Jiri Prochazka has had a lot of great first rounds in MMA – fifteen of them, according to the wins on his professional record. His first UFC fight was not one.
In the octagon for the first time in a fight against one-time title challenger Volkan Oezdemir, Prochazka felt exactly the opposite of how he wanted to feel: light, fast and powerful. All three judges agreed Oezdemir was the winner of the opening frame.
“The performance from the first round was horrible,” Prochazka told What the Heck. “That was a lot of new setups that I tried in the first round, and it didn’t work like how I wanted.
“The second round was better, because I needed to change out my old style, and I had time to connect that style from the first and second round to make something that worked.”
Adjusting to the octagon is not a new thing for MMA exports. In Prochazka’s case, it didn’t help that he was fighting one of the most aggressive starters in the light heavyweight division.
Now that Prochazka is in queue for a return fight against one-time title challenger Dominick Reyes, whom he faces on May 1 at an upcoming Fight Night event, one of his goals is to show up in the first round the way he did for Oezdemir in the second.
“That’s one thing I want in the fight,” Prochazka said. “I just am working on my style, and I think it will work in the fight.”
Reyes might share the same aspiration. In his previous fight, a bout for the title left vacant by dominant light heavyweight champ Jon Jones, Reyes was stopped in the second round by the current champ Jan Blachowicz. In his prior bout with Jones, he had a strong showing in early rounds before fading somewhat in championship territory.
Media scores were 2-1 in favor of Reyes, but judges saw it unanimously for Jones. Prochazka is of the opinion that Reyes needed to do more to take the decision.
“Did he beat Jones? Maybe, yeah,” he said. “His performance was better than Jon Jones, but Jon Jones was the champion, and if you want to beat the champion, you have to knock him out. That’s the problem, not leave it to the judges, especially with Jon Jones – he’s the master of the points.”
A subsequent loss damaged Reyes’ stock in the eyes of many fans, but Prochazka thinks his upcoming opponent is still one of the best 205-pound fighters in the octagon.
“I think the fight with Jon Jones was incredible from him,” he said. “I take him like a champion, like one of the best guys in our division. In my meeting, there’s nothing bad about Dominick.”
A win over a one-time title challenger would certainly put the Czech fighter on the short list for his own title opportunity. The faster he moves, the smaller the margins for error will be. Slow starts won’t be forgiven as easily.
Prochazka would certainly like to get back in the cage sooner than later. But more time gives him more preparation to fix the mistakes from his first outing.
“I want to get the title, too, but I want to enjoy every opponent before me,” he said. “I want to prepare for every opponent precisely.”