UFC on ESPN 23: Reyes vs. Prochazka Preview

UFC’s light heavyweight division will get an important bout on Saturday evening, as two-time title challenger Dominick Reyes will fight former RIZIN Light Heavyweight Champion Jiri Prochazka. The battle between ranked light heavyweights will headline a “Fight Night” card that is set to happen behind closed doors at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

Here’s a full preview of the card.

Click here to skip to a preview of the main card.

Preliminary Card (7:00PM EDT / 4:00PM PDT) (ESPN 2 / TSN 5)

Bout 1: Luke Sanders (13-4) vs. Felipe Colares (9-2) (Featherweight)

Featherweights Luke Sanders and Felipe Colares have the chance to return to the win column in the opening bout of the card.

Sanders last appeared in November, where Nate Maness submitted him in the second round of their fight with a rear naked choke in a come-from-behind fashion. The bout was Sanders’ first appearance since early 2019.

Colares is competing for the first time in over a year. He last fought in early 2020, where Montel Jackson scored a decision win over him.

Bout 2: KB Bhullar (8-1) vs. Andreas Michailidis (12-4) (Middleweight)

KB Bhullar and Andreas Michailidis both have the chance to earn their first UFC win on the prelims.

Bhullar lost his UFC debut in quick fashion last year, as Tom Breese stopped him in the second minute of their bout with strikes. Bhullar entered the promotion after putting together an undefeated record of eight wins as a pro.

Michailidis’ UFC debut saw him get taken out of a fight after Modestas Bukauskas put up a dominant one-round performance over him.

Bout 3: Sam Hughes (5-2) vs. Loma Lookboonmee (5-2) (Strawweight)

Strawweights Sam Hughes and Loma Lookboonmee are set to collide during the preliminary card on Saturday.

Hughes lost her UFC in late 2020 against Tecia Torres due to a doctor stoppage after the first round. She took the fight on short notice to replace Angela Hill, who withdrew from the card due to a positive COVID-19 test.

Hughes was entering the fight after a three-fight run in LFA. While one of her fights in the stint was a loss, it came during an all-out war against Vanessa Demopoulos to become the promotion’s inaugural 115-pound champion.

Lookboonmee bounced back from a loss in her last showing, fighting to a scorecard victory over former Invicta FC Atomweight Champion Jinh Yu Frey in October.

Bout 4: Kai Kamaka III (8-3) vs. TJ Brown (14-8) (Featherweight)

Kai Kamaka III and TJ Brown will meet during Saturday’s prelims.

Kamaka III was given his first UFC loss in November, as Jonathan Pearce stopped him in the second round of a fight with ground and pound. Kamaka III had quite the momentum around him prior to the loss, having picked up six wins including a UFC debut against Tony Kelley.

Brown is still looking for his first UFC win. He has lost his two UFC appearances, thus far, having faced Jordan Griffin and Danny Chavez during his rookie year with the promotion.

Bout 5: Randa Markos (10-10-1) vs. Luana Pinheiro (8-1) (Strawweight)

A strawweight fight between Randa Markos and Luana Pinheiro will close out the preliminary card.

Markos, a veteran of the UFC, will attempt to snap a three-fight skid for the first time in her career on Saturday. Her streak of losses are solely from 2020, where she lost to Amanda Ribas, Mackenzie Dern and UFC newcomer Kanako Murata.

On the flipside, Pinheiro is entering the UFC following a series of wins on the regional scene. Pinheiro scored her sixth consecutive submission win in November, defeating Stephanie Frausto on “Dana White’s Contender Series” to be awarded a UFC contract.

Main Card (10:00PM EDT / 7:00PM PDT) (ESPN 2 / TSN 5)

Bout 6: Poliana Botelho (8-3) vs. Luana Carolina (6-2) (Flyweight)

The main card is set to kick off with a flyweight fight between Poliana Botelho and Luana Carolina. Both fighters are getting back in the cage after suffering a loss last year.

Carolina was submitted quickly in July by Ariane Lipski, who caught her in the second minute with a kneebar. The fight was Carolina’s return, as her previous fight, which was her UFC debut win, was in May of 2019 against Priscila Cachoeira.

