Prochazka (29-3-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) returns to fight Alex Pereira (8-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) for the vacant light heavyweight title in Saturday’s headliner at Madison Square Garden in New York. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPNews and early prelims on ESPN+.
It’ll be almost exactly 17 months to the day since Prochazka last competed when he makes the walk against Pereira. Prochazka suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery, leading him to vacate his light heavyweight title, which is again available after Jamahal Hill relinquished it this past July when he tore his Achilles tendon.
“He has not been here long, so for him to have been UFC champion in such a short period of time tells you how special of a talent he is,” Cormier said on his ESPN show “DC & RC.” “But with him winning as he did with a lot of frequency that he was in the octagon, I believe that that consistency helped him to where he was able to get that UFC championship belt.
“I think that this layoff is going to hurt him, but for Jiri, it’s got to feel like playing with the house’s money because he was supposed to be gone for another four months. Eighteen months, he got hurt last year. This guy is back in 15 months. They were saying 18 months until he was able to do anything.”
On the contrary, Pereira has been active as he heads into his third fight of 2023. He lost the middleweight title in April but rebounded in his light heavyweight debut this past July by earning a split decision over former champ Jan Blachowicz at UFC 291.
Cormier expects Prochazka to have a slow start against Pereira.
“So now he’s (Prochazka) back fighting for the belt, but I do believe that this ring rust is going to play a factor, especially early,” Cormier said. “Alex Pereira has been very active.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 295.