Jiri Prochazka will tell everyone who will hear him that he “lives the way of the warrior”.
Noon local time in Kallang, Singapore — late Saturday until early Sunday on the other side of the world in North America — fight fans around the world watched Prochazka walk that warrior path to UFC gold.
The Czech snatched a victory from the gloves of Glover Teixeira, claiming his light heavyweight championship in the process with a fifth-round submission win just 28 seconds shy of what was almost certain to be a UFC unanimous decision loss. 275.
“It was a real war,” Prochazka (29-3, 28 finishes) said in the post-fight interview. “Glover is a true warrior, and I like that.”
For 24 minutes and 32 seconds, Prochazka and Teixeira pushed each other to the brink. The 29-year-old challenger would separate his opponent for a minute. Next up: the Brazilian would challenge his 42-year-old by delivering a punch from the mount, beating the one who was just 9 when Teixeira (33-8, 28 arrivals) turned pro in June 2002.
Teixeira’s barrage of intimidation from the top built a two-round lead on the judges’ scorecards. But even though Prochazka fell every round, he left his mark on the champ as a clear standing alpha.
Fighting with urgency in the third of five frames, Prochazka carved out the champion who has long been a native of Danbury, Connecticut since immigrating as a young man. It only got worse for Teixeira when the fight hit the ground, with the challenger taking his turn to deal major damage from above. Even a last-minute rally by Teixeira apparently only managed to avoid scores of 10–8 from each judge; an official still rated the action to that degree.
A crazy fourth round pushed the world’s best 205-pounders deeper into hell. Teixiera tried twice to exploit Prochazka with arm triangle attacks – the latter seemingly the closest to ending the fight from a distance. But Prochazka survived and thrived, inflicting his own pain in a round that could reasonably have been scored anyway.
Unbeknownst to the fighters, Teixeira was in the driver’s seat on the scoreboards entering the final five minutes. Two judges had Teixeira in place, 39-37, 38-37, while a third equalized, 38-38. At less than 10-8 – a rare score in MMA – Prochazka likely needed a finish to win.
“On my side, it was [a] horrible fight, [a] horrible performance,” Prochazka later told reporters. “You saw the fight. Some times, I just survived some times. … My life [stance is] be dominant in the fight and not just be [the] survivor; be the hunter.
The action was not going his way. Teixeira was now landing heavy kicks to the feet. Prochazka now stood on the verge of defeat. But a guillotine choke attempt as the champ had his stubborn opponent on the metaphorical ropes proved costly.
Prochazka weathered the storm, but with a minute remaining he still looked just 60 seconds or less away from his first loss in 6½ years. And then it happened: He jumped on an opening left by the tired and aging champion, locking in a choke from behind while neglecting the typical leg hooks for increased leverage and control.
Most of the time in MMA a rear choke without the hooks fails, especially on a veteran grappler such as Teixeira who has found himself on the mat several times with Prochazka in the last 24 minutes.
Not this time. Teixeira knew he had been beaten. It was tap or nap; he chose the faucet.
“The throttling, it came naturally,” Prochazka said in the octagon. “I just watched the moment [and] what opportunities [came] before me.”
In his moment of triumph, Prochazka appeared equal parts satisfied and dissatisfied. He spoke of feeling “satisfied” while criticizing his performance.
The new champion takes nothing away from the old one, telling the assembled media later that night that the “pressure from Teixeira was unbelievable, still at his age”.
Teixeira then tweeted “Rematch??” while tagging UFC President Dana White, who was not in attendance. He turns 43 in October and has spoken ahead of his first title defense of a dream scenario involving a follow-up championship fight in Madison Square Garden, presumably in the traditional early November window.
Perhaps “the warrior’s path” for Prochazka then leads to New York. What fight fan wouldn’t want that?
New York Post