UFC 247 viewers guide: Will Dominick Reyes be the one to figure out Jon Jones?

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In 2019, Jon Jones accomplished something he never had before: He flew under the radar.

Even in a year in which the UFC’s biggest star, Conor McGregor, failed to make a single appearance, 2019 was by all measures one of the quietest years of Jones’ career. He defended his light heavyweight championship twice, against Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos, and he went home.

He stayed mostly out of trouble. No drug testing controversies to speak of. Even from a competitive standpoint, Jones didn’t talk a lot of trash. He did what he said he was going to in 2019. He kept his head down and continued to extend the gap between himself and the rest of the 205-pound division.

Jones, 32, will look to stay that course on Saturday when he meets Dominick Reyes in the main event of UFC 247 in Houston (10 p.m. ET, order here on pay-per-view).

There’s a second championship fight in the co-main event, with Valentina Shevchenko defending her flyweight belt against Katlyn Chookagian. If successful, it would be the third defense for Shevchenko. She is a long way behind Jones in terms of accolades, but no one doubts she has a chance to ultimately hold her title just as long as he has.

Still, this night will be about Jones. Should he win, he would move ahead of Georges St-Pierre for most title wins in UFC history — it would be his 14th — and would tie Demetrious Johnson‘s record of most title defenses (12).

It’s an interesting tug of war for Jones. In recent years, he has clearly taken measures to step out of the public eye. But as he enters 2020, his career is at a point that he should absolutely be one of the biggest stories of the year.

With McGregor wanting to stay active, and other stars like Jorge Masvidal, Nate Diaz, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Israel Adesanya all on the rise, it will be interesting to see if Jones — and his all-time greatness — will capture the imagination and attention of the MMA world in 2020 as much as it used to.

A dominant performance on Saturday, reminiscent of the Jones who stormed through the division before other issues veered him off course, might do the trick.

Light heavyweight championship: Jones vs. Reyes

By the numbers

17: Consecutive UFC fights in which Jones is unbeaten, a record for the promotion. Since March 2010, he is 16-0 with one no contest.

95: Percent of opponents’ takedown attempts successfully defended by Jones, second-highest all time in the UFC, behind Jimmie Rivera‘s 95.5%. Reyes’ 84% is fifth-best among light heavyweights.

2.03: Strikes absorbed per minute by Jones, the fewest among active UFC light heavyweights. Reyes is third, at 2.24.

2.79: Strikes landed for every one absorbed by Reyes, the best differential among active UFC 205-pounders (and ninth-best among all active fighters). Jones (2.28) is fourth among light heavyweights.

6: Consecutive UFC victories by Reyes, giving him the longest active win streak among 205-pounders.

Sources: ESPN Stats & Information and UFC Stats

A look back

Five vs. five

Jon Jones’ most recent results
Win: Thiago Santos (SD, July 6, 2019; Watch on ESPN+)
Win: Anthony Smith (UD, March 2, 2019; Watch on ESPN+)
Win: Alexander Gustafsson (TKO3, Dec. 29, 2018)
NC: Daniel Cormier (Win overturned, July 29, 2017)
Win: Ovince Saint Preux (UD, April 23, 2016; Watch on ESPN+)

Dominick Reyes’ most recent results
Win: Chris Weidman (KO1, Oct. 18, 2019; Watch on ESPN+)
Win: Volkan Oezdemir (SD, March 16, 2019, Watch on ESPN+)
Win: Ovince Saint Preux (UD, Oct. 6, 2018)
Win: Jared Cannonier (TKO1, May 19, 2018)
Win: Jeremy Kimball (SUB1, Dec. 2, 2017)

Fighting words

“Beating up on cans has got him convinced he’s a better athlete than most of the world. If he was so badass he would’ve won the California state wrestling championships, he would’ve went division one, He would have at least made a practice squad for the NFL. This man is delusional.” — Jones, tweeting about Reyes

“That’s why he’s not ever going to be on the Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali level. No matter how many wins he gets, no matter how many titles he wins, he can’t get out of his own way. He’s just not a good person.” — Reyes, speaking on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show about Jones

Dom & Gil’s film study

Dominick Cruz and Gilbert Melendez assess Jones’ attacks:

Cruz and Melendez on how Reyes can pull the upset:

Brett Okamoto’s prediction

It’s always the same problem when you’re trying to look for an upset of Jones. Where? Where does it happen? Reyes is very good but still relatively young in his career. Jones has advantages in experience, size and versatility. Reyes is composed, holds power in his left hand and is difficult to keep on the floor. All of those are great attributes, but they’re nothing Jones hasn’t seen (and dominated) before. Until someone does it, I don’t anticipate ever picking against Jones. Jones by submission, third round.


Women’s flyweight championship:
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Katlyn Chookagian

By the numbers

12: Stoppages by Shevchenko among her 18 wins. She has seven submissions and five KO/TKOs.

10: Decision victories by Chookagian among her 13 overall wins. She is one of just four fighters who have had their first eight UFC bouts go to the judges.

4.35: Significant strikes landed per minute by Chookagian. Shevchenko lands 3.02.

234-100: Significant strike differential in favor of Shevchenko in her four UFC flyweight fights.

6-0: Shevchenko’s record in UFC fights when earning multiple takedowns. When she doesn’t: 1-2.

