Tonight’s UFC 247 event will see the return of UFC Light Heavyweight champion, Jon Jones when he squares off against undefeated challenger, Dominick Reyes at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.
Arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport today, “Bones” Jones will step back into the octagon for the first time in over a year and a half. The 205 LBS kingpin’s most recent title defense was a narrow split decision victory against Thiago Santos, who finished the contest with an injured knee, in July of 2019. However, that wasn’t the most recent time that the champion made headlines, as later that same month, he was charged with battery, stemming from an incident with a waitress at an Albuquerque restaurant in April of last year. He pleaded no contest and was sentenced to probation.
Jones, who usually fights cautiously, still couldn’t finish his opponent inside five rounds despite the injury, and as mentioned, despite the damage to his knee, Santos actually won the fight on one of the judges’ score cards. Was this finally a crack in the foundation of the one of the most dominate fighters in the history of the sport?
The 32-year-old champion should be building a legacy as the Muhammad Ali of mixed martial arts, with such an impressive combination of physical gifts and natural talent, but he continues to tarnish his own status, as his mishaps outside of the cage have made more headlines than anything he has done inside of the octagon. Don’t get me wrong, “Bones” Jones is undoubtedly one of the most talented fighters of his generation, but it’s extremely disappointing to see him waste most of the opportunity that his natural skill has provided for him. Instead of being an ambassador for the sport and etching his name in the history books for the example he could set for sportsmanship, similar to Georges St. Pierre previously, Jones often finds himself in a court room so his high-priced legal team can get him a light sentence of probation.
As long as Jones can avoid legal trouble that would prevent him from fighting, not fail another PED test that would prevent him from fighting, and continue to win then his laundry list of mistakes outside of the UFC are minimized. But, what if life in the fast lane finally affects his ability to win? Considering that he’s one of the top draws because of his skills, not because of his persona, without the belt his stock might drop. Bottom line, Donald Cerrone sold tickets because he has a gritty style that made for entertaining fights. Anderson Silva continued to sell tickets after his prime because the fans respected his skill in the cage and his humble post-fight interviews. Daniel Cormier has skills and a friendly nature on the mic. Jones doesn’t have that goodwill built up with the UFC audience. Again, much of his success if linked to the belt so this title defense shouldn’t be considered an easy fight,
Truthfully, the selling point on this bout is only on paper, as Dominick Reyes is undefeated with a 12-0 record, (6-0 in the UFC) but most of that is based on mid-level competition. Reyes’ most recent and impressive win was a first round KO against former UFC middleweight champion, Chris Weidman. However, Weidman, who started his career with over a dozen wins in a row and shocked the MMA world when he KO’ed Anderson Silva to win the 185 LBS belt, lost five of his last six bouts. So, even with the victory over a former champion, Reyes defeated a competitor that is either on a skid in his career or past his prime. To say that Reyes is taking a step up in competition is an understatement and the only intriguing aspect of this contest is that nobody else has defeated Reyes yet so perhaps he will be a formidable challenge to Jones, an athlete with a record of 25-1-1. Despite not being undefeated, Jon Jones is unbeaten, as the loss on his record was a DQ early in his career on a technicality from an unintentional illegal elbow, and the Cormier bout that was overturned to a no contest when Jones failed the post-fight drug test.
While a few have gotten close, nobody has been able to solve the puzzle of “Bones” Jones, who can use his lengthy reach to keep opponents at a distance and the clinch to dictate the direction of the fight. The original Alexander Gustafsson fight and the previously mentioned Santos bout were the only times that his record looked to be in jeopardy before the score cards were announced. Quite simply, he doesn’t have any major flaws in his fight style and doesn’t take any unnecessary chances, a trademark of the Greg Jackson system.
Dominick Reyes is a well-rounded competitor with an emphasis of striking, but also a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blue belt. The downside is that the vast majority of his wins are in the first round so his cardio against a top-level athlete will be a key to this fight. While anyone can get clipped with a punch, the prior Anderson Silva KO from Weidman as the main example, Jones uses his reach to stay away from danger. On the score cards is the most logical place that his record might be the in jeopardy since that was the only way he looked vulnerable to a potential defeat prior to this contest so if Reyes has a chance to win, it might be on the score cards. So, the question will be if Reyes can go into the championship rounds for the first time in his career against one of the most skilled athletes of the era?
In some ways, Reyes has nothing to lose in this fight because he’s still relatively unknown to most of the casual audience and he’s getting this title shot as a result of a lack of opponents for Jones more than anything. The odds put Reyes as a 3-to-1 underdog, which makes sense because his undefeated record suggests that he has a chance, but he’s still unproven against championship competition. While Reyes certainly does have a chance, if I had to guess I would say that Jon Jones will retain the title because Reyes doesn’t have the experience against the level of competition.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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