UFC 247: Jon Jones pushed to the limit as he registers controversial win over Dominick Reyes
There were cheers and boos from the stands as Jones was declared the unanimous decision victor in Houston
UFC light heavyweight champion Jon "Bones" Jones set a new UFC record with his 14th title fight victory, but it didn't come easy as he was pushed to the limit by previously undefeated challenger Dominick Reyes at UFC 247.
The pair went toe to toe in a thrilling title fight in the main event in Houston, Texas, with the fight leaving fans and media alike split on the final outcome after five grueling rounds at Toyota Centre.
Reyes came flying out the gate at the start of the first round as he took the fight to Jones from the very start, and briefly sent the champion to the mat with a straight left to the body. The former NCAA American football prospect looked relaxed and free of nerves as he forced the champion backward with an array of strikes.
That pressure continued through the second round, as Reyes outstruck and outmanoeuvered the champion throughout the second stanza. And after Reyes appeared to edge the third despite more forward pressure from the champion, it looked like Jones would need a finish – or a 10-8 round – to ensure he kept hold of his title.
Jones, perhaps knowing the fight hung in the balance, turned up the pressure in the championship rounds and mixed up takedown attempts with a higher strike rate against a slowing Reyes to clearly win the final two rounds as the bout went to the scorecards.
And when the scores were announced, there were cheers and boos from the stands as Jones was declared the unanimous decision victor, with scores of 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46. The National's unofficial scorecard awarded the fight to Reyes 48-47.
It evoked memories of Jones' thrilling title clash with Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165 in 2013, when the Swedish challenger pushed Jones to the very limit in Toronto. But, just as we saw back then, it was Jones who got the nod on the scorecards after a highly-competitive encounter.
After the fight, Jones paid tribute to his opponent, saying that the challenger "did a tremendous job," during the fight.
"Dominick, you have totally earned my respect, man. That was a great fight," he said.
"I think the difference in the fight was takedowns. I couldn't keep him down for too long, but I was taking him down. It was close in the kickboxing exchanges, he landed some tough shots, but I believe my takedowns gave me the edge.
"I knew it was a really close fight, and I turned it up in the fifth round. That fifth round won me the fight. Those takedowns won me the fight."
Reyes respectfully disagreed, as he pointed out that he bounced back up from each takedown as he prevented Jones from turning the takedowns into any scoring offence on the ground.
"I thought I won (rounds) one through three," he said.
"He was on me four and five, he's a champion. He got those takedowns at the end, but I popped right back up. I didn't think they'd be a factor at the end.
"But I had him one through three. I was all over him. It is what it is. I'll get better. This just proves that I'm the real deal."
Reyes' arrival as a proven world-class contender was certainly confirmed, but it was Jones who left the octagon with the UFC light heavyweight title as he maintained his record of never having lost a title fight in the UFC. It also saw Jones claim a new mark, with his 14th win in a title fight setting a new UFC record, surpassing the mark set by the Canadian legend and former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre.
"To break a record, to be a part of UFC history in this way, I wouldn't want it easy," said Jones.
"If this stuff was easy, everybody out there in the audience would be doing it. It's an incredibly hard thing that I did tonight. Dominick is tall, he's big, he's strong, he was well coached. He's a lot better than I thought he was. He knocked out everybody else he's fought, pretty much. He was definitely a worthy opponent."
Technically, Jones has won 15 title fights but his win over Daniel Cormier at UFC 214 was subsequently ruled a no-contest due to a failed drug test.
Shevchenko dominates once again
In the night's co-main event, Valentina Shevchenko produced a dominant display to finish number one contender Katlyn Chookagian in three rounds with a one-sided performance in the women's flyweight division.
Kyrgyzstan's Shevchenko looked in complete control against Chookagian as she counter-struck with unerring accuracy and scored with significant takedowns in each of the three rounds, with the third round effort setting up her TKO finish with ground strikes after securing a crucifix position on the challenger.
The manner of Shevchenko's victory raises questions over who could pose a serious challenge to one of the most dominant champions in the UFC, but the fighter known as "Bullet" said she'll be ready for whoever steps up to challenge her next.
"I feel there's a lot of talented, very good girls in the 125 (pound) division, and I feel I have to fight them," she said. "I'm open for anything, I'm open for any fight that happens in the future.
"I'm very happy to defend my belt in Houston, because for two years this was my home. It's the best feeling I can feel right now."
Updated: February 9, 2020 11:35 AM