FightWatch: UFC 247: Jones vs. Reyes
The Octagon is back on The Arena! Since we were last here, Conor McGregor made his triumphant return, starching Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone in 40 seconds. Unfortunately, I found it difficult to get a review done- couldn't afford the PPV, couldn't find a decent stream, went to a pub to watch it but the place was packed and I had trouble clearly watching the undercard with the majority of patrons being noisy and not really paying attention to the fights until Conor came out, but still blocking my view. Man, being broke and unable to work for a while sure sucks all the dicks at times like these.
This past weekend, the UFC went to Houston, Texas. Being a Fight Pass subscriber, I was able to watch all the prelims live and in HD happily at home, and I was able to watch the PPV main card thanks to a handy website that I use to *watch wrestling*- it also has UFC links due to the fan crossover.
The top of the card features two title fights. The main event is for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. The defending champion is considered in some circles as the GOAT... personally, I don't know. He's had issues with PEDs and the whole "picogram" thing doesn't fly with me. If you're the greatest of all time, you don't use performance enhancing drugs. Just one man's opinion. Anyway, Jon Jones is an exceptional talent. No doubt about it. But there's an asterisk next to his wins and accomplishments for me. Moving an entire event from Vegas to California just to get around Jones' drug test problems is shady as fuck. And ever since USADA became involved with the UFC, Jones has looked far more human. At 32 years old, he should be in his athletic prime, but his last two fights against Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos saw the champ just getting by- especially the Santos fight.
The challenger, Dominick Reyes, has quickly risen through the ranks of the 205lb division. His last fight saw him welcome former middleweight champion Chris Weidman to the weight class, destroying him in 1:43 of the first round. At 12-0, is he ready for the biggest challenge of his career?
The co-main features the women's flyweight division. After some early growing pains, the ladies' 125lb class is ruled by Valentina Shevchenko. "The Bullet" defeated former strawweight queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk to capture the vacant Flyweight Championship in December 2018. A little over a year later, Shevchenko has defended the belt twice, most recently shutting down Liz Carmouche in a lopsided 5 round battle (side note: Carmouche was released from her UFC contract following the loss, in a very harsh move). Prior to that, Shevchenko delivered maybe the most impressive performance of her career, taking out Jessica Eye with a highlight reel head kick.
With Shevchenko quickly mowing through her contenders, UFC was left with limited options for her next challenger. The shot would go to Katlyn Chookagian. She comes in only on a 2 fight win streak, and her last bout saw her get the unanimous decision over Jennifer Maia in a dull and forgettable affair. Then again, Holly Holm looked pretty damn ordinary heading into her title shot against Ronda Rousey, so you just never know. MMA is a crazy sport sometimes.
UFC 247's undercard didn't have much to get excited about on paper. The only other notable fight features a popular fighter hailing from the host city of Houston- The Black Beast, Derrick Lewis. The charismatic slugger welcomes Ilir Latifi to the heavyweight division in the PPV opener. That said, sometimes the cards that look great on paper suck, and sometimes the ones that look average knock it out of the park. Like I said, MMA's a little crazy like that.
Let's do this!
UFC Fight Pass Prelims
Fight 1: (145) Yusuff Zalal def. Austin Lingo via Unanimous Decision (30-27 X3)
Worth A Watch? This was an impressive debut for both men. I did my research coming in to this event, mostly to hype myself up for the show- I didn't actually place bets this time. Based on the footage I saw, I expected Lingo to blast through Zalal- and based on the betting odds, many felt the same way. However, Zalal displayed great confidence and composure, mixing his striking attacks high and low, and mixing in submission attempts like D'Arce and anaconda chokes. Nice way to start the card, never really a dull moment from these young guys looking to prove themselves in their first UFC outing.
Fight 2: (135) Andre Ewell def. Jonathan Martinez via Split Decision (28-29, 29-28, 30-27)
Worth A Watch? Definitely a solid fight. However, it's tainted slightly by the horrible judging. Based on the pressure and striking of Martinez, he took R2 and R3 pretty clearly the way I saw it, particularly hurting Ewell several times with body shots. Unfortunately, this would be far from the last bit of judging controversy on this show.
