Rising knockout artist, Dominick Reyes, will throw down Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight kingpin, Jon Jones, this Saturday (Feb. 8, 2020) at UFC 247 inside Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.
At this point every Jones title defense quickly boils down to a single question: does this contender have anything to offer “Bones?” Before discussing skills or strategy, the first and most important factor is whether or not the contender in question has the athleticism to match up with the champion. In that regard, Reyes actually stacks up far better than most ... even though that perplexes “Bones.” He’s a similar size to Jones, has more natural power, and plenty of speed. Surely, by this point, his background of nearly making it into the NFL is fairly well-known. With that baseline established, let’s take a closer look at Reyes’ skill set and hopefully gain a better understanding of his chances:
Overall, Dominick Reyes’ game is not particularly complicated. That does not, however, mean he is ineffective in any area. A professional since 2014, Reyes has built himself into a very dangerous Southpaw, largely based on the strength of his implementation of the classic Southpaw double threat: the left hand and left kick.
Reyes’ kickboxing game is heavily reliant on his powerful left kick. It’s the base that he builds from, the powerful weapon that reportedly earned him his “Devastator” moniker. As we have talked about many, many times in analyzing fighter strategies, there are few weapons more game-changing than a hard Southpaw left kick against an Orthodox opponent.
Let’s briefly recap: a hard left kick is almost never a bad idea in open stance engagements. Even blocked, it hurts. Little setup is actually required, a small feint or quick hand-fight is more than enough. If thrown properly, a left power kick can knock an opponent out of stance (leg), shut down the liver (body), and completely separate a foe from his senses (head).
Reyes attacks all three targets well, and he switches it up. In addition, Reyes will commonly throw his left leg as a snap kick to the mid-section, muddying the waters a bit more. Against Oezdemir, Reyes did a lot of work to the legs and body, slowing down the offensive assault of the Swiss striker. In his UFC debut, Reyes melted Joachim Christensen by getting him to block the high kick and then sending a crisp left straight down the middle.
Speaking more on the Christensen bout, it was a great display of the Southpaw double threat. Not only did the left kick quickly set up the knockout by clearing a path for the punch, but Reyes actually hip feinted the kick to close distance and put himself in range to deliver the kill shot (GIF). Feinting one attack to land the other is a major key to closing the distance and thus defeating Jones, making it a worthy topic of further analysis.
The left kick and left hand make up a bulk of Reyes offense (though he has a pretty nice right jab as well). He rarely needs much more. He’s long, athletic, and powerful — there is no easy solution to not getting blasted at range by his kicks and then clobbered in the punching range. Cannonier found some success by pressuring Reyes and fought smartly, but a single well-timed uppercut interrupted his forward pressure and hurt him, and one more sealed the deal (GIF).
Reyes’ footwork is a big key to his success. He likes to work from the outside, and he sets traps for opponents that look to pursue passed that distance. When opponents press forward, Reyes likes to either parry or roll beneath a shot and quickly sidestep. As his foe turns to face him, Reyes can blast his opponent with a cross or uppercut.
Throwing power punches while moving backwards is a difficult skill to describe in written form, but it’s undoubtedly one Reyes’ possesses. Look at his knockout of Chris Weidman, for example (GIF). The technique itself is basic stuff: a simple parry into his own cross. However, for Reyes to execute it with such perfect timing while backing into the fence and do so with such power — that’s special.
Volkan Oezdemir definitely showed some weaknesses to Reyes’ kickboxing, which is not surprising given his professional kickboxing experience. Namely, Oezdemir found good success countering Reyes’ kicks. Sometimes, Reyes can throw the left kick without setup while a bit too close, which is a bad recipe. In addition, Oezdemir throws better offensive combinations than most, resulting in him clipping Reyes while the Californian tried to lean back.
Reyes wrestled a bit in high school but was more committed to football, so his wrestling career did not continue at the collegiate level. Nevertheless, Reyes’ wrestling background has definitely helped him inside the Octagon.
Reyes has scored a single takedown in his UFC career, an effortless single leg against Jeremy Kimball. Kimball forced a wrestling match early, but after switching position along the fence, Reyes immediately put his foe on the mat. The fight didn’t last much longer.
Defensively, Reyes has given up a few takedowns along the way, but it’s never particularly bothered him. He’s not the type of elite wrestler who can immediately deny all but the perfect shot, but Reyes has shown great scrambling and wall-walking. He has yet to truly be held down and punished, which is the most important thing when discussing counter wrestling.
This proved true against Weidman as well. The New Yorker managed to score a brief takedown along the fence early, but Reyes was hardly bothered, working back to his feet quickly by pushing down on the head and working to free his legs. As with the rest of his game, this was an example of strong fundamentals and excellent athleticism proving effective.
A pair of Reyes’ nine stoppage wins come via submission, including the aforementioned win over Kimball. In that victory, Reyes quickly took the back and locked in a body triangle. Reyes is 6’4,” and it was immediately apparent that Kimball suffered under that length. From the body triangle, Reyes showed impressive control by beating the hell out of Kimball with elbows. It’s not easy to land such damaging blows without giving up the position, but Reyes accomplished that task and then wrapped up the neck in short fashion (GIF).
As mentioned, Reyes has yet to really need to make use of jiu-jitsu defense. The few takedowns he’s given up have resulted mostly in wall-wrestling rather than guard play, and he’s quickly regained his footing.
Has Reyes shown the skills necessary to defeat Jon Jones? After reviewing his recent bouts, I would say not yet. However, that does not mean “The Devastator” does not possess those abilities. Between his athletic gifts and strong fundamentals, Reyes already has a great deal of what it takes to defeat Jones, and he’s the precisely the type of young athlete who could rise to the occasion.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 247 fight card this weekend RIGHT HERE, 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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Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.