UFC 247 will see the long-time light-heavyweight king Jon Jones attempt to make the third defence of his most-recent run as champ against one of the division’s most highly-touted prospects, California-born striker, Dominick Reyes.
Since earning his belt back with a clinical display against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 232 – Jones has seemingly been set on firmly establishing himself as leaps and bounds ahead of his fellow light-heavyweights.
For the purposes of this piece, I’ll be taking a quick look at both fighters and the numerous x-factors that each may present on Saturday night before rounding up with my concrete prediction for the fight itself.
It’s interesting how we’re starting to see a shift in people’s attitudes towards the pound-for-pound king in recent times.
Most who knew what they were looking for scored the tightly-contested UFC 239 clash between Jones and Thiago Santos in favour of the champ but even still, the Brazilian’s gutsy and driven performance was enough to make the general public curious about Bones’ career trajectory.
It’s not that there was too much outrightly worrying with the champ’s performance on the night – seeing Jon have his difficulties with the considerable underdog was enough to, at the very least, open a new conversation about his future.
As for where I stand on Jones and the status of his ‘prime’ years, I honestly can’t say for sure. A long career in the sport can be enough to accelerate the advances of Father Time but let’s not forget who we’re talking about here.
In my eyes, Jones is the greatest example of what a modern mixed martial artist should look like inside the octagon – sharp, technical, well-rounded, and with an incredible ability to control where the fight takes place.
Unless a move to the heavyweight division finally happens, I do think that it will take a newer technology to supplant him at 205lbs and from what we’ve seen coming through the ranks in the division of late, it’s hard to be as excited about the weight-classes’ growth as it is for the lighter weights at present.
I have been pretty high on Dominick Reyes for quite some time now but I must admit that I was disappointed in his UFC London split decision win over Volkan Oezdemir – a fight that I, along with many others, called in favour of the Switzerland-native.
The more destructive path he paved through his earlier career run had many people convinced that Reyes was the future of the division – a prediction that could well come to light, don’t get me wrong.
All I’m saying is that a somewhat questionable victory over Oezdemir and a first-round KO of the battle-worn Chris Weidman have done little to build on the hype that once existed around this man.
Of course, styles make fights and with physical dimensions comparable to Jon’s, Reyes could well ask some questions of the champ while things remain on feet.
Based on what we know, however, there are two undeniable areas that Jones will hold vast advantages in once the octagon doors close.
Experience and his overall skills as a grappler.
In a five-round fight against Reyes, I believe both will be instrumental in leading him down the path to victory.
Though just two years apart in age, the gulf in experience that exists between these two is quite frankly gargantuan in its size and while Reyes holds some interesting x-factors in his power, length, and overall striking acumen, I’ve seen Jon tested too many times in the past to pick against him.
So how do I see it playing out?
Reyes truly does stand as perhaps the most ‘modern’ fighter Jones has stepped in against up until this point. He’s technically astute, strategically proficient and from what I gather, his emphasis on tirelessly studying his opponents is not to be underestimated.
What we have here is a very dangerous, new challenge for the long-time king of the light-heavyweight division.
Now, do I think that the sport – and, in particular, Reyes’ understanding of it – has moved past Jones in any way that could affect the outcome on Saturday night? Possibly, but, I really do still believe that Jon is the best in the world at what he does.
Even when you factor in the undeniable sloppiness that has seen both the light-heavyweight and heavyweight divisions slump in recent years – the manner by which Jones has been able to navigate that razor-thin margin for error over the years has been nothing short of marvelous to watch.
Can Reyes do it? Yes, of course. We all watched as the massive underdog Thiago Santos gave the champ a tough outing at UFC 239 and as you would expect, the fans have not been as quick to rule out a massive upset.
For me, though, based on what we know about these two and their attributes, I believe it will be the experience and technical excellence of the champion that sees him through this matchup.
I can see a confident showing from Bones, sustained over the course of the full twenty-five in a battle that will serve up more interesting questions for him to answer than actual do-or-die dilemmas.
Perhaps we will see some equally contested striking in the opening round but if I had to guess, I would imagine that Jones will be looking to his wrestling to help him avoid playing with fire too much this time around.
It might not be the emphatic return to form that you would expect given the difficulties he experienced last time around, but I believe that Jon will be dominant from start to finish once the cage doors close.
Expect Jones to take it on all three judges’ scorecards.
Prediction: Jon Jones via unanimous decision