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Inside Jiri Prochazka's historic light heavyweight title win at UFC 275

The new division champ – the UFC's first title-holder from the Czech Republic – scored the finish he needed but begins his reign short of satisfaction.
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Bloodied and battered, Jiri Prochazka entered the fifth round of his UFC 275 light heavyweight title fight with one objective.

"I needed a finish," Prochazka says. "I knew I needed to end the fight."

Prochazka (29-3-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) finally put Glover Teixeira (33-8 MMA, 16-6 UFC) away in the fifth round, forcing him to tap to a rear-naked choke with only 28 seconds remaining. That was a history-making finish, making Prochazka the first-ever UFC champion from the Czech Republic. He entered the fifth full of a quiet confidence, further empowered by words of encouragement from Teixeira as the round began.

"Glover showed his respect right as the fifth round began," Prochazka says. "He said I had his respect and he thanked me for the fight."

Forcing Teixeira to submit seemed like an impossible proposition. Prochazka's only path to victory appeared to be via the knockout blow, which is the manner in which he won his past 10 fights. Winning the fight with an underrated yet versatile ground game offered a chance for Prochazka to show he is a multi-dimensional mixed martial artist, but it was also a necessity.

Prochazka was not going to land a knockout blow on Teixeira. The 29-year-old Prochazka struggled to gain the momentum necessary against Teixeira. A black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, the 42-year-old Teixeira willingly ate ferocious shots, sacrificing his chin and body, in order to set up his next takedown. Despite hammering him with what appeared to be walk-off shots, there was simply no chance of putting the champ to sleep.

"After a while, all the striking was boring to me," Prochazka says. "I asked myself, 'How does he stay up after these shots?'

"I have been working hard on my jiu-jitsu, and it was great to finally show that. I needed to stay locked and precise, and I knew I could do it if I stay focused. That was my way to victory. I knew I would find a way."

Teixeira successfully landed five takedowns, each one more dangerous than the prior. Once he mounted Prochazka, that is where he did the majority of his damage, pummeling his opponent with a vicious flurry of ground-and-pound.

"I already had respect for Glover, but even more now," Prochazka says. "I've heard people say he's older, but what they dismiss is his experience and intelligence. It was a pleasure to share the cage with him."

Only three fights into his UFC career, Prochazka has become champion in a stunning manner. Yet even with the belt now in his possession, he expressed disappointment in his performance.

"I didn't show enough," Prochazka says. "It wasn't my best. I need to change that in my next fight. My goal at the end was to trust myself and let the moment show me the way. Then I caught the choke. But I need to be better."

There is no shortage of opponents for the new champ. Magomed Ankalaev and Anthony Smith are both contenders, as well as Jamahal Hill and former champ Jan Błachowicz. There is also, of course, Teixeira, who is looking to regain the belt.

When asked about his next opponent, Prochazka stressed that whoever he lines up against will be far less dangerous than the man with the title.

"The next opponent doesn't matter to me," Prochazka says. "It could be Jan or a rematch against Glover. No matter who it is, I will show my best performance."

This story first published at SI.com/MMA.