UFC 303: Alex Pereira shouldn't be denied a shot at a historic third UFC title

Jiří Procházka was very concerned about magic and spirits headed into the UFC 303 main event. Maybe the supernatural force he should have been worried about was Alex Pereira’s left hook.

Just like their first meeting last fall, “Poatan” came away the winner with a second-round knockout on Saturday night in Las Vegas. Only this time the UFC light heavyweight champ made it look easy — and decisive.

After methodically picking away at Procházka for most of the first frame, Pereira dropped the challenger with a left hook right at the horn. Procházka managed to rise and wobble to his corner between rounds, but he never seemed to fully recover his wits. A head kick to start the second round put him back on the mat, and a few mostly unnecessary follow-up punches from Pereira removed all doubt.

For Pereira, this seemed like easy work. In under four years with the UFC, he’s won titles in two different weight classes. He’s beaten just about everybody worth discussing at light heavyweight and has now taken to casually discussing a move up to heavyweight, where he could very realistically chase an unprecedented third UFC title.

The only problem is the murky waters up at the top of that division. Current champ Jon Jones is recovering from a torn pectoral and has stubbornly refused to even consider any title challenger other than former champ Stipe Miocic, who is 41 and hasn’t won a fight in nearly four years. Interim heavyweight champ Tom Aspinall has a bout already booked with Curtis Blaydes next month at UFC 304 in Manchester, which means we’re all supposed to pretend it’s not weird to have a guy defending the interim belt while the actual belt remains far away.

Meanwhile, there’s Pereira. The only reasonable opponent left for him at 205 pounds is Magomed Ankalaev. And hey, no offense, but I couldn’t even type that last sentence without yawning. It’d be a fine fight, I’m sure. It would probably provide further tests of Pereira’s overall game. It just wouldn’t be the kind of thing anyone (outside of the Ankalaev family) would really get excited about.

The trajectory Pereira is on right now is truly some superstar stuff. The man has been a rocket ship since signing with the UFC, and somehow it feels like he’s still just getting started. It would be a crime to deny that man the chance to chase a whole new stratosphere of greatness. Who knows, a third UFC title might even get him to crack a smile.

  • Pause for a moment and appreciate the week Diego Lopes just had. He was on weight and dead asleep at four in the morning when his manager woke him up to tell him Brian Ortega wouldn’t make 145 pounds. So OK, Lopes told him, he’d fight the guy at 155 pounds. Then Ortega fell all the way out of the fight and Lopes said he’d go ahead and fight Dan Ige at a catchweight instead. That’s a guy who’s down to scrap. Against whom and at what weight are mere details.

  • I know Mayra Bueno Silva was mad that the referee stopped her bout with Macy Chiasson due to a cut. That’s a tough way to lose. But when you hear an arena full of people gasp at the sight of your facial wound when it’s shown on the big screen, that’s a sign that it might be time to call it a night.

  • Roman Dolidze and Anthony Smith almost convinced me that the UFC shouldn’t have tried so hard to keep a light heavyweight undercard fight on this lineup. The original plan was two completely different 205-pounders. Then it changed and changed again and we wound up with a fight that had no clear stakes and not a whole lot of motivation on either side. Sometimes maybe the thing to do when a fight falls apart is to let it go?

  • Joe Pyfer needed a big bounce-back win. He got it, seemingly with ease, then took aim at the haters I’m not entirely convinced he actually has. Fans can be fickle. Especially when the hype train is still pulling out of the station, it doesn’t take much to convince people to jump off. Pyfer’s loss to Jack Hermansson could have been a necessary step in his ongoing growth. There’s still room to grow some more, though.

  • Payton Talbott just showed us what a -2000 favorite actually looks like. When you show up as one of the biggest betting favorites in UFC history, it’s tough to do something that feels worthy of that. Tough, but not impossible. Talbott needed all of 19 seconds to starch Yanis Ghemmouri. And honestly? He didn’t really even need all 19 of those seconds. The future is bright, but a step up in difficulty level is probably coming soon.

  • Ian Machado Garry now has eight wins in the UFC, but not many recent highlights. He dismissed Michael “Venom” Page as an overhyped can-crusher before this event, then just barely held on to beat him. An ungenerous interpretation of Garry’s run so far might suggest that he really only looks great when he’s up against lower-tier competition. Which, ironically, is exactly the criticism he leveled against MVP. The difference is that Garry is still just 26, so there’s lots of time left on the clock. After the last couple forgettable decision wins, however, you can feel people’s patience beginning to wear a little thin.