UFC 303 predictions — Alex Pereira vs. Jiri Prochazka 2: Fight card, odds, prelims, preview, expert picks

An exciting rematch between light heavyweight champion Alex Pereira and Jiri Prochazka headlines Saturday’s UFC 303 card from Las Vegas. While a fight between two of the most action-oriented fighters in the heavier weight classes may get fans blood pumping, it was quite the journey to the two big men agreeing to step in the Octagon.

UFC 303 was originally planned to feature Conor McGregor’s first fight since suffering a broken leg in his rematch with Dustin Poirier in 2021. Unfortunately, a broken toe forced McGregor out of his fight with Michael Chandler just weeks ahead of the event, leaving UFC matchmakers scrambling to find a solid replacement for the International Fight Week card.

They got the job done with Pereiria and Prochazka, who first met in November 2023, with Pereira scoring a second-round stoppage. That fight was Prochazka’s first since returning from an injury that forced him to vacate the light heavyweight title. Both have gone on to pick up a win, with Pereira knocking out former light heavyweight champ Jamahal Hill and Prochazka outslugging Aleksandar Rakic, both at UFC 300.

The co-main event also went through a major transformation, originally featuring Hill vs. Khalil Rountree before a series of injuries to those fighters, as well as replacements, led to the fight eventually becoming Anthony Smith vs. Roman Dolidze.

In response, the UFC booked a new co-main event featuring featherweight contenders Diego Lopes and Brian Ortega, with the winner moving closer to a future shot at the 145-pound title.

Given that the card was originally centered around McGregor, the undercard is fairly shallow on name value, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty of action worth keeping an eye on. Rising middleweight contender Joe Pfyer looks to get back on track when he takes on Marc-Andre Barriault in a preliminary bout. Ian Machado Garry and Michael “Venom” Page are set to square off in an interesting welterweight contest between rising contenders. And a late addition to the card sees Roman Dolidze move up to light heavyweight to challenge veteran Anthony Smith.

With so much happening on Saturday night, let’s take a closer look at the full fight card with the latest odds before we get to our staff predictions and picks for the PPV portion of the festivities.

UFC 303 fight card, odds

  • Alex Pereira (c) -150 vs. Jiri Prochazka +125, light heavyweight title
  • Diego Lopes -145 vs. Brian Ortega +120, featherweights
  • Roman Dolidze -145 vs. Anthony Smith +120, light heavyweights
  • Macy Chiasson -110 vs. Mayra Bueno Silva -110, women’s bantamweights
  • Ian Machado Garry -155 vs. Michael Page +130, welterweights
  • Joe Pyfer -300 vs. Marc-Andre Barriault +240, middleweights
  • Andre Fili -235 vs. Cub Swanson +195. featherweights
  • Charles Jourdain -115 vs. Jean Silva -105, featherweights
  • Gillian Robertson -180 vs. Michelle Waterson-Gomez +155, women’s strawweights
  • Payton Talbott -1600 vs. Yanis Ghemmouri +800, bantamweights
  • Martin Buday -270 vs. Andrei Arlovski +220, heavyweights
  • Rei Tsuruya -470 vs. Carlos Hernandez +350, flyweights
  • Ricky Simon -250 vs. Vinicius Olivera +205, bantamweights

With such a massive main event on tap, the crew at CBS Sports went ahead with predictions and picks for the main card. Here are your pick makers: Brent Brookhouse (Combat sports writer), Brian Campbell (Combat sports writer), Shakiel Mahjouri (writer), Michael Mormile (producer) and Brandon Wise (senior editor).

UFC 303 picks, predictions

Pereira vs. Prochazka Pereira Pereira Pereira Pereira Prochazka
Lopes vs. Ortega Lopes Ortega Lopes Ortega Ortega
Dolidze vs. Smith Smith Smith Dolidze Dolidze Smith
Chiasson vs. Bueno Silva Bueno Silva Bueno Silva Bueno Silva Chiasson Chiasson
Garry vs. Page Garry Page Garry Page Garry

Pereira vs. Prochazka

Campbell: While their first meeting was a predictably wild affair with both landing big shots, the speed and technical precision of Pereira’s left hook remains a problem for everyone he steps into the cage with. In the case of Prochazka, his defensive liabilities and often reckless style make it an even bigger one. Both fighters will be making 77-day turnarounds from their respective wins at UFC 300 in April, which doesn’t provide much of an advantage either way. Pereira’s two broken toes don’t appear to be holding him back, even if his appearance at UFC 303 only came to be after Conor McGregor broke his own pinky toe and needed to pull out. Pereira is operating at the peak of his powers and appears to be even better as a light heavyweight than he was making the difficult cut down to 185 pounds. 

Brookhouse: What reason is there to expect this fight to play out differently than the first meeting? Prochazka is incredible to watch for the exact reasons Pereira is a terrible opponent for him. Prochazka is defensively wide-open and operates with a similarly wide-open aggression. That’s just a bad combination against a fighter like Pereira, who has pinpoint striking as well as brutal power. Prochazka could try and take a wrestling-first approach, but that’s not his bread and butter and I’m not sure that’s a recipe for guaranteed success against Pereira now that he’s had years to learn takedown defense and enough skills to survive and get back to his feet when the fight does hit the floor. Expect a wild five to 10 minutes before Pereira lands the shot that signals the beginning of the end.

