UFC 303 Preview: Alex Pereira and Jiri Prochazka Clash in Rematch

UFC 303 Preview: Alex Pereira and Jiri Prochazka Clash in Rematch

No replacement fight could ever hope to live up to the hype generated by Conor McGregor’s comeback – but Alex Pereira vs Jiri Prochazka is about as strong an alternative as possible. 

These two accepted a late notice rematch after the news that McGregor pulled out of his UFC 303 headliner due to a broken toe. 

They saved the card and all signs point to another thrilling contest, after Pereira won their first fight by TKO in November last year. 

Prochazka is a hands down, unpredictable striker and Pereira remains a frightening powerhouse with dynamite in his fists. 

He’s not a huge talker and doesn’t have a strong grasp of English but that only adds to the intimidating aura around him. 

Alex Pereira (above) was accused of using spirits and a Shamen to help him by Jiri Prochazka

Alex Pereira (above) was accused of using spirits and a Shamen to help him by Jiri Prochazka

The pair faced off ahead of Saturday's main event in the headline slot of UFC 303

The pair faced off ahead of Saturday’s main event in the headline slot of UFC 303

Prochazka doesn’t think it’s just the man across from him he has to overcome on Saturday night either, he bizarrely spoke about Pereira’s use of ‘magic’ and ‘spirits’. 

The Czech star, who is himself lives by the Bushido code of a Samurai and is one of the more unusual fighters in the UFC in terms of his outlook, accused Pereira – who has indigenous roots – of working with Shamans to help him. 

‘Everybody knows he is doing these rituals before the fight,’ he said on the MMA Hour. 

‘Everybody can feel that, what’s around him and going on. I think Alex can’t fight without that. Let’s see, right now this is my challenge to him – if we can fight in a clear way in this case, to be without some other things…

‘Everybody knows he is working with some Shamans, yeah? From his hometown? He believes in some spiritual help from them. 

‘I believe too, but I believe in the best performance, in human performance right here right now, without no magic, and let’s see if Alex still works like that — because it’s working — but I believe in a clear way, and I will do that. I want to win by that way. 

‘Let the higher power be there in the cage to see who is the best in the world in the performance, in the pure performance.’

When asked about the accusation, Pereira admitted as much, saying: ‘Everybody has their own spirits, we’re not only made of flesh and bone.

‘I have found mine. If he has not found his or he does not believe, it is not my fault.’

Prochazka is himself one of the more spiritual fighters in the UFC and wants a 'fair' fight

Prochazka is himself one of the more spiritual fighters in the UFC and wants a ‘fair’ fight

He represent the Pataxó people, who say they were the first to fight the Portuguese in 1500 and has taken the belt to show the tribal community.  

The strange build-up was also commented on by UFC president Dana White, who said it was why the contest is ‘so f***ing awesome’. 

He told MacLife: ‘When Jiri found out about the fight, apparently he goes into a shed for three days… No water, no food, no nothing, and prays or meditates or whatever he does. 

‘Apparently, his coach went and banged on the door and told him that this fight was available and he said something to the effect of, ‘If this is what the universe wants.

‘He is that dude. He sees him doing the Shaman stuff or whatever or Chama or whatever the f*** it is, he’s like this is unfair, he’s using witchcraft, or whatever f***ing black magic. It is just another reason why this fight is so f****ing awesome.’

Prochazka regularly subjects himself to sensory deprivation during his training in the woods in Czechia. He posted a picture inside one of the rooms with the caption: ‘3days. No Light. No food. Pure Focus. Pure Training. Preparation can start NOW.

Perhaps the real demons in the fight will be in Prochazka’s head. 

It wasn’t so long ago that Pereira dropped him with a glancing right hand before a barrage of sharp elbows forced the referee to intervene. 

That feeling and those images will nag at him ahead of Saturday night but the former champion did have his moments too. 

Prochazka spent three days in the above room with no light or food to mentally prepare

Prochazka spent three days in the above room with no light or food to mentally prepare

Statistically he lands slightly more strikes per minute (5.75 in comparison to 5.10) but his accuracy is slightly worse at 56 percent to 62 percent. 

But the numbers aren’t hugely illuminating in this fight – it is about who can find a window of opportunity to deliver a fight-ending blow. 

Very few believe it will go all 25 minutes and with good reason. 

In a combined 47 fights, the pair have only gone to a decision twice, which is an astonishing finish rate. 

The big question is what will be different this time? 

Prochazka has not had a long camp to make the technical changes he might need to prepare differently for Pereira this time. 

Given that the Brazilian worked him out and picked him off last time, you would imagine a smart gameplan would be to change the approach for the challenger. 

In all their combined fights, Alex Pereira and Jiri Prochazka have only gone the distance twice

In all their combined fights, Alex Pereira and Jiri Prochazka have only gone the distance twice 

Pereira’s supposed weakness is on the ground and he’s never been severely tested on the mat at the highest level. 

So his opponent may well feel that’s the path to victory, although taking him down and avoiding the KO blow is easier said than done. 

One man who does see the fight for Prochazka, despite the bookies favouring the champion, is Israel Adesanya.

‘Alex knows he can get taken down and controlled, and Jiri knows he can get knocked out,’ he explained on his YouTube channel. 

‘But also Alex knows he can get touched and hurt by Jiri. Jiri will be mindful [of his injuries], especially when you hurt him or if you think you have a moment, don’t rush. Just take your time. It’ll come.

‘Alex can surprise him as well. If Jiri takes him down, Alex can surprise him with some new s*** on the ground that he’s been working on.’

The Brazilian champion is one of the most fearsome, powerful fighters in the UFC

The Brazilian champion is one of the most fearsome, powerful fighters in the UFC

Aside from the KO defeat by Adesanya, Pereira has been exceptional in his UFC career to date. 

He’s already had Prochazka under his spell before and the talk of witchcraft feels like a baked-in excuse – albeit a slightly mad one. 

‘We’re not only flesh and bone’, Pereira said. But it will be bone – not black magic – doing the damage on Saturday night.  

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