UFC 275: Fights to make next as Jiri Prochazka dethrones Glover Teixeira in instant classic
At UFC 275 on Saturday night, Jiri Prochazka claimed the light heavyweight title with a late submission of Glover Teixeira, producing a dramatic finish at the end of an instant classic.
Before that main-event contest, Valentina Shevchenko retained her flyweight belt with a controversial split-decision win against Taila Santos, and Weili Zhang knocked out Joanna Jedrzejczyk with a brutal spinning back fist that led the Pole to announce her retirement from MMA.
It was a drastically different affair to Zhang and Jedrzejczyk’s 2020 clash, which is widely regarded as one of the greatest bouts in the history of the sport.
Below, Indy Sport plays matchmaker for the UFC 275 protagonists, looking at where they could and should turn next.
Jiri Prochazka vs Glover Teixeira 2
On one hand, there is a distinct possibility that Prochazka (29-3-1) is able to win a rematch with Teixeira more efficiently than he did at UFC 275, stopping the veteran early as many predicted he might in Singapore – especially with Teixeira likely to have turned 43 by the time a potential rematch takes place.
That said, Teixeira (33-8) did not look his age on Saturday. In fact, there was something remarkable about the way in which he survived a couple of periods of onslaught from Prochazka. The reality is also that the Brazilian was 30 seconds away from winning via decision, before his Czech challenger was able to produce an impressive submission.
Many fans are calling the pair’s main event at UFC 275 one of the greatest title fights in the promotion’s history, so there is plenty of appetite to see an instant rematch. Also, what is the alternative? Prochazka vs Jan Blachowicz, who lost the belt to Teixeira late last year but bounced back with a win against Aleksandar Rakic recently.
Although Rakic lost in part due to a knee injury, Blachowicz impressed throughout and seemed to cause that injury through his use of low kicks and defence against the Austrian’s leg attacks. Blachowicz vs Prochazka looks likely to happen at some point, but it can wait.
Valentina Shevchenko vs Taila Santos 2
Another rematch, but one that makes even more sense than the above suggestion.
Shevchenko (23-3) has been so dominant at flyweight and recorded a seventh straight successful title defence on Saturday, but the Kyrgyzstani was arguably lucky to leave Singapore with the belt still wrapped around her waist. While her co-main event against Santos was undoubtedly competitive, the challenger’s success with takedowns throughout – and ability to bounce up from Shevchenko’s own takedowns – convinced most observers that a new champion should have been crowned.
In fact, Santos (19-2) was forced to fight through the pain of a broken orbital bone, which she sustained due to an accidental clash of heads with Shevchenko. If not for that injury, Santos might well have been able to better sustain her early momentum and leave no doubt in the judges’ minds that she should have won.
Once the Brazilian has healed, she should receive an instant rematch with “Bullet”. Few would complain about such matchmaking. If Shevchenko can win and Amanda Nunes regains the bantamweight title from Julianna Pena this summer, then Shevchenko vs Nunes 3 for the belt at 135lbs is a fine option.
Weili Zhang vs Carla Esparza
Zhang was looking the sharper fighter against Jedrzejczyk in the early exchanges of their rematch at UFC 275, then produced a stunning knockout just as the Pole began to find some rhythm. It was a statement victory for the former strawweight champion – her second against Jedrzejczyk, herself an ex-title holder at 115lbs – and one that could well see Zhang named as the first contender for Esparza in the American’s second reign atop the division.
Zhang (22-3) entered the UFC in 2018 with a professional record of 16-1. Twelve months and four wins later, she took the strawweight crown. Since running through Jessica Andrade to take the title, Zhang has gone 2-2, her wins against Jedrzejczyk coming either side of two straight losses to Rose Namajunas.
While the first defeat by Namajunas came courtesy of a devastating head kick, the second was disputable, with “Thug Rose” getting the nod via split decision. Zhang was arguably deserving of the victory and a second reign as strawweight champion, and – thankfully for the 32-year-old – she may just get her chance to regain the belt next time out.
Namajunas dropped the title to Esparza (19-6) in May with an insipid performance in a dull fight. That result marked the end of the Namajunas’ second title run and the start of Esparza’s second stint with the belt. Can Zhang follow those women by becoming a two-time champion? She should face Esparza next so that we can find out.