Jon Jones, widely regarded as the greatest fighter of all time, nearly lost his standing as UFC light heavyweight champion at UFC 247 on Saturday night in Houston, Texas.
Previously undefeated challenger Dominick Reyes took Jones to the wire in a fight that many are going to say that he won. He certainly thought he did.
“I had him one through three man. It is what it is, but I’m gonna get better,” Reyes said after the fight at the Toyota Center. “He got me a little bit rounds four and five. That’s the game man.”
Reyes certainly seemed to have a solid game plan from the start. He didn’t sit back and wait, but instead used his stellar foot movement to avoid a lot of Jones’s early strikes, while keeping his foot on the gas pedal from the opening bell.
Jones was constantly moving forward, trying to pressure Reyes into making mistakes and wear him down. Reyes handled the pressure well, moving away from most of Jones’s power, while outstriking him throughout the first three rounds.
It wasn’t simply head hunting, however, as Reyes was deftly working a strategy of body punches and leg kicks to try and take away Jones’s movement and power. He didn’t really manage to slow Jones down much, but he did outwork him in the early going.
Jones didn’t let Reyes’s output knock him off track. He stuck the course, continuing to put pressure on the challenger, while stepping up his own attacks in rounds four and five when Reyes slowed.
What really set Jones apart in the championship rounds were his takedowns. He shot on Reyes several times, frequently getting him to the canvas. He couldn’t keep him down or do much damage on the ground, but the visual of Jones being in control may have been just what the judges needed to mark the cards in his favor, which they did.
“Dominick, you certainly earned my respect. I think the difference was the takedowns. I couldn’t keep him down for long, but I think my takedowns are what gave me the edge,” Jones told Joe Rogan after the fight.
“That fifth round won me the fight. Those takedowns won me the fight. I believe with my whole heart that I won that fight.”
The judges agreed, giving Jones a unanimous decision with scores of 48-47, 48-47, and 49-46.
The victory moved Jones to the head of the class of UFC champions. He stands alone as the only fighter in UFC history to have won 14 title fights. Jones is followed by Georges St-Pierre with 13 championship wins, Demetrious Johnson with 12, and Anderson Silva with 11.
Reyes suffered the first defeat of his career, but proved that he wasn’t outclassed when stepping into the realm of champions.
(Photo courtesy of UFC)