Jiri Prochazka is the new UFC light heavyweight champion. The dazzling Czech snatched victory from the jaws of defeat on Saturday in the main event of UFC 275, dispatching Glover Teixeira with a fifth-round Hail Mary choke to finish one of the wildest brawls of 2022. Prochazka’s performance headlined an action-packed night which also saw Valentina Shevchenko survive the closest scare of her title reign, Zhang Weili retire a legend, and much more. With so much to discuss, let’s hit our four(ish) biggest takeaways from UFC 275.
1. Twenty-eight seconds. Repeat it again because it bears repeating: Just 28 seconds. Glover Teixeira was 28 seconds from keeping his storybook ending alive.
Stare at that number and mull it over. The margin between history and regret is that small.
Hours later, it’s still wild to consider that a 42-year-old Teixeira came closer at UFC 275 than any UFC titleholder ever has to defending his belt without actually crossing the finish line. Instead, the Czech Republic crowned its first UFC champion, the light heavyweight division crowned its new samurai king, and the MMA world crowned its new “Fight of the Year” front-runner. (Hell, you could even talk me into “Submission of the Year.” It was that good.)
Some fights can be recapped by two sentences, others need an entire 10-episode Netflix arc. Prochazka vs. Teixeira is the definition of the latter. The heart. The pace. The near finishes. The surprising shows of strength in each other’s fields of expertise. You can count on one hand the number of bouts in the UFC archives that had as many sudden swings in momentum as UFC 275’s main event. And to top it all off with the second-latest finish in a UFC championship bout? A stroke of desperate brilliance from a non-grappler to author the light heavyweight division’s own Silva-Sonnen moment? Drama of the highest order. Not since Jones-Gustafsson 1 has a championship fight at 205 pounds been so compelling.
Yes, welcome to the Jiri Prochazka era, ladies and gentlemen. Who knows how long this madness will last, but it’s guaranteed to be a ride to remember.
Light heavyweight used to be the glamour division of the UFC. Somewhere along the way, that stopped being the case — it’s still not even true after UFC 275’s theatrics. But the fun has returned to 205 pounds in a way that’s been absent since the glory days of Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz and Quinton Jackson. Jon Jones’ dominance was special in its own right, but sometimes there’s a magic that comes with watching a handful of flawed contenders pass around the belt like a violent game of hot potato, especially when one of those contenders is channeling once-in-a-generation lunatic vibes like Prochazka.
The man isn’t even 24 hours into his title reign and he’s already rivaling Charles Oliveira as the most exciting UFC champion on a minute-per-minute basis. How can you not love it?
1b. As much as it hurts me to say, looking ahead, two things are likely true after UFC 275.
First, it’s very likely Prochazka is only keeping the belt warm for Magomed Ankalaev, the Dagestani terror who has all the makings of the division’s next long-reigning (if markedly less exciting) champion.
Second, it’s also very likely the Prochazka era is destined to be fleeting, considering the coin-flip style with which the new champ approaches fights.
So for now, I’m just enjoying this thrill ride for as long as it lasts. Prochazka is the spiritual successor to Tony Ferguson I’ve been waiting for and it’s fantastic.
Either book an instant rematch with Teixeira or give me the guaranteed delight that is Prochazka vs. Blachowicz in a European stadium show and let’s keep the good times rolling.
For even the best UFC champions, what happened on Saturday is inevitable: Stick around the mountaintop long enough and eventually everyone stumbles into a bad night. When the target is on your chest for years on end, surprises are going to pop up, and there are going to be challengers who make you feel stuck in the mud and unable to get out of first gear. How you’re able to handle those nights when your fastball is missing is what separates the run-of-the-mill Very Good Champions from the All-Time Greats. For Silva, it was Sonnen. For St-Pierre, it was Johny Hendricks. For Johnson, it was Tim Elliott. They all dealt with it.
Valentina Shevchenko finally got her first taste with Taila Santos.
It took a mighty effort — as well as a fortuitous clash of heads — for the UFC’s flyweight queen to get past Santos at UFC 275. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, and Shevchenko was both in the championship rounds — though if not for the head butt that swelled Santos’ eye shut and shattered her orbital bone, Shevchenko seemed to be en route to a monster upset courtesy of the Brazilian’s masterful game plan of takedowns, back control, and surprising physicality. “Bullet” got away with one, realistically. (According to her, a foot injury may have played a part in the listless performance as well.)
