Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) set up shop at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, once again on Saturday night (April 23, 2016) for the highly anticipated return of former Light Heavyweight champion, Jon Jones. Jones pitched a shut out on the scorecards over Ovince Saint Preux in the main event of the evening, even getting one 50-44 score card with his pair of 50-45's. "Bones" may have had to shake off a little ring rust early on, but he looked outstanding and was in complete control of the 25-minute bout. "OSP" took the bout on three-weeks notice, so his stock will only rise after this bout, especially when news broke that he fought with a broken arm in the final two rounds.
In the co-main event, UFC Flyweight champion, Demetrius Johnson throttled the No.2-ranked 125-pound contender, Henry Cejudo, knocking him out in the very first round (highlights here.)
With that quick review of the night's marquee bouts, here are your biggest winners from UFC 197.
Biggest Winners: Jon Jones
Ring rust is unequivocally a thing. While there are exceptions like Dominick Cruz, for the most part, fighters need to get re-acquainted with the cage to return to form after a long layoff. Jones, 28, was a bit rusty to begin the UFC 197 main event, but he put on a dominant performance to earn the unanimous decision win and interim division title. Jones threw his usual assortment of oblique kicks and elbows, while adding some other new wrinkles in his attacks. His high kicks led to the breaking Saint Preux's left arm, which was revealed by UFC president Dana White during the post-fight show on FS1.
"Bones" also landed a pair of big takedowns, picking up "OSP" and slamming him hard into the mat. Toward the end of the fourth round, Jones had Saint Preux in severe trouble, but could not end the fight before the round ended.
Going the full 25 minutes will behoove Jones as he now has a future date with current champion, Daniel Cormier, whom he defeated at UFC 182 in Jan. 2015. Jones needed the win and he got it in dominant fashion. It wasn't a finish, but he needed to get the win and he got it going away.
Johnson, 29, once again cemented his place as the Flyweight king last night in Vegas by painting a Muay Thai masterpiece in the clinch and throttling Henry Cejudo in the opening frame. Johnson's work in the clinch was sublime and vicious. When he had the Olympian hurt, he went in for the kill and took him out with a knee to the liver followed by strikes on the ground.
As for what UFC does with him next, that's anybody's guess. Johnson is light years ahead of the competition right now. Perhaps they put "Mighty Mouse" up against a Bantamweight next or a "super" fight with the 135-pound champion, Dominick Cruz, who was the last living mortal to beat him. That was five years ago, though. Johnson has now defended the Flyweight title eight straight times. All the division has left now are warm bodies to serve up for the most part, as Johnson stands alone and rarely even gets tested at this point.
The 23-year-old Mexican phenom landed one of the greatest knockouts in UFC history when he hit a jumping roundhouse that sent Andre Fili plummeting to the canvas and separated from him consciousness (Highlights here). By channeling his inner Daniel Russo for a variation of a crane kick, "El Pantera" earned himself $50,000 for a "Performance" bonus, which could've been handed to him before he left the Octagon since no one else was going to top it for the remainder of the pay-per-view (PPV) card.
Rodriguez is now undefeated (4-0) in UFC and has earned two "Performance" bonuses. To say his style is fan friendly would be a massive understatement. Fans will be tuning in more and more now after that knockout, which was featured at No. 6 on ESPN's SportCenter "Top Plays" on Saturday evening.
Biggest Losers: Henry Cejudo
There isn't too much to say on Cejudo except that the previously undefeated 29-year-old Olympic wrestler was just not ready for primetime at UFC 197. He walked in at 10-0 and got brought out to the wood shed for an old-fashioned whooping. Cejudo was ranked No. 2 and "Mighty Mouse" made him look like he was ranked No. 20. No doubt UFC pushed him along too quickly, but that is a product of the division not having enough talent to truly challenge its champion.
Pettis, 29, is currently on one of the most shocking collapses in UFC history. The former champion was touted as one of the greatest mixed martial artists at one point in time, gracing the cover of Wheaties boxes not too long ago. Last night was his third straight loss where he really had no answer for the masterful game plan of Edson Barbosa. To his credit he didn't get beat pillar to post by the Brazilian, but he did eat a steady diet of inside low kicks, which tenderized his leg to deep shade of purple (see the gnarly pic here). Pettis even cross trained and Jackson's MMA for this camp and had both Greg Jackson and his long-time coach, Duke Roufus in his corner, but it wasn't enough to get him a victory.
After losing his UFC debut to Clay Guida, Pettis began to look unbeatable on his way to beating Benson Henderson for the Lightweight title and defending it against Gilbert Melendez. It's been all downhill since losing the title to Rafael dos Santos at UFC 185, and dropping a split decision to Eddie Alvarez at UFC Fight Night 81 this past January. Pettis will assuredly get more rope than the average fighter with three losses, but his next fight is a must win and he is staring down the barrel at a possible fourth-straight loss. The pressure is on for "Showtime" ... and it's heavy.
For complete results of UFC 197 'Jones vs. Saint Preux,' including play-by-play results, click here.