Botelho last competed in October, where fellow UFC vet Gillian Robertson prevailed on scorecards.

Bout 7: Merab Dvalishvili (12-4) vs. Cody Stamann (19-3-1) (Bantamweight)

Merab Dvalishvili’s impressive win streak will be tested on Saturday night by Cody Stamann.

Dvalsihvili has gone on a strong run as of late, putting together five straight wins from 2018 to present. His biggest win in the campaign was his most recent, which saw him defeat UFC veteran John Dodson on scorecards in August.

Stamann lost a close fight in his last appearance, not being favoured on scorecards against Jimmie Rivera. His prior showing saw him prevail against Brian Kelleher.

Bout 8: Sean Strickland (22-3) vs. Krzysztof Jotko (22-4) (Middleweight)

Attempting to ride the momentum that he built in his return last year, Sean Strickland is set to face Krzysztof Jotko on Saturday.

Strickland ended a two-year absence from the cage in October, putting together a strong three-round striking performance over Jack Marshman. He returned only a month later to stop Brendan Allen in the second round of a fight.

He now has the chance to continue his momentum against a big name like Jotko, who is also on a winning streak. Jokto landed his third consecutive victory just over a year ago, fighting to a decision victory over Eryk Anders.

Bout 9: Ion Cutelaba (15-6) vs. Dustin Jacoby (14-5) (Light Heavyweight)

After coming out on the losing side of a two-fight rivalry last year, Ion Cutelaba will return to the cage to fight the rising Dustin Jacoby.

Cutelaba fought Magomed Ankalaev twice last year, losing in both appearances. The first fight ended controversially within a minute, a stoppage that Cutelaba considered was too early. This made the fight get re-booked, however, COVID-19 complications forced the bout to get cancelled three times. It eventually landed on a card in October, where Ankalaev scored another first-round victory.

Jacoby will attempt to earn his third consecutive win in the UFC. On his second run in the promotion, Jacoby has scored two wins since being given a UFC contract on “Dana White’s Contender Series” in the summer. His most recent win was in February over Maxim Grishin on scorecards.

Bout 10: Cub Swanson (27-11) vs. Giga Chikadze (12-2) (Featherweight)

Giga Chikadze will get his toughest test on paper since joining the UFC when fighting Cub Swanson in the co-main event of Saturday’s card.

Chikadze has had a flawless run since entering the UFC roster in 2019. He has now earned six wins in total in the promotion, including five in 2020, which is one short of the record for wins inside that year (the record is owned by Kevin Holland).

Chikadze put together his first stoppage win in the UFC in November, defeating Jamey Simmons within a round.

Swanson had a strong showing in his return from injury in December, scoring with a combination of punches that stopped fellow veteran Daniel Pineda in the second round.

Bout 11: Dominick Reyes (12-2) vs. Jiri Prochazka (27-3-1) (Light Heavyweight)

Saturday night’s main event between Dominick Reyes and Jiri Prochazka has big implications for the division. While the 205-pound rankings are currently clogged with worthy contenders like Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic, a win on Saturday for either Reyes or Prochazka could potentially throw them into that conversation as well.

Prochazka has only fought once in the UFC, although he has already made a name for himself. He made his UFC debut last year in July, stopping former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir early in the second round with strikes.

While that may have been the first sighting of him to some exclusive UFC viewers, many know about his record prior to entering the octagon. Prochazka notably built up a series of stoppage wins in RIZIN from 2017 to 2019, becoming their 205-pound champion along the way.

Saturday night presents a specifically unique challenge for Prochazka, as he has never been booked for a fight that could possibly go five rounds. With that being said, he does not have the reputation for going the distance in his fights either way.

Prochazka may be a newcomer to five-round fights – his opponent, Reyes, certainly is not. His fight on Saturday sees him take a step down from the title challenger position after a hectic 2020. Reyes fought for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship twice last year, losing a close, often debated fight to Jon Jones and getting finished in the second round of a fight against current champ Jan Blachowicz. Prior to then, he had attained six wins in the UFC, including one over former champ Chris Weidman.

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