UFC 251: Jiri Prochazka vs. Volkan Oezdemir, breakdown & gambling analysis

Jiri Prochazka (+130) vs. Volkan Oezdemir (-160)

When: July 11th, 8pm Eastern Time

Where: Yas Island, United Arab Emirates

The last fight prior to the main card will be a light heavyweight scrap between Volkan Oezdemir and RIZIN champ Jiri Prochazka. Oezdemir is currently ranked 7th at light heavyweight and most recently defeated surging Austrian prospect Aleksandar Rakic back in December. As for Prochazka, he will be making his UFC debut and is currently riding a 10 fight winning streak, mostly with RIZIN.

Jiri Prochazka is the first light heavyweight champ for the Japanese promotion RIZIN and most recently knocked out C.B. Dolloway with a devastating hook. Prochazka hasn’t lost since 2015, when he was KO’d by Muhammed Lawal. The Czech born Prochazka would go on to avenge this loss in the inaugural RIZIN light heavyweight title fight, securing a third round KO. This means that Prochazka hasn’t lost to someone he hasn’t beaten since 2013.

With that said, it doesn’t get much tougher in regards to an opening fight in the UFC. Volkan Oezdemir has never not fought a ranked opponent in the UFC following a short notice upset victory over OSP back in 2017. Oezdemir – now 30 – is 5-3 in the UFC with wins over Rakic, OSP, Ilir Latifi, Jimi Manuwa and Misha Cirkunov. As for the defeats, nobody is going to hate on a loss to D.C. in your fourth UFC appearance. He was also choked out by Anthony Smith late in the third round and lost a razor close decision to Dom Reyes last March. I personally thought he won that fight.

Needless to say, there is an enormous gap in opponent quality for these two fighters. While Prochazka has certainly faced some formidable, UFC caliber competition; Oezdemir has been fighting the best in the world and only the best in the world. While Prochazka will be finding himself in a similar position to Oezdemir when the latter fought OSP, the chances of replicating are not high.

Both fighters are similar stylistically. They rely on their striking but both have excellent take down defense and the ability to work out of tough positions if needed. I’d give Oezdemir the clinch advantage, however, and probably the overall strength advantage. This is central to Oezdemir’s game plan, who usually does most of his damage in close. Volkan is a fighter who does a-lot more damage than the camera’s generally catch. He lands concise hooks in close and doesn’t need an abundant amount of them to start dealing damage.

The same can be said for leg kicks, which could present a key path to victory for Oezdemir. Leg kicks won him the Rakic fight, after all. It only took a few to cause a nasty hematoma that had Rakic backing up for the majority of the fight.

With that said, I see this fight playing out similarly to the Rakic fight. Jiri Prochazka is a technical, patient striker but he leans very heavily on his front leg. Yes, his stance switching is elite, but it won’t take many Oezdemir kicks to deal significant damage. If this happens, I don’t see a path to victory for Jiri.

Prochazka will have to keep the fight at range, but there will need to be a-lot more volume against Oezdemir. I don’t think he’ll be able to wait for the perfect shot like he’s been doing in recent fights. Prochazka’s best bet will be to win the fight from his distance, which won’t be much because he doesn’t hold a significant reach advantage. To do this he would of course be leaning on his front leg, which Volkan should be able to exploit.

I see Volkan being able to offset the game-plan of Jiri Prochazka, who hasn’t fought at this level of competition. Once that happens, Jiri will be locked into an ugly fight with a fighter who thrives in close. Jiri Prochazka is a great fighter and I’m going to be paying close attention to his UFC career, but this is simply too much, too soon.

Gambling wise, I’ll stick with the line. A knockout is certainly possible anytime the bigger weight classes step in the octagon, so it can’t be ruled out either way. With that said, the line here is a gift in my eyes. Oezdemir at (-160) is a great value and I don’t see any reason to mess with it. In my opinion, Oezdemir moneyline is the best value on a great betting card.

Prediction and play: Volkan Oezdemir moneyline (-160)

Odds courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook.

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