UFC on ESPN 23: Weigh-ins and final preview (updated)
Tomorrow night, the Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to their headquarters in Las Vegas, Nevada for their latest offering of mixed martial arts action. After an epic UFC 261 card last week, the UFC Apex will play host to the promotions follow-up UFC on ESPN 23 event. Headlined by a match-up between two top-five light heavyweights in Dominick Reyes and Jiri Prochazka. The event features 12 bouts, with a half dozen each on the preliminary and main card portions of the show. The prelims kick off at 7 pm ET on ESPN2 and ESPN+, while the main card commences at 10 pm ET, and will stream exclusively on ESPN+. But first, earlier today all 24 fighters had to make weight to make their next Octagon appearances official.
Two fighters tipped the scales
Unfortunately, the UFC’s streak of weight-miss-free cards ended at one. Today two combatants missed their weight. First, was flyweight competitor Luana Carolina, as she missed the non-title limit by two and a half pounds. Further down the card, Gabriel Benitez missed the featherweight cutoff by an impressive four and a half pounds. Luckily for Carolina, her fight will go ahead as scheduled and she will have to fork over 20% of her purse to opponent Poliana Botelho. However, Benitez’s bout with Jonathan Pearce has been canceled after Pearce decided the extra pounds was too much of an “advantage” he was unwilling to “reward” by still competing.
UFC on ESPN 23: Official scale stats
Big fish in a big pond?
Czech fighter Jiri Prochazka has another chance to quiet any final naysayers about being a UFC-level talent. As a former RIZIN light heavyweight champion, “Denisa” has the same cross to bear of all great fighters jumping into the “big time,” and that’s being questioned as an elite talent until they win in the UFC. He entered the promotion on a 10-fight win streak that included eight knockouts, and in his July Octagon debut, his recent career trends continued. The 28-year-old scored another crushing knockout win, but this time over a ranked former UFC title contender in Volkan Oezdemir. Tomorrow night he gets another former championship challenger in the form of Dominick Reyes. A man on the opposite side of the fighting spectrum, because “The Devastator” will be looking to end the first losing streak of his career on May 1. In ways, it’s a must-win for Reyes. However, another W would be massively important for Prochazka because it would certainly put him in contention for a championship opportunity later this year. Against the winner of the title bout between champion Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira.
Bouts worth your time
- Cub Swanson vs. Giga Chikadze – In Cub Swanson versus Giga Chikadze we get some classic rising star UFC booking. “Ninja” is a former Glory Kickboxing champion who has gone unbeaten over his first five appearances inside the Octagon. “Killer” on the other hand is a battle-tested 37-year-old UFC stalwart who is an absolutely perfect featherweight litmus test for the streaking Chikadze. It’s the first ranked opponent of Chikadze’s career and a fighter who has competed at the highest levels of the division for close to a decade and a half. Plus, Swanson is a thumper that’s well-rounded and can threaten the upstart in all facets of MMA. Call this one the testing ground fight of the night.
- Sean Strickland vs. Krzysztof Jotko – At UFC Vegas 25, the latest chapter of Sean Strickland’s incomparable return from injury will be written. The 30-year-old lost two years of his fighting prime while battling back from a career-threatening motorcycle accident. The comeback tour started in October with a unanimous decision win over Jack Marshman, and continued the next month with an impressive technical knockout of top middleweight prospect Brendan Allen. Inside the UFC Apex, “Tarzan” will get American Top Team talent Krzysztof Jotko. A competitor on a three-fight win streak and looking to steal away his opponents ranking in the top-15. It’s a scrap between two well-traveled promotional veterans looking to break through and show they have top-10 talent.