Preview: UFC 300 Prelims

Rakic vs. Prochazka

UFC 300 on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas is absolutely loaded. Beyond the strong main draw, the prelims would represent one of the best UFC Fight Night events in years as a standalone card. The top three fights all feature former champions, each with their own interesting angle. Former light heavyweight titleholder Jiri Prochazka looks to bring the chaos against the slow-and-steady Aleksandar Rakic; former bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling attempts to start a featherweight campaign against Calvin Kattar; and former women’s bantamweight queen Holly Holm tries to stave off debuting Olympic gold medalist Kayla Harrison. Beyond those pairings, there are fights matched for action—like the Sodiq Yusuff-Diego Lopes and Jalin Turner-Renato Carneiro tilts—and yet another record-breaking Jim Miller appearance. Three other former Ultimate Fighting Championship titleholders are also in action, as former strawweight queen Jessica Andrade takes on Marina Rodriguez and former bantamweight boss Cody Garbrandt takes on former flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo in the opener.

Now to the preview for the UFC 300 prelims:


Light Heavyweights

#5 LHW | Aleksandar Rakic (14-3, 6-2 UFC) vs. #2 LHW | Jiri Prochazka (29-4-1, 3-1 UFC)

ODDS: Rakic (-120), Prochazka (+100)

This matchup checks a lot of boxes, as beyond possibly determining the next title challenger in the light heavyweight division, it's a fascinating style clash between two fights that have a decent bit to prove. Prochazka’s UFC debut was expected to bring a breath of fresh air at 205 pounds, and the Czech fighter certainly lived up to that hype, crashing the party and ascending to the light heavyweight championship in just three fights. But each of Prochazka’s UFC fights have been an adventure, owing to a fighting style that’s as unique as his personality outside of the cage. He doesn’t have much in the way of built-in defense, relying on his vision to keep him out of trouble until he can land a fight-ending moment of offense. It both works and doesn’t, as Prochazka eats offense fairly reliably as part of his process, but he’s enough of an outlier athlete that, combined with the fact that almost everything he throws goes against conventional wisdom, he can usually catch his opponent off-guard before the final horn. All three of Prochazka’s UFC victories have seen him come back from the brink of defeat at one point or another, including his 2022 title win over Glover Teixeira, 24 minutes and 32 seconds of fighting that essentially saw the two trade near-finishes up until the point that Prochazka found a submission. It was the type of entertaining war that figured to launch Prochazka to some form of stardom, but he never really got a chance to capitalize on that momentum, suffering a severe shoulder injury that forced him to vacate the belt before his first title defense. As it turns out, the light heavyweight title essentially decided to wait for Prochazka to return. An interim title fight between Magomedov Ankalaev and Jan Blachowicz went to a draw, and after Jamahal Hill beat Teixeira for the still-vacant belt, Hill was forced to vacate due to injury, at which point Prochazka was back at full health. But Prochazka’s return fight, against Alex Pereira for the vacant belt, is where his approach finally came back to bite him. Pereira’s low-kicking game caused some issues for the former champ and left him without much of a safety valve, and while Prochazka had his moments, it was clearly Pereira’s fight up until the point that he scored a second-round knockout. Prochazka looks to rebound here and get back into title contention—particularly if Hill beats Pereira in the UFC 300 main event—against Rakic, who’s become a forgotten man in the last two years.

Fighting out of Australia and representing Serbia, Rakic was essentially an unknown upon making his UFC debut in 2017. His level of competition on the regional scene didn’t look particularly outstanding, and there was little in the way of available footage. But Rakic quietly impressed in his first few UFC fights, taking care of some solid veteran tests until breakout wins over Devin Clark and Jimi Manuwa, both highlight-reel knockouts that got the UFC firmly in the Rakic business. Even a 2019 loss to Volkan Oezdemir didn’t do much to slow Rakic’s momentum, particularly since it was a controversial split decision that most felt Rakic won, as he wound up in prominent slots for every fight going forward. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a particular standout performance among that bunch, even as Rakic has proven himself worthy of being in the light heavyweight title picture. “Rocket” has settled into a neutralizing style, content to either pick his opponent apart at range or outwork them in a grind when things get into close quarters. Anthony Smith tried to bring the fight to Rakic and mostly failed, as Rakic consistently reversed Smith’s takedown attempts to grind out a win himself, and a follow-up victory over Thiago Santos never got going thanks to Santos’ increasingly patient form. But wins are wins, and Rakic seemed set to crash the light heavyweight title picture after two rounds against Blachowicz in 2022, only for Rakic to suddenly suffer a major knee injury that’s kept him out of action for two years. This return fight is a double-edged sword. It’s a huge opportunity for a win that could mark Rakic as the next title challenger, but the contrast between Rakic’s patient and safe style and Prochazka’s approach—which is anything but patient and safe—could make for a dynamic that takes Rakic out of his comfort zone. However, if Rakic shows up anywhere near his prior form, this does still look like his fight to lose. He’s another Prochazka opponent willing to low kick that should find a ton of success, and if things start to go south on the feet for Rakic, he’s been content to quickly pivot to a wrestling game that Prochazka doesn’t seem capable of stopping. The main issue is that Prochazka will be consistently dangerous for however long the fight lasts, which has been enough to beat everyone save Pereira recently, and that Rakic might not be able to afford eating that one shot to convince him to pivot to his wrestling. But there are so many holes in Prochazka’s defensive game and Rakic is so practiced that, even with the injury layoff, Rakic gets the benefit of the doubt here. The pick is Rakic via decision.

Continue Reading »
Rakic vs. Prochazka
Sterling vs. Kattar
Harrison vs. Holm
Lopes vs. Yusuff
Turner vs. Carneiro
Andrade vs. Rodriguez
Green vs. Miller
Figueiredo vs. Garbrandt
More Fight Odds

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