his belt but did have a few bad performances towards the end of his run.
If Jones came back down to light heavyweight, few would argue that he deserves a shot against Jiri Prochazka, and it would be an extremely interesting fight. We’re not expecting this to happen, but it would definitely be one we’d want to watch.