Still the champ: Jones earns hard-fought decision
HOUSTON — It was razor-close. Perhaps even controversial. But Jon Jones pulled off another record-setting victory Saturday night.
Jones beat Dominick Reyes by unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46) to retain the UFC light heavyweight title in the co-main event of UFC 247. The crowd at Toyota Center rained down boos when the result was read. When the bell was rung at the end of the fifth round, each man raised his arms, thinking he had won.
The scores differed for all three judges. Per the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, judge Marcos Rosales had Jones winning the second, fourth and fifth rounds. Judge Joe Solis had Jones winning the second, third, fourth and fifth. Chris Lee had Jones winning the third, fourth and fifth.
“I do feel disrespected,” Reyes said of one judge’s scoring the fight 49-46, adding, “I know I won that fight. … I made Jon Jones look like just a man. I brought the fight to him.”
UFC president Dana White said he scored the bout for Reyes, but scores from everyone are “all over the map.”
“My kids are terrorizing me that the fix is in. ‘How does this happen, Dad? Reyes won the fight!’ … None of us are judges. The judges call the fight, and that’s it,” White said.
In 22 career fights, this was the first time that Jones had been outstruck by an opponent, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Reyes landed 116 significant strikes to Jones’ 104. Reyes’ mark is the most by a Jones foe.
“He landed some hard hits. The fans like it when they see me get hit — it doesn’t happen very often,” Jones said. “But at the same time, I landed some takedowns. I got his back on more than one occasion. … A hard-earned victory but a victory.”
Reyes came out immediately at the opening bell and pressured Jones with his boxing, footwork and hard kicks to the body and legs. Reyes landed several good left hands in the first three rounds. In the second and third, Reyes was able to muster quality offense with his striking to put Jones on his bicycle, shuffling away near the cage.
Jones turned things on in the fourth and fifth rounds by going more to his wrestling, though Reyes never got into too bad of a position on the ground. Reyes thought he won Rounds 1, 2 and 3.
“I had him one through three, man,” Reyes said. “I was all over him. It is what it is. I’ll get better. … I proved that I’m the real deal.”
White said he thinks Reyes deserves a rematch.
“Dominick Reyes would have knocked 100% of the people he fought out with the shots he hit Jones with tonight,” White said.
Jones outlanded Reyes 46-34 on significant strikes in the last two rounds, with a pair of takedowns. In the fifth, Jones landed two hard right hands that snapped Reyes’ head back.
With the victory, Jones became the winningest UFC fighter in title fights (14), surpassing Georges St-Pierre. Jones also extended his record UFC unbeaten streak to 18 fights and tied Demetrious Johnson for the most UFC title defenses (11). The New York native has never truly lost in the cage, with his only loss coming via disqualification in 2009.
“That’s the way to make American history right there: hard-fought,” Jones said. “It wasn’t the most impressive victory, but nothing, absolutely nothing that has never been done before is easy. It is never easy. I left it all out there, showed the heart of a champion in the fifth round, and it’s so sweet.
“Obviously, my body is hurting, but this victory is so sweet. This fight helps to put me as one of the greatest American athletes of all time.”
Jones is arguably the greatest mixed martial arts fighter in history. He entered Saturday tied with Khabib Nurmagomedov atop ESPN’s pound-for-pound rankings. Reyes, a plus-375 underdog, is ESPN’s No. 4-ranked light heavyweight fighter. Jones has now defeated four previously undefeated fighters: Reyes, Daniel Cormier, Ryan Bader and Andre Gusmao.
“Dominick did a tremendous job,” Jones said. “Dominick, you have totally earned my respect, man.”
Jones (26-1, 1 NC) earned his 20th UFC win, placing him third on the all-time list. He has returned from a pair of drug test failures (both proven to be unintentional ingestions) to continue his reign atop the light heavyweight division. He has won four straight since his return in 2018. Jones, 32, was the youngest champion in UFC history, at 23 years old, when he won it in 2011.
“He’s the GOAT, all the things he’s accomplished,” White said. “Jon Jones isn’t 25 years old anymore. He’s taking on these young killers, and he finds a way to win these fights. I just think the bar is set so high, you have such high expectations.”
Reyes (12-1) had won all six of his UFC fights coming into Saturday. The California native knocked out former middleweight champion Chris Weidman in October to earn a shot against Jones. Reyes, 30, is a former college football player at Stony Brook University.
“I would not want it easy,” Jones said. “If it was easy, everyone in the audience would be doing it.”