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Most of the true relevance at UFC 251 this Saturday in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, can be found on the main card, but Fight Island month kicks off with a fun slate of prelims headlined by the debuting Jiri Prochazka’s attempt to become an immediate light heavyweight contender at the expense of Volkan Oezdemir.
While Prochazka-Oezdemir remains the clear gem on the undercard, no one should take issue with a lineup that features guaranteed action fighters like Muslim Salikhov and Makwan Amirkhani. Add in a rare appearance from Leonardo Santos and some intriguing newcomers, and this should definitely provide some entertainment.
Now to the preview for the UFC 251 “Usman vs. Masvidal” prelims:
Light HeavyweightsVolkan Oezdemir (17-4) vs. Jiri Prochazka (26-3-1)
ODDS: Oezdemir (-160), Prochazka (+140)
Prochazka’s much-anticipated Ultimate Fighting Championship debut takes center stage, and it will be interesting to see how the former Rizin Fighting Federation light heavyweight titleholder fares inside the Octagon. Prochazka has put together as strong a resume as possible, racking up wins against both veteran names and rising prospects, but he remains a strange fighter. Prochazka is an obvious physical talent with a lanky frame for the division, but he has never developed much of a process to his fighting style, even 30 fights deep into his career. Prochazka tends to rely on his ability to find the knockout, and to his credit, it has paid off. Even in fights where the Czech finds himself getting outwrestled and controlled, he eventually lands one powerful blow that sends things careening towards a victory. The UFC is throwing Prochazka right into the deep end, as his first fight comes against a former title contender. Oezdemir may have earned a title shot with knockouts over Misha Cirkunov and Jimi Manuwa, but he has become a much more consistent fighter in the years since after surviving a post-title fight losing streak. Oezdemir has developed an effective pressure striking game that he got the chance to fully show off against Ilir Latifi, and while a narrow win over Aleksandar Rakic showed that he still is not much of a wrestler, that does not look to be a concern in this assignment. To that end, this is probably the best matchup for Prochazka to immediately make an impact in his new home, since he will have 15 minutes to land a fight-ending blow. However, it is still difficult to pick Prochazka—Oezdemir is his best opponent to date, and against his strongest competition, the promotional newcomer has been firmly losing until the moment when he suddenly wins. Part of the fun with Prochazka is watching him pull those finishes out of nowhere, but from an objective standpoint, that means there is no real reason to favor him here. The pick is Oezdemir via decision.
Continue Reading » Salikhov vs. Zaleski dos Santos
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