The Bigger Picture | UFC 303: Pereira vs Procházka 2 (2024)

International Fight Week pay-per-view events always have a way of giving us plenty to talk about in the aftermath, and this year’s edition might have provided the most topics for discussion yet.

An incomparable night of action and drama inside T-Mobile Arena ended in devastating fashion, leaving fans and observers reeling as they tried to come to grips with what they had just witnessed. After finally coming down from the adrenaline high that invariably follows a night like we had at UFC 303, it’s time to finally dig into some of the key takeaways from what was a pivotal night inside the Octagon.

Already An All-Time Great?

What Alex Pereira has done in just nine UFC appearances is unmatched and, right now, there is no reason to believe that the light heavyweight champion is going to do anything other than continue to leave us all gobsmacked every time he marches into battle.

Pereira collected his fourth straight win, third straight finish, and second consecutive successful defense of his light heavyweight title on Saturday night, sending Jiri Prochazka to the Shadow Realm with a beautiful switch kick to the dome seconds into the second round of their UFC 303 main event clash. After felling the former champion with a sharp left hook at the buzzer to close out the opening frame, “Poatan” walked out and instantly attacked Prochazka to start the second, orchestrating another “Did You See That!?” moment.

The Bigger Picture | UFC 303: Pereira vs Procházka 2 (1)

Alex Pereira of Brazil kicks Jiri Prochazka of the Czech Republic in the UFC light heavyweight championship fight during the UFC 303 event at T-Mobile Arena on June 29, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

It feels hasty and hyperbolic to already be wondering where Pereira fits in the pantheon of all-time greats after only nine trips into the Octagon, but it’s impossible not to, given what he’s accomplished and the way he keeps upping the ante each time out.

He won his first UFC title a year after making his debut, and his second just 736 days after dispatching Andreas Michailidis to earn his first UFC victory. Since then, he’s left a pair of former champions crumpled on the canvas at the end of massive fight cards, with two of his last three wins coming on incredibly short notice.

Each of his last six victories have come against individuals that have worn UFC gold —Sean Strickland, Israel Adesanya, Jan Blachowicz, Jamahal Hill, and Prochazka, twice —and we’ve reached the point where opponents are literally starting to question whether he’s using some kind of black magic to help him win these fights.

And he’s reached this point less than three years after stepping into the Octagon for the first time.

It’s incredible, and it’s not like Pereira is just out here closing his eyes, swinging for the fences, and hoping things work out, either.

The Bigger Picture | UFC 303: Pereira vs Procházka 2 (2)

Alex Pereira of Brazil reacts to his victory over Jiri Prochazka of the Czech Republic in the UFC light heavyweight championship fight during the UFC 303 event at T-Mobile Arena on June 29, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

While his power rightfully gets top billing, two other pieces that make Pereira so dangerous are the fact that he’s technically sharp and possesses an insane ability to synthesize information on the fly, as well.

The kick that short circuited Prochazka’s system was swift, clean, and the correct tactical choice, as well —a strike he hadn’t previously thrown and that Prochazka wouldn’t expect right out of the chute to begin the second round, but one that made complete sense, given how the first round ended. Making those reads and executing the way he does is not easy or common, and Pereira does it routinely, with devastating effect.

MORE UFC 303: Diego Lopes Interview | Chiasson Interview | Poatan Interview

It’s not just that he has incomparable power; it’s that he can pick and land the right shot while deploying that power in such a sudden, precise manner that truly makes Pereira such a scary figure inside the cage.

Only a select few have achieved in their careers what Pereira has done in nine fights, so as crazy as it seems, the Brazilian standout probably has to already be considered amongst the best to ever grace the Octagon.

What’s even crazier is that he could decide to take a run at winning the heavyweight title before all is said and done, and if he becomes the first to win titles in three weight classes, all while continuing to be an indomitable force, we might have to talk about “Poatan” as the best ever, full stop.

Props to Everyone Involved

When the UFC 303 fight card kicked off at 3pm PT, Diego Lopes was fighting Brian Ortega in the co-main event. All the graphics and video were locked, the broadcast team had their talking points nailed down, and Lopes and his team were dialed in on a game plan that would hopefully carry them to victory over the two-time former title challenger.

The Bigger Picture | UFC 303: Pereira vs Procházka 2 (3)

And then all of that went out the window.

Ortega was terribly ill and forced from the card, leading to Las Vegas native and certified bad-ass Dan ige jumping in his car, driving to T-Mobile Arena, and stepping in against Lopes as the most short-notice replacement of all time. The production team went to work building out a new co-main event package, the broadcast team had to reorientate themselves on the fly, and Lopes had to deal with the idea of facing a new opponent with a completely different skill set with zero prep time.

Each and every person involved in this situation handled themselves like absolute pros.