Fight 3: (135) Journey Newson def. Domingo Pilarte via TKO (punches) at 0:38 of R1
Worth A Watch? Hell yeah! About as wild a 30 second fight as you're ever going to see. Pilarte hurts Newson early with a head kick, and moments later Newson uncorks a bomb of a right hand that puts Pilarte on his ass, with quick follow up strikes forcing the ref to call it. Awesome action.
Fight 1: (135) Mario Bautista def. Miles Johns via TKO (flying knee and punches) at 1:41 of R2
Worth A Watch? Absolutely. Johns came in undefeated and started off well. He's got serious power in his hands and was swinging for the fences. In between rounds, Johns' corner warn him to stop ducking his head, which proves to be prophetic as Bautista (no relation to Dave) cracks him with a flying knee en route to the big finish! This earned Bautista a well-deserved Performance of the Night bonus.
Fight 2: (170) Khaos Williams def. Alex Morono via KO (punches) at 0:27 of R1
Worth A Watch? 100%. Khaos cracked Morono early, and although Morono is notoriously tough, the ensuing pressure was relentless. Incredible UFC debut that also netted him a Performance of the Night bonus. Ka-ching.
Fight 3: (125) Lauren Murphy def. Andrea Lee via SD (28-29, 29-28, 30-27)
Worth A Watch? The action is okay, but what really makes this shocking, once again, is the judging. Lee takes a clear lead in the striking early, turning Murphy's face into hamburger meat. Murphy has a decent final five minutes, but Lee most definitely took the first 2 frames with her output and damage. I would say the judges were watching a different fight to the rest of us, but as it turns out, they weren't watching at all. Joe Rogan and Dominick Cruz noted that one judge spent a significant amount of time literally looking away from this fight, and engaging in conversation with another judge while the fight was taking place. Completely asinine, I'm disgusted. This is people's careers and livelihood we're talking about!
Fight 4: (185) Trevin Giles def. James Krause via SD (28-29, 29-28 X2)
Worth A Watch? This was a fascinating fight to watch. Interesting backstory here- Giles was originally set to fight Antonio Arroyo. Arroyo was forced to pull out a day before the fight due to medical issues, and Krause stepped in- he was in town as a coach for Yusuff Zalal, and decided to save the day. No training camp, no time to prepare- oh, and he's a guy that has been fighting at 170, and previously fought at 155. Major gangsta move, I have all the respect in the world for him. Despite everything going against him, with a clear size and power disadvantage, Krause wins R1 by getting the fight to the ground and almost choking out Giles. In the second round, Giles takes over with his power, stunning Krause badly with his strikes. R3 is close, with both men exhausted and hurt. I gave R3 to Krause, but it was close enough that I don't have a problem with the judges' decision in this case. It was a gruelling battle, James Krause has balls of steel, and he netted himself a Fight of the Night bonus for his troubles. Great way to end the prelims!
PPV Main Card
Fight 1: (265) Derrick Lewis def. Ilir Latifi via UD (29-28 X3)
Worth A Watch? Lewis always brings entertainment value. His fights, his post-fight interviews, his Instagram posts... Lewis is the man. Latifi tries to grapple all fight to deal with the size difference. In R1, Lewis fends off his single leg takedown attempts and lands some nice strikes. R2 sees Latifi adjust his approach to bodylock takedowns, which are effective and allow him to control the Black Beast for the next 5 minutes. R3 starts with more of the same- but Lewis is able to get back to his feet with a little under 2 minutes to go and start landing some heavy offense- punches, elbows, kicks. The late flurry was enough to get Lewis the victory, which was good to see, and a rare case where all the judges had it together- Latifi's ground control was good, but he did little more than hold Lewis down in those exchanges.
Fight 2: (145) Dan Ige def. Mirsad Bektic via SD (28-29, 29-28 X 2)
Worth A Watch? A decent battle here. Round 1 probably has the most action with some competitive striking exchanges that Ige got the better off, in R2 Bektic came on strong with takedowns and a solid arm triangle submission attempt that seemed close. Round 3 was razor close on both sides, so again no problems with the judging here.
