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UFC 239 results: Jon Jones splits compromised (and game) Thiago Santos, carried out of the cage

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Star-crossed Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight champion, Jon Jones, once again returned to the Octagon tonight (Sat., July 6, 2019) in UFC 239’s pay-per-view (PPV) main event, looking to make up for lost time and score his third consecutive win in just seven months. Standing in his way was the heavy-handed No. 2-ranked contender, Thiago Santos, a Brazilian knockout artist in the midst of an impressive four-fight win streak.

Despite his contender status, Santos was a heavy underdog heading into the 205-pound championship clash because, well, Jones, 31, is already widely considered the best mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter of all time. And, when the dust settled, Jones proved once again the reason he is the greatest MMA talent ever, scoring a seemingly calculated split decision win (48-47, 47-48, 48-47 — official scorecard pic here) over a very game Santos after 25 minutes of back-and-forth action (WATCH HIGHLIGHTS).

Jones slinked out to the center of the Octagon in his usual fashion, backing Santos into a corner and flipped one of his patented — and effective — front kicks. Santos responded with a hard low kick, which appeared to momentarily affect Jones’ self-admitted “skinny legs.” Santos fired off some spinning kicks, which Jones dodged effortlessly, but Santos continued to hammer away at Jones’ lower legs. More low kicks from Jones, who switched stances, and then a decent shot that knocked out his mouthpiece. Santos came barreling in with a Superman punch, but it appeared that Jones was able to defend well. Despite Santos’ effectiveness, Jones continued to push forward. He landed a nice spinning back kick at the end of the round, but Santos appeared to have the early edge on the judges scorecards.

Jones came out for the second round looking to push the pace, but Santos scored with another solid low kick. Unfortunately for Santos, he appeared to do more damage to himself than Jones — wobbling and then ripping off some hard defensive shots as if he were trying to end with a flurry because he was hurt. Santos appeared to regain his footing shortly afterward, but it still appeared that his leg was somewhat compromised. Jones backed him into a corner and clipped him along the fence, with Santos briefly hitting the canvas and still favoring his knee/leg. Santos returned to his feet and started letting loose, throwing hands and feet at Jones in an attempt to get “Bones” out of there sooner than later. Jones tried to target Santos’ left leg as the second round came to a close, but the Brazilian appeared to walk to his corner without showing any signs of discomfort.

Replays appeared to show that Santos was dealing with a significant knee injury, but it was hard to tell in the midst of the bout — he was fighting impressively despite it all. Santos actually scored with a solid body kick with his left leg, but then stumbled right after. Santos landed a nice combination upstairs, but Jones responded with an even more impressive counter. Jones, sensing Santos might be desperate, began to pick up the pace, targeting Santos’ lower legs. Santos missed big with a high kick and Jones was quick to respond with a hard elbow, splitting the Brazilian’s wig as he tried to move off the fence. With 90 seconds left, Jones really began to pour it on as Santos appeared to be in danger. He was able to weather the storm, though, and make it to the championship rounds.

Despite a left knee that continued to constantly give out on him, Santos continued to battle and put up a fantastic fight. Jones, one of the most intelligent fighters to ever compete inside the Octagon (emphasis on inside), continued to chip away at Santos’ damaged lower leg until he was able to exploit an opening. It never really happened, though; in fact, Santos appeared to lull Jones in to a false sense of security, exploding midway through the fifth and final round trying to score a come-from -behind finish. Jones remained steadfast in his patience, continuing to push forward and apply pressure — and damage — while at the same time avoiding getting hit with a Hail Mary shot.

It never came despite Santos’ best efforts. He won the first round, then was seemingly injured in the second, with Jones stalking and nibbling his way to a unanimous decision win. The crowd appeared unhappy with Jones’ killer instinct, booing the bout down the stretch — Jones certainly had opportunities to finish the fight against a compromised fighter, but he was content to just chip away and play with him for 3.5 rounds. It’s hard to argue with a win, but Santos appeared to put in more effort to survive and finish the fight. The judges appeared to appreciate his effort, at least one of them, who awarded “Marreta” the win.

But, majority wins, with two of the three judges giving “Bones” the nod. It wasn’t pretty, but maybe fighting that kind of fight is just what makes Jones the best ever. Way too close for comfort, though.

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