3 possible next opponents for Jiri Prochazka after UFC 303 loss

Jiri Prochazka has some option for his next opponent after losing to Alex Pereira again.
Apr 13, 2024; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Jiri Prochazka (red gloves) reacts after defeating Aleksandar Rakic (not pictured) during UFC 300 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 13, 2024; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Jiri Prochazka (red gloves) reacts after defeating Aleksandar Rakic (not pictured) during UFC 300 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Stability has been restored to the UFC light heavyweight division. At UFC 303, Alex Pereira knocked out Jiri Prochazka to remain the UFC light heavyweight champion. A head kick and follow-up punches was all that the former GLORY two-weight king needed to emphatically end the last-minute main event at 0:13 seconds of the second round.

Ever since he moved up to light heavyweight in the wake of his first loss to Israel Adesanya, Pereira has been mostly dominant. A somewhat lackluster divisional debut against Jan Blachowicz was quickly forgotten just over three months later, when he destroyed Prochazka at to win the vacant title. Then at UFC 300, he notched his first retention against Jamahal Hill, the man who had been champion before him.

Pereira's next opponent should be obvious: Magomed Ankalaev, who has not lost since his Octagon debut and was last seen destroying Johnny Walker with a monstrous second-round knockout earlier this year. That fight, once it is booked, should promise plenty of heavy-hitting action.

But what about Prochazka? That is his second loss against Pereira, which means he will very likely not be seeing another title fight unless someone dethrones Pereira, whether it be Ankalaev or someone else. However, he has a trio of intriguing options for his next fight, which he he hopes will put him back on track should he win.

These three potential opponents are sorted by their current divisional ranking as of the latest update, which was June 18. (There was no update after UFC Saudi Arabia, so the next one will most likely be on July 2.)

1. Jan Blachowicz

It will be almost a year since Blachowicz was last seen in the Octagon - a split decision loss against Pereira. He was actually supposed to return earlier this year in a rematch against Aleksandar Rakic, but lingering shoulder issues ended that.

But before that, he had a surprisingly decent run as light heavyweight champion. He first claimed the vacant belt with a second-round finish of Dominick Reyes, who had almost dethroned the almighty Jon Jones a fight before.

His next fight would pit him against none other than the then-middleweight champion Adesanya. Blachowicz was actually pegged as the underdog in that fight, but he used his grappling to neutralize his more highly-hyped opponent.

The reign ended at the hands of Glover Teixeira, but he got a chance to reclaim the belt when Prochazka severely injured his shoulder before a planned rematch with Teixeira. But he could manage only a draw with Ankalaev, so the belt remained vacant until Hill nabbed it against Teixeira.

Fast forward to now. Blachowicz should be fully healthy by this point, and he wants to reassert himself among the divisional elite. Prochazka represents a great opportunity at that. Given KSW and OKTAGON's recent successes in their native countries, the UFC should try to get them a light heavyweight headliner in Central Europe.

2. Nikita Krylov

Nikita Krylov has been fighting for so long, both in the UFC and elsewhere, and it is still hard to believe that he is still only 32 years of age - basically still in his prime. That is what happenes when you start young - 20 years young, to be exact.

Across two stints in the Octagon, he has always been touted as a future contender, champion even. In his first stint, he managed to go on a five-win streak before losing to Misha Cirkunov and surprisingly leaving so that he could be closer to home.

That did not last long, however. After four straight wins in the Russian regional scene, which included defeating UFC veteran Fabio Maldonado for the Fight Nights Global light heavyweight title, Krylov returned to the promotion in 2018. Initially, it went roughly, with him going 2-4 with consecutive losses to Ankalaev and Paul Craig. But since then, he has rediscovered his winning form, finishing two of his next three fights.

There is a caveat, though. That last win, a triangle choke submission against Ryan Spann, was way back in March 2023. Such inactivity may have something to do with his political beliefs, as Krylov is a known supporter of Donbass separatism (which the West does not like).

And said political beliefs may end up influencing where this fight is held. Abu Dhabi hosts two UFC cards in the next four months, but Prochazka is unlikely to be booked for the August Fight Night. So UFC 307 is the best bet. No other major fights have been booked for that event.

3. Volkan Oezdemir

Speaking of Oezdemir, he is suddenly on the comeback trail. And Prochazka, who knocked him out in the future champion's promotional debut, is standing in his way.

It is safe to say that his first run to the title was rushed, as he ended up getting pummeled by Daniel Cormier only seven minutes. Then he lost his next two fights, seemingly validating those who had been calling him a fraud of a contender.

Since then, he has gone a respectable 5-3, with the last fight being a devastating knockout of Walker that seemingly resurrected his title hopes in an instant. Now, it is time these two knockout artists run it back.

The timing cannot make any more sense, with the two having their fights on consecutive weeks. Prochazka wants to rebound and solidify his case for another crack at gold, while Oezdemir wants to avenge a prior loss and return himself to contention after a long period of wading through the ranks.

A rematch of such magnitude deserves main-event billing at a major arena, whether it be in Europe, America, or even Asia. If Prochazka wants to continue swimming in a very competitive division, then he must not sink against Oezdemir.