UFC on ESPN 23 would provide some fun fights for the viewers on Saturday night, none more so than in its light heavyweight title eliminator main event.
Pitting the hard-hitting Jiri Prochazka against Dominick Reyes, the former would score one of the knockouts of the year as a spinning back elbow was the exclamation point on an unrelenting battle between the two 205 pounders.
Now 2-0 since joining the UFC after a successful stint as RIZIN champion, Prochazka could well already be earmarked for a shot at UFC gold in his next outing.
Elsewhere on the UFC’s latest fight card offering, the co-main event would see former kickboxer Giga Chikadze extend his promotional record to 6-0 as the Georgian would make quick work of the veteran Cub Swanson with a swift kick to the liver.
Chikadze’s compatriot Merab Dvalishvili would also pick up a big win of his own as ‘The Machine’ continued his ascension through the bantamweight division with a unanimous decision win over Cody Stamann.
With Sean Strickland picking up another win as a ranked middleweight contender and Ion Cutelaba and Dustin Jacoby battling to a split draw in a back-and-forth fight, here are five fights to make with those featured on the main card of UFC on ESPN 23:
Jiri Prochazka vs. Blachowicz / Teixeira Winner
With two knockout wins in two, and both coming against former light heavyweight title challengers, Jiri Prochazka has put himself in the driving seat for the next shot at UFC gold at 205 lbs.
With champion Jan Blachowicz already penciled in to face a deserving Glover Teixeira in September, the winner of that bout simply has to defend their title against a red hot Jiri Prochazka.
Giga Chikadze vs. Burgos / Barboza Winner
Tasked with the toughest opponent of his MMA career thus far, Giga Chikadze would stop Cub Swanson a little over one minute into the contest.
Whipping in a liver kick that saw Swanson immediately keel over in pain, Chikadze now holds a 13-2 record in MMA and is deserving of his spot inside the top 15 at featherweight.
As for what’s next for the Georgian fighter, a match-up with the winner of the upcoming Shane Burgos – Edson Barboza contest would make for an excellent bout that would guarantee fireworks.
Ion Cutelaba vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk
After a quick start out of the blocks that nearly drew a first-round stoppage, Ion Cutelaba would slowly fade over his fight with Dustin Jacoby before a split draw would be declared on the judges’ scorecards.
With such an aggressive style that almost hinges on an early stoppage, a fight between the Moldovan and Michal Oleksiejczuk would likely grant the winner a crack at a top 15 fighter in the light heavyweight division.
Sean Strickland vs. Akhmedov / Tavares Winner
Earning his third straight win since returning to the middleweight division, Sean Strickland is proving to be a tricky customer at 185 lbs.
Defeating Krzysztof Jotko via unanimous decision, Strickland will likely want to fight up the rankings as opposed to acting as a gatekeeper to the top 15.
With the current #12 and #14 ranked contenders in Omari Akhmedov and Brad Tavares set to clash in July, the winner should be earmarked as the next opponent for Strickland.
Merab Dvalishvili vs. Pedro Munhoz
Edging out Cody Stamann in a well-matched contest, Merab Dvalishvili’s ridiculous output ensured that he would add another win to his resume after all three rounds.
Now on a six-fight win streak, Dvalishvili should look towards the top 10 at 135 lbs and a fight with Pedro Munhoz would make for a brilliant five-round fight down the line.