Order UFC 304: Edwards vs Muhammad 2

The video package leading into the bout was seamlessly put together, the broadcast team navigated having a brand-new name dropped into the mix with aplomb, and Lopes and Ige stepped into the Octagon and turned in a competitive, entertaining bout that showed the heart, tenacity, and unquestionable love for their craft that drives them both.

None of this had any business being as well-executed and stumble-free as it was and the fact that it came off without a hitch is a testament to the focus, talent, and professionalism of every single person involved in pulling off this last-minute switcheroo on Saturday night.

DWCS Class of ’23 Keeps Showing Out

Jean Silva, Payton Talbott, and Vinicius Oliveira all earned their place on the UFC roster with wins last year on Dana White’s Contender Series.

He continues to make a name for himself and remains UNDEFEATED IN THE UFC 😱@PaytonTalbott got the finish in just 19 seconds at #UFC303 earning himself the 2nd fastest finish in UFC bantamweight history! pic.twitter.com/O37wrHAXjz

— UFC (@ufc) July 1, 2024

After Saturday’s event, the trio are now a combined 7-0 in the UFC with five finishes.

Silva became the first person to stop Charles Jourdain, dropping the French-Canadian with a nasty uppercut coming out of a clinch early in the second-round of their preliminary card pairing. The only blemish on his otherwise stellar performance was that he missed weight, which is obviously something that can’t become a habit.

Dana White's UFC 303 Post-Fight Presser

One fight earlier, Talbott flattened Yanis Ghemmouri with the first right hand he threw —a laser down the pipe that put the French bantamweight on the canvas and had Talbott ready to walk it off before the referee opted against stepping in immediately. The Reno, Nevada native has earned a pair of emphatic finishes already in 2024 and looks like the real deal as far as prospects go.

And in the opener, Oliveira followed up his highlight reel knockout win over Benardo Sopaj in his debut with a gutsy decision victory over veteran Ricky Simon. Beating someone that was a Top 15 staple until a couple recent losses (to ranked opponents) in your sophom*ore appearance is rare, and a sign that “LokDog” is someone to keep close tabs on going forward.

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Macy Chiasson of the United States and Mayra Bueno Silva of Brazil grapple during a bantamweight bout during UFC 303 at T-Mobile Arena on June 29, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ian Maule/Getty Images)

It’s not just UFC 303’s collection of recent graduates that have been showing out either.

Carlos Prates has a couple stoppage wins in as many appearances. Mauricio Ruffy impressed at UFC 30. Jean Matsumoto looked sharp in his debut. Andre Lima is 2-0 inside the Octagon. Ramon Taveras and Serhiy Sidey engaged in one of the best fights of the first half at UFC 297 in January.

While there have been some stumbles and setbacks, as a whole, the Class of ’23 has been solid through the first half of their freshman year and it’s going to be really interesting to see how they continue to progress, especially the triumvirate that showed out on Saturday night in Las Vegas.

Quick Hitters

Roman Dolidzeearned a good win over Anthony Smith in short notice pairing at light heavyweight, where he’s now 3-0 in the UFC and unbeaten for his career. The Georgian talked about returning to middleweight and competing in both divisions, but after a win over a former title contender and less congestion in front of him, sticking around the 205-pound ranks long-term might not be a bad idea.

Macy Chiassonshowed up on The Ultimate Fighter with just two professional fights under her belt, winning the featherweight competition with a second-round submission win over Pannie Kianzad. There have been some stumbles along the way, but the Fortis MMA representative has developed into a legitimate contender in the bantamweight ranks over her last 10 fights and should get a marquee assignment next time out after stopping Mayra Bueno Silva on Saturday.

BE LIKE JOE PYFER 🗣

Didn't take long for @Joe_Pyfer96 to get the finish tonight! #UFC303 pic.twitter.com/fq9KO6mEnS

— UFC (@ufc) June 30, 2024

Ian Machado Garry keeps winning. Now 15-0, “The Future” is well-rounded, calculating, and continues moving forward in the welterweight ranks. Navigating a main event matchup against a Top 5 contender feels like the next obstacle for the Irishman to face in his push towards the top of the division, and his suggestion of a matchup with fellow unbeaten standout Shavkat Rakhmonov sounds delightful to me.

Joe Pyfer has all the physical tools to be a force in the middleweight division. His walk-off win over Marc-Andre Barriault was an emphatic way to bounce back after his loss to Jack Hermansson earlier in the year and should get the DWCS grad a look against another established name next time out.

Much like Chiasson, Gillian Robertsonarrived in the UFC via The Ultimate Fighter with limited prior experience. She’s never looked better than she did against Michelle Waterson-Gomez on Saturday night in Las Vegas and is a dark horse to watch in the strawweight division going forward.

And with that, I’m out.

See you again after UFC 304.

The Bigger Picture | UFC 303: Pereira vs Procházka 2 (2024)
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