Mahjouri: I won’t make the mistake twice of picking Prochazka over Pereira. The reigning champ’s composure, technique and earth-shattering power are leagues ahead of the division’s other strikers. It likely takes an elite wrestler or well-rounded fighter who masks takedowns behind strikes to overcome this version of Pereira. Prochazka is most comfortable in chaos. Prochazka lost the technical striking battle in Round 1 of his fight against Aleksandar Rakic before finishing Rakic with a nonstop offensive flurry in Round 2. Unfortunately, Pereira has too much knockout power for that to be a responsible game plan. Prochazka might conform to a defensive style but he’ll likely be outpointed by Pereira, the superior technical striker. Prochazka will be compelled to force the issue and will likely get taken out by a ferocious counterpunch.

Wise: While I do believe Pereira has already cemented himself as one of the best fighters of the modern era, there is something about how hastily this fight was put together and the injuries that “Poatan” will carry into the Octagon. Prochazka managed to stand in front of Rakic and eat every strike he threw before rallying to stop him. I’m not sure that strategy exactly is how the Czech native can get it done, but Prochazka does have that weird, special quality to him that is able to absorb a ton of damage before delivering the finishing blow of his own. Keep in mind, Pereira has been stopped before and Prochazka does have plenty of power. It will be interesting to see how the two broken toes on Pereira affect is movement as well. 

Lopes vs. Ortega

Campbell: Talk about a fun, last-minute offering as a new co-main event. Key positioning within the featherweight rankings is available for both but it’s Lopes who has been more active and riding a huge lightning bolt of momentum. Even though Ortega rebounded nicely to submit Yair Rodriguez in their February rematch, he absorbed big punishment (as usual). Unless we see an Ortega who is committed to moving his head and protecting himself within battle, this is a fight that can be one on the feet by the surging Lopes, even to the point of a knockout provided the strong grappling games of each other cancel out. 

Brookhouse: There are so many factors that make this a hard fight to pick. Both men are coming in on short notice, for starters. Both are also not great at defending incoming attacks while being able to get their own dynamic attacks going. Lopes is on a hell of a roll, but Ortega is used to the big stage. Yes, Ortega took some damage against Yair Rodriguez earlier this year but taking damage is part of his game, for better or worse. If Ortega can survive the first-round blitz, I think he takes over the fight in the second and third, but I say this with little confidence.

Mahjouri: There is no way this fight will be boring. Ortega and Lopes are dynamic, offense-oriented fighters who wield knockout power and exciting submission games. It’s a toss-up stylistically. Ortega has the advantage of high-level experience. “T-City” has accumulated a lot of damage but has never been stopped cleanly, only by doctor stoppage. Lopes may not have as much high-level UFC experience but he’s competed 10 more times professionally than his opponent. Lopes performed tremendously in a losing short-notice debut against Movsar Evloev last year. Something tells me he’ll handle the quick turnaround better than Ortega, particularly considering how much damage Ortega took in a winning performance against Yair Rodriguez in February. My biggest concern in siding with Lopes is his paltry 37% striking defense in the UFC. That might balance out with Ortega’s surprisingly low 38% striking accuracy. I’ll trepidatiously take Lopes inside the distance.

Dolidze vs. Smith

Campbell: Originally booked in what is now a cursed co-main event slot as a replacement for Khalil Rountree Jr., Smith remains the last man standing after Jamahal Hill and Carlos Ulberg proceeded to follow Rountree in withdrawing. Smith’s opportunistic nature helped him in staying on the card as the only fighter who would agree to face him on extreme late notice was middleweight Roman Dolidze. Smith not only has the size and experience edge as a former 205-pound title challenger, his grappling skills could give Dolidze big issues as Smith attempts to build on the momentum of his first-round submission win over Vitor Petrino in May to stop a losing skid.

Mahjouri: Don’t be fooled by Dolidze’s recent performances. Dolidze’s losses to Nassourdine Imavov and Marvin Vettori are forgivable, particularly considering Imavov’s recent stoppage win over Jared Cannonier. Dolidze has mostly been a KO artist in MMA but wields a strong grappling background. Dolidze has won multiple grappling championships and competed at the prestigious ADCC Worlds Tournament. Dolidze has also fought as high as heavyweight so I don’t think he’ll be bothered by the short-notice jump from middleweight. Smith’s chin is compromised and his defensive response time has slowed. “Lionheart” presently is at his best when capitalizing on opponents’ inexperience. I’m not sure how consistently Dolidze will land on the feet but he has power and enough skills to avoid making a detrimental error.

Who wins UFC 303: Pereira vs. Prochazka 2, and how exactly does each fight end? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed picks on UFC 303, all from the MMA expert who profited more than $1,500 on his UFC main-card picks, and find out.

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