Fight 3: (265) Justin Tafa def. Juan Adams via TKO (punches) at 1:59 of R1
Worth A Watch? Heavyweights slugging it out always is! Tafa rebounds nicely after losing his UFC debut in similar fashion, displaying fast hands that crack Adams' jaw, with a beautiful uppercut dropping him. For a second I thought Tafa was going to do the walkaway KO, but then he does land a couple of follow up strikes on the ground before the ref steps in. Tafa reminds me a little of Mark Hunt, who he shouts out in his post-fight interview with Rogan. Good stuff.
Fight 4: UFC Women's Flyweight Championship- Valentina Shevchenko def. Katlyn Chookagian via TKO (elbows and punches) at 1:03 of R3
Worth A Watch? It was a pleasure to see the champ dominate here. She's a clear cut above the rest. Speaking of cuts, the beginning of the end came when Shevchenko sliced Chookagian open with an elbow in the final seconds of the first round. The Bullet lands some flashy kicks in the second round, and ends the round with ground and pound once again. In the third, Shevchenko catches a kick and takes the fight back down. She quickly moves into the crucifix position and rains down strikes to end it. Shevchenko dominated every facet of that fight, a masterful performance.
Fight 5: UFC Light Heavyweight Championship- Jon Jones def. Dominick Reyes via UD (48-47 X2, 49-46)
Worth A Watch? This might need several watches. Controversy abound in this one, once again surrounding the judging. I watched it after it took place, knowing that Jones had won... but that's not the fight I saw. Reyes took the fight to Jones, beating him up with punches, kicks, elbows, moving out of the way of the champ's offense, avoiding any grappling... and that was the story of the first 3 rounds, I gave them all to the challenger. In R4, Reyes was starting to slow due to the pace, and Jones started getting takedowns and landing some strikes of his own. Reyes remained competitive, quickly getting up from the takedowns and landing strikes as well, but I gave the championship rounds to the champ. The argument I've heard for a Jones' victory is that "he was advancing" in the 3rd round. Yeah, he was moving forward, but he was moving forward into the punches and kicks of Reyes! Then, whenever Reyes would get backed up to the fence, he'd circle out and land more strikes. Jones looked completely human, and honestly lucky to leave with his championship belt. Even if Jones was given R3, there's no excuse for the 49-46. That's saying that Jones won every round bar the first one.
The first three rounds were striking-based. Reyes threw more and landed more- therefore fulfilling the MMA rules criteria of "striking and aggression". Grappling wasn't a factor until R4 when Jones finally got takedowns. Round 3 was close, but to give Jones that round is saying "Octagon control > striking and aggression". The Unified Rules of MMA state that fights are judged by "striking, grappling, aggression and Octagon control- IN THAT ORDER." Therefore, Octagon control is a deciding factor if it can't be determined through the striking, grappling or aggression- and Reyes had two out of three there.
In close rounds/fights, judges tend to lean towards the champion. It's the unspoken "championship advantage" in MMA. But there is no justification for giving Jones FOUR rounds. I could understand the 3 to a point, even if I don't agree with it. But 4 is atrocious. And it's shocking that not one judge saw the fight for Reyes, when the commentators did, many fans did and even Dana White said he thought Reyes won that fight.
I really hope Reyes gets a rematch. He fought an excellent fight, and even though he tired in the championship rounds, he was always competitive over the 25 minutes. As for Jon Jones- he fought to a split decision against Thiago Santos, and now to a decision that damn sure should have been a split, if not an outright loss... not really becoming of the GOAT, is it? Strange how he starts to look so... normal... after being subjected to rigorous USADA drug testing.
I can only hope UFC think twice about holding major fights in Texas. The Texas Athletic Commission really needs to look into the people that they have working as MMA judges. At least 3 fights on the card where the result was a different one to how fans, critics and even UFC commentators saw it. Even if you had Jones winning, it's hard to defend some of the other decisions throughout the show. And the guy that gave Jones 49-46 needs to be fired on the spot.
Hopefully, my future UFC reviews will require less ranting about the judges and more talk about the awesome fights! My complaints don't come from a place of "oh, the fighter I wanted to win didn't win". I actually picked Jon Jones in my predictions league. But in MMA, fighters get paid show money and win money. Fighters that win their fights get double the pay. So fighters are getting screwed out of thousands of dollars, as well as progression in their sport, because these judges can't do their fucking job right.
Until next time, take care,