Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight champion, Jon Jones, returns to action for the first time since beating Thiago Santos by the skin of his teeth this Saturday (Feb. 8, 2020), taking on undefeated knockout artist Dominick Reyes in UFC 247’s pay-per-view (PPV) main event. Eighty pounds south, Valentina Shevchenko defends her women’s Flyweight title against Katlyn Chookagian, following up a Heavyweight tussle between Juan Adams and Justin Tafa.
135 lbs.: Domingo Pilarte vs. Journey Newson
Domingo Pilarte (8-2) survived an early knockdown to choke out Vince Morales on “Contender Series,” claiming both an upset victory and a UFC contract. Injury delayed his debut until the following year, when he dropped a controversial decision to Felipe Colares to snap a five-fight win streak.
He is the taller of the two by seven inches.
Journey Newson (9-2) put together a six-fight win streak following a loss to future UFC competitor Benito Lopez, then stepped in to face Ricardo Ramos on less than a two-month turnaround. He wound up struggling with the Brazilian’s grappling prowess, surrendering three takedowns en route to a unanimous decision loss.
His professional wins are divided perfectly between knockouts, submissions and decisions.
After watching these two struggle to stay off of their backs, I’m hoping for a striking battle here, especially since their respective grappling skills seem sufficiently evenly matched to cancel each other out. If it does stay on the feet, it’s all Pilarte. Yeah, he’s defensively inept, but his enormous height and reach advantages look like a nightmare for Newson to deal with.
Plus, Newson doesn’t punch anywhere near as hard as Morales, so what blows he does land aren’t likely to put Pilarte on the canvas.
There’s definitely some questions on how much the short notice affected Newson or how well he’ll manage on the mat against a less-credentialed grappling artist, but his struggles with a lanky, well-rounded scrapper don’t make me confident of his chances against another win. In short, Pilarte cracks him with enough heavy blows to take the decision.
Prediction: Pilarte via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Andre Ewell vs. Jonathan Martinez
Andre Ewell (15-6) claimed the CES Bantamweight title with a d’arce finish of Dinis Paiva before edging Renan Barao by split decision in his Octagon debut. He has since lost two of three, falling to elite prospect Nathaniel Wood and The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Latin America” veteran Marlon Vera.
He owns seven professional wins via knockout and another four by submission.
Martinez returned from a year away to face Andre Soukhamthath on short notice in Moncton, showing some impressive durability but ultimately dropping a decision. A decision over Wuliji Buren followed, after which he scored a bonus-winning upset knockout of Pingyuan Liu in Sacramento.
He is three inches shorter than Jonathan Martinez (11-2) and faces a half-foot reach disadvantage.
Ewell’s grappling issues have erased any hope I had of him being a top contender, but he’s still a unique and dangerous striker. That might just be enough to get him past “Mr. Highlight,” who got out-wrestled in his first two Octagon appearances despite his adeptness on the mat. “Dragon” will have all sorts of trouble dealing with Ewell’s range, and without a strong takedown assault to keep his man honest, he looks to be at the mercy of Ewell’s boxing.
Ewell could very well still lose this by ending up on his back for long stretches — I’ve overestimated him before and hold no illusions about his vulnerability on the ground. Still, between his length and striking prowess, I say he’s got this. He takes apart Martinez at long range to bump his Octagon record back over .500.
Prediction: Ewell via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Austin Lingo vs. Youssef Zalal
Andrew Richardson here filling in for Patrick Stumberg for the following bout ...
A pair of last-second pick ups from Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) will join in on the fun at UFC 247, as this match was announced just a few days ago to bulk up the card after injuries left it a bit shorter than usual. At 25 years of age, Austin Lingo (7-0) has thus far lived up to his “Lights Out” moniker, as his last three victories came via stoppage in a grand total of 63 seconds. Meanwhile, Youssef Zalal (7-2) is actually just riding a single-fight win streak, but when that sole victory comes via flying knee knockout, it’s worth a bit extra.
Without over-complicating the situation too much, we have a pair of young prospects with finishing abilities both on the feet and on the mat. They’ve been fighting for roughly the same amount of time against a similar level of opposition, and both come from respected gyms (Fortis MMA and Factory X, respectively).
If you can pick this bout with any real confidence, you have access to better information than me.
Between the two, I like Lingo’s chances a bit more. At this point in their careers, he seems the more developed and complete overall fighter, and his penchant for ending fights in the opening minute gives him an additional edge.
Prediction: Lingo via technical knockout
Four more UFC 247 undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, featuring rising Flyweights, a pair of Middleweight finishers and more. Same time as always, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 247 fight card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
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