Jiri Prochazka Pulls Out of UFC 282 With Injury and Vactates Title
UFC 282 just got hit with some massive changes. According to Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports, light heavyweight champion Jiri Prochazka pulled out of his scheduled title defense with Glover Teixeira with an injury. Due to the severity of the injury, Prochazka vacated the light heavyweight title. As a result, former champion Jan Blachowicz will fight Magomed Ankalelaev for the vacant championship. Teixeira, who was initially supposed to fight for the title, turned down the new opponent as is presumably off the card.
Brett Okamoto of ESPN added that Prochazka suffered an orthopedic injury and will be out for up to a year. He also revealed that Prochazka decided to vacate the belt and did so out of respect for the rest of the division.
Blachowicz and Ankalaev are currently ranked No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, in the light heavyweight division. Before Prochazka’s injury, this was likely going to be a number-one contender’s fight. This is about as good of a light heavyweight title fight that the UFC can make during Prochazka’s absence. One of these two fighters will become the champion without dethroning the champ. That is unfortunate, but there is no other option at this point.
Blachowicz sat atop the light heavyweight division in 2020 as he defeated Dominick Reyes to become the first light heavyweight champion after Jon Jones vacated the title and moved to heavyweight. In his time as champion, he defended the belt against Israel Adesanya. Eventually, Teixeira beat him to win the belt, but he got his name back into title contention by beating Aleksander Rakic.
Ankalaev has been slowly working his way closer to fighting for the UFC title and he has finally reached that point. Ankalaev is currently 18-1 in MMA and 9-1 in the UFC. More importantly, he is riding a nine-fight win streak. The argument could be made that Ankalaev would have been the biggest test for Prochazka, the now former champion, so there is no question regarding his spot in this title fight.
The interesting part of this situation is that Teixeira declined to fight for the title. There may be a legitimate reason for this, however, there is no credible information about Teixeira’s decision to not fight at UFC 282. This will be a situation to monitor. At 43 years old, the clocking is ticking on his career. It will certainly be difficult for him to get another title opportunity at this point.
This is obviously a massive shake-up. Not only will it affect UFC 282, but it will greatly change the landscape of the light heavyweight division for at least a year. The UFC released a statement that said Prochazka will be sidelined for a long period of time. At this point, the timeframe is unknown. However, the UFC did say that Prochazka will compete for the championship when he can return.
Prochazka’s injury makes an already bad situation at light heavyweight even worse. Right now, three of the six highest-ranked light heavyweights are out with serious injuries. In addition to Prochazka, Anthony Smith has a broken ankle and Aleksander Rakic has a torn ACL.