Sources: ESPN Stats & Information and UFC Stats

A look back

Five vs. five

Valentina Shevchenko’s most recent results
Win: Liz Carmouche (UD, Aug. 10, 2019; Watch on ESPN+)
Win: Jessica Eye (KO2, June 8, 2019; Watch on ESPN+)
Win: Joanna Jędrzejczyk (UD, Dec. 8, 2018; Watch on ESPN+)
Win: Priscila Cachoeira (SUB2, Feb. 3, 2018)
Loss: Amanda Nunes (SD, Sept. 9, 2017; Watch on ESPN+)

Katlyn Chookagian’s most recent results
Win: Jennifer Maia (UD, Nov. 2, 2019; Watch on ESPN+)
Win: Joanne Calderwood (UD, June 8, 2019; Watch on ESPN+)
Loss: Jessica Eye (SD, Dec. 8, 2018)
Win: Alexis Davis (UD, July 28, 2018)
Win: Mara Romero Borella (UD, Jan. 27, 2018)

Fighting words

“She hasn’t faced anyone with my style. I move, I don’t just stand there and go running forward, like the last few opponents. I utilize a lot of footwork and head movement, and I keep that pace up for five rounds.” — Chookagian, speaking of Shevchenko at a UFC news conference in December

“No offense to Katlyn, but all of my opponents — every one — were thinking before facing me that I didn’t face no one with the same style.” — Shevchenko at the same news conference

Dom & Gil’s film study

Cruz and Melendez break down the flyweights:

Brett Okamoto’s prediction

Chookagian is a technical stand-up fighter who does what she does well. But she lacks finishing ability, and Shevchenko seems to have the skills to beat her anywhere, in her area of strength on the feet or on the ground. Shevchenko via TKO, fourth round.

What else to look for … beyond the title fights

The rest of the card:

PPV (via ESPN+), 10 p.m. ET
Juan Adams vs. Justin Tafa | Heavyweight
Mirsad Bektić vs. Dan Ige | Men’s featherweight
Derrick Lewis vs. Ilir Latifi | Heavyweight
ESPN, 8 p.m.
Trevin Giles vs. Antonio Arroyo | Middleweight
Lauren Murphy vs. Andrea Lee | Women’s flyweight
Alex Morono vs. Kalinn Williams | Welterweight
Miles Johns vs. Mario Bautista | Men’s bantamweight
ESPN+, 6:30 p.m.
Journey Newson vs. Domingo Pilarte | Men’s bantamweight
Andre Ewell vs. Jonathan Martinez | Men’s bantamweight
Austin Lingo vs. Youssef Zalal | Men’s featherweight

Facing Lewis is a big step up for Latifi

play

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Look back at some of Derrick Lewis’ funniest one-liners throughout his time with the UFC.

It sure looks like the UFC is giving Derrick Lewis a showcase fight in his adopted hometown of Houston.

The big heavyweight opens the main card with a bout against Ilir Latifi, who comes in on a two-fight losing streak — at light heavyweight.

Lewis (22-7, 1 NC), who is No. 6 in the ESPN heavyweight rankings, is 6-foot-3 and typically weighs in near the heavyweight limit of 265 pounds.

The 5-10 Latifi did start his career as a heavyweight, making his pro debut in 2008 against current UFC fighter Blagoy Ivanov, who coincidentally happens to be Lewis’ most recent opponent (Lewis won a split decision in November). But two fights later, Latifi moved down to 205 pounds and has remained there ever since.

Latifi is known as “The Sledgehammer,” and he might need one in the cage on Saturday.

Odds ‘n’ ends

Some undercard tidbits from ESPN Stats & Information:

  • When heavyweight prospects Juan Adams (5-2) and Justin Tafa (3-1) meet, the only logical conclusion is a knockout. Neither man has won a fight by any other means.

  • Dan Ige (12-2), who meets Mirsad Bektic (13-2) at featherweight, is on a four-fight win streak after losing his UFC debut. Ige’s 50.6% significant strike accuracy is fourth-highest among active featherweights, according to UFC Stats.

  • The headline fight of the ESPN prelims pits Trevin Giles (11-2) against middleweight Antonio Arroyo (9-3). Giles lands 61.2% of his significant strikes, which would be third-highest among active fighters if he qualified (he has four UFC fights but needs five). Arroyo has been to a decision only twice in his career, and seven of his eight finishes have come in Round 1.

  • Andrea Lee (11-3) has landed 53.3% of her significant strike attempts in the flyweight division, the fourth-best rate among the 27 women with at least three UFC fights at 125 pounds. Her opponent, Lauren Murphy (11-4), lands at a 29.7% clip, the worst rate among those 27 flyweights.

  • In the welterweight prelim between Alex Morono (17-5) and Kalinn Williams (9-1), someone’s run of success will end. Morono is on a three-fight win streak, and Williams, who is making his UFC debut, has won six straight.

  • There are a couple of undefeated men in the prelims: bantamweight Miles Johns (10-0), who faces Mario Bautista, and featherweight Austin Lingo (7-0), who takes on Youssef Zalal.

  • Domingo Pilarte is 8-2 and his bantamweight opponent, Journey Newson, is 9-2. But both are 0-1 in the UFC and looking to break through.

  • Andre Ewell (15-6) has two UFC wins, both by decision. But he has something to aim for: His opponent, Jonathan Martinez (11-2), has never been finished.

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