Nonetheless, Shevchenko stands tall still on this Sunday morning as the owner of the most consecutive title defenses for any female champion in UFC history — and for the first time in years, she has several intriguing options awaiting her. Santos, 28, is young and talented and will continue to hang around the title picture for the foreseeable future. A rematch would be an easy sell. If Miesha Tate gets past Lauren Murphy — and that’s a big “if” — that’s another high-profile fight for the belt. And even if Tate falls to Murphy, UFC president Dana White has spoken openly of finally giving Shevchenko the chance to pursue two-division glory.
I’d prefer the third option if given my druthers, but whichever direction the UFC goes, it’ll be the most compelling Shevchenko lead-up we’ve had in quite some time.
The original boogeywoman of 115 pounds announced her MMA retirement on Saturday in an emotional scene following a brutal knockout loss to Zhang Weili.
Champion. Hall of Famer. Legend. An All-Violence First Teamer. One of the greatest fighters of her era. Regardless of what you want to call her, Jedrzejczyk deserves to be celebrated. Newer fans to MMA may struggle to fully grasp her importance because of her late-career setbacks, but Jedrzejczyk’s run of five title defenses as champion from 2015-17 is still the standard by which all strawweight title reigns are judged — as well as the catalyst that helped establish 115 pounds as the marquee division of the women’s ranks.
Carla Esparza may have been strawweight’s inaugural champion, but Jedrzejczyk was its first real attraction. From the moment she showed up in Dallas for UFC 185 dripping equal parts confidence, ferocity, and swagger, it was obvious Jedrzejczyk would be special. And she held up her end of the bargain. Even her faceoffs were more entertaining than some athletes’ fights. Once the game chewed her up and spit her out, she remained must-see television. Hell, in her penultimate outing, she was one half of the one of the greatest fights of all-time — a fight she probably should’ve won. There isn’t a soul alive who watched UFC 248 who will ever forget the feeling coursing through their veins as Joanna Champion willed herself to a near-victory with an alien sprouting out three feet out of her forehead.
Through it all, Jedrzejczyk was also your favorite fighter’s favorite fighter. Take a look at the outpouring of adoration she received for her retirement announcement if you doubt that.
Few people in this game are so unanimously beloved.
Thanks for everything, Joanna. You’ll be a Hall of Famer by the end of 2024, knowing how the UFC operates. It’ll be well deserved, and there likely won’t be a dry eye in the house.
3b. I’d also like to wish an early congratulations on your second UFC title reign, Zhang Weili, as I suspect it won’t be long now before the belt is back around your waist.
I also suspect you may be one of the biggest betting favorites as a challenger for a championship fight in UFC history once the Carla Esparza matchup is official.
4. It’d be a crime if we skipped over Jake Matthews before we got out of here, because my word, y’all — the Australian welterweight may not have been a talking point heading into UFC 275, but he certainly ensured he’d get a mention on his way out the door.
Matthews’ ferocious second-round knockout of Andre Fialho was the type of eye-opening performance we could be looking back at years from now as the night everything changed. To a lesser extent, think of Rafael dos Anjos punching out Benson Henderson, or Charles Oliveira submitting Kevin Lee — the type of statement performance that can rewrite narratives and portend good things to come for a prospect we thought we already had figured out. Because Matthews leveled up on Saturday. You never know when (or if) it’s going to happen, but it’s happened for him.
Matthews was a baby when he debuted in the UFC in 2013. When he first showed up on TUF Nations: Canada vs. Australia, he was 19 years old — nothing but gangly arms and legs and untapped potential. He quite literally grew up under the the bright lights of the UFC. But on Saturday? He wasn’t the same kid we’ve seen in his past 15 fights. He was mean and fast, powerful, a full-grown 27-year-old man seizing his moment with a savagery unknown before.
One of the most fun parts of following this sport over long stretches is seeing the switch flip overnight when a prospect randomly becomes who they were always meant to be. The UFC has stuck with Matthews through his ups and downs for more than the past eight years — it feels as if that patience is finally about to be rewarded.
Just don’t be surprised if we see an RDA-esque rise to title contention out of “The Celtic Kid” before his story is done.