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

Alex Pereira Continued His Historic Run At UFC 303 And Doesn't Look To Be Slowing Down Any Time Soon

Alex Pereira has made saving UFC cards quite a habit at this point. First, he found himself as the new main event at UFC 295 when Jon Jones was injured and scrapped the fight between he and Stipe Miocic. Then, he was called upon once again to headline UFC 300. About two months later, an even shorter-notice call came to step in and defend his belt on 2-weeks’ notice against Jiří Procházka.

All Pereira did was show up and knock people out with very little trouble.

The options are endless for Pereira, but light heavyweight is in as fun a space as it has been since Jones and Daniel Cormier vacated the division four years ago.

This is where we stand in the light heavyweight division:

Champion: Alex Pereira

Last Fight: TKO Win vs Jiří Procházka (6/29/2024)

Next fight: N/A

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)
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)

Outlook: It would be an understatement to call Pereira’s 9-fight run in the UFC anything but historic. In less than three years, the Brazilian has captured two belts as well as the hearts and imaginations of the fans. After defending his belt with ease, he has a few different directions and seems open to everything. Whether it’s defending his belt against Magomed Ankalaev or moving up to heavyweight in an attempt to become the first 3-division UFC champion, he has everything to play for in the future.  

1) Jiří Procházka

Last Fight: TKO Loss vs Alex Pereira (6/29/2024)

Next fight: N/A

 Jiri Prochazka of the Czech Republic punches Aleksandar Rakic of Austria in a light heavyweight fight during the UFC 300 event at T-Mobile Arena on April 13, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Jiri Prochazka of the Czech Republic punches Aleksandar Rakic of Austria in a light heavyweight fight during the UFC 300 event at T-Mobile Arena on April 13, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Outlook: Despite his best efforts, Jiří Procházka suffered a similar fate to Pereira in their rematch as he did in their first meeting. After the fight, the thoughtful former champion said he will “evolve” and come back stronger, and he remains very much in the mix at 205 even with Pereira at the top. He has options and long-awaited matchups against Jamahal Hill and Jan Błachowicz on the table. Procházka has also expressed the possibility of moving down to middleweight, but the seriousness of those ideas aren’t too concrete at the moment. 

2) Magomed Ankalaev

Last Fight: KO Win vs Johnny Walker (1/13/2024)

Next fight: N/A

Magomed Ankalaev of Russia reacts after his knockout victory against Johnny Walker of Brazil in a light heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on January 13, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Magomed Ankalaev of Russia reacts after his knockout victory against Johnny Walker of Brazil in a light heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on January 13, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Outlook: Ankalaev believed he did enough to earn a title shot after knocking out Johnny Walker to open 2024. The 32-year-old is unbeaten in 12 fights and has already fought for the belt once (to a draw against Błachowicz). Ankalaev has suffered some weird if not bad luck throughout the last year-and-a-half, from the draw to Błachowicz to a No Contest against Walker in their first fight to a weird, premature stoppage against Ion Cutelaba — Ankalaev has struggled to garner the momentum to remind people he is a dangerous contender. That said, those who know, know, and he has as much a right to a shot at Pereira as anyone in the division. If “Poatan” makes a venture to heavyweight, it could force Ankalaev into a fight with someone like Hill or Procházka, but that might be the hand he is dealt.  

3) Jamahal Hill

Last Fight: KO Loss vs Alex Pereira (4/13/2024)

Next fight: N/A

Jamahal Hill prepares to face Alex Pereira of Brazil in the UFC light heavyweight championship fight during the UFC 300 event at T-Mobile Arena on April 13, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Jamahal Hill prepares to face Alex Pereira of Brazil in the UFC light heavyweight championship fight during the UFC 300 event at T-Mobile Arena on April 13, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Outlook: Hill was desperate for a bounce-back performance at UFC 303 where he was originally slated to fight Khalil Rountree Jr. in the co-main event. That bout, which then turned into a matchup against Carlos Ulberg, fell apart when Hill pulled out due to issues with his knee, but the former champion is still chomping at the bit to get his hand raised. Always vocal on social media, Hill has clammored for a rematch with Pereira, but he’ll likely need to score a win against someone in the top-5 before that. The 33-year-old hasn’t fought anyone else in the current top-5 outside of the champion, so he has plenty of options.

4) Jan Błachowicz 

Last Fight: Split Decision Loss vs Alex Pereira (7/29/2023)

Next fight: N/A

Jan Blachowicz of Poland interacts with Magomed Ankalaev of Russia in their UFC light heavyweight championship fight during the UFC 282 event at T-Mobile Arena on December 10, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Jan Blachowicz of Poland interacts with Magomed Ankalaev of Russia in their UFC light heavyweight championship fight during the UFC 282 event at T-Mobile Arena on December 10, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Outlook: Nobody has come as close to beating Pereira outside of Israel Adesanya’s knockout win over “Poatan” in April 2023 other than Jan Błachowicz. The former light heavyweight champion fought Pereira to a split decision at UFC 291, a bout he still believes he won, and while he might feel like he deserves a rematch, Błachowicz likely needs to pick up a win or two to get that matchup. The 41-year-old hasn’t fought since that July 2023 bout due to injuries and surgery, but he and his “Legendary Polish Power” continue to serve as a real threat at 205 pounds despite going 1-2-1 in his last three bouts. His last win came against Rakić when “The Rocket” suffered a knee injury, so it would make sense to run that one back sooner than later.

5) Aleksandar Rakic

Last Fight: TKO Loss vs Jiří Procházka (4/13/2024)

Next fight: N/A

Aleksandar Rakic of Austria punches Jiri Prochazka of the Czech Republic in a light heavyweight fight during the UFC 300 event at T-Mobile Arena on April 13, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Aleksandar Rakic of Austria punches Jiri Prochazka of the Czech Republic in a light heavyweight fight during the UFC 300 event at T-Mobile Arena on April 13, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Outlook: Rakić looked fantastic for the better part of his first round against Procházka, his first fight since suffering a knee injury in May 2022. However, Procházka did what Procházka does and turned things against the 32-year-old, leaving Rakić on the outside of the title picture looking in. However, he has plenty of options to pick up his first win since March 2021. Fights against Hill, Błachowicz, Rountree Jr. and Ulberg all would allow Rakić to pick up a solid win to regain traction in the championship race. 

In the Mix: Khalil Rountree Jr., Carlos Ulberg

Khalil Rountree Jr. punches Anthony Smith in a light heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on December 09, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Khalil Rountree Jr. punches Anthony Smith in a light heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on December 09, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Outlook: Khalil Rountree Jr. seemed poised for his breakout opportunity when he booked a fight against Jamahal Hill at UFC 303, but a suspension kept him out of the co-main event and forced him to withdraw. Luckily for the 34-year-old veteran, Hill also was forced out of the bout, so that matchup could very well still be on the table. The incredibly-thoughtful light heavyweight is in the form of his life, having won five wins on the bounce (four via knockout) to have a shout at the top-5. He remains two or three wins away from the title picture, but given his penchant for spectacular finishes, that could happen quickly if the stars align.

The man who originally stepped in to replace him, Carlos Ulberg, also saw a golden chance fall apart when injuries knocked Hill out of the bout. The New Zealander is on a 6-fight winning streak, which includes five consecutive finishes, and is on the precipice of a top-flight opportunity. Whether that comes against Hill, or someone else in the top-10, the 33-year-old City Kickboxing representative is certainly due for his breakout shot.