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LAS VEGAS — English isn’t Jiri Prochazka’s first language, but the UFC light heavyweight charmed the gaggle of media that hung on his every word after he scored one of the most brutal finishes in the 27-plus-year history of the UFC.
Prochazka laid waste to his second consecutive former title challenger, this time knocking out Dominick Reyes with a spinning back elbow that landed on the point of the chin and ended the fight instantly at 4:29 of the second round.
Prochazka’s hair stood straight up his head in a vertical ponytail of sorts, which he described as “antenna to catch those ideas” about what to do in the fight. After he walked off the dais, he posed for a picture when someone commented on his hair. “I hope the style police don’t fine me,” he said.
He had perfect timing and a great answer when he was asked what he’d do with the $100,000 of bonuses he won for Fight of the Night and Performance of the Night. “I will buy some expensive car and crash it,” he said, deadpan. Later, he added he would spend his money on “girls, cars, expensive ships and big parties.”
But the thing that gives Prochazka the potential to be a star among stars is his ability to knock out anyone at anytime from any position and his unwillingness to simply settle for just good enough.
After scoring one of the most remarkable knockouts in UFC history, he said there are “new skills, new things I need to learn.” He talked about wanting to master his craft and said he’s not there yet.
But then he got serious and said that despite blowing out a pair of former title challengers in his two UFC bouts while running his knockout streak to 10 consecutive fights, he wants to take time off so he can work on his mistakes.
He said the same thing on Fight Island in September after kayoing Volkan Oezdemir, and on Saturday, he beamed and boasted briefly about his defensive efforts.
“Did you see my blocks,” he asked, gesturing with his arms the ways he protected his face.
He’s a fun guy who has a fun style and a sense of humor that will draw people to him. It’s early in his career, and there have been many fighters who have started quickly in the UFC only to flame out.
Prochazka wants to give himself the best chance by taking it slowly and spending time at home fixing what he perceives as his flaws.
“The other side for myself is just to live in the forest in a small house and practice day by day, just practicing and going for the mastery day by day,” he said. “Nothing else. I think that’s the most real thing inside me now.”
He’s made a huge splash in his seven months on the UFC roster and already is being called out by Jan Blachowicz, the division’s champion who already has a bout scheduled with No. 1 contender Glover Teixeira.
Prochazka was brilliant in the first round and hurt Reyes repeatedly. He bloodied his nose and mouth and wobbled Reyes several times. He did more of the same in the second until the sensational finish, but wouldn’t agree that it was his best.
The reason is simple: Reyes countered him several times and hit him hard, surprising him.
“There were so many chances to end the fight earlier,” Prochazka said. “I don’t want to be in the cage so long. Why be in there so long? I need to work on the mastery.”
MMA is a sport of mistakes, and it’s minimizing the effects of yours and taking advantage of your opponents’ that ultimately decide most fights. Prochazka made a few mistakes, but nothing that ever put him in serious danger.
Reyes caught him in a guillotine at one point, but Prochazka stayed calm and yanked his neck free. It wasn’t long until the brutal, violent finish that left jaws agape throughout the building.
If he keeps pulling off these kinds of finishes, he’s going to be one of the most popular fighters in the world.
And while the lure to buy fancy cars and throw nice parties will be even greater, you get the sense that Prochazka could be the one who doesn’t give in to that sort of temptation.
He’s not looking to play to the crowd and even said it didn’t matter whether he fought in a largely empty arena like he did on Saturday or in front of a full house of screaming fans.
“It’s all about upgrading myself and adding new skills,” he said.
The cars and parties are, apparently, going to have to wait.
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