Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) made its presence known to Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, last night (Sat., Feb. 8, 2020) for UFC 247. The second pay-per-view (PPV) event of 2020 put a pair of titles on the line, featuring two of the most dominant champions on the roster. A pair of Heavyweight clashes bulked up the main card as well, making for an entertaining night of combat.
Let’s take a closer look at the best techniques and performances of the night:
Jon Jones Defends ... This Time
There’s a lot to take away from this fight, and I wrote more in-depth about it in my Morning After column.
However, perhaps the biggest takeaway: the end of Jones’ reign is in sight. Depending on your scorecard, it could have ended last night, as Reyes had a very strong argument for taking the first three rounds and thus the fight. Hell, if you’re particularly optimistic or just hate Jones, Thiago Santos had an argument too (albeit not a great one).
Controversial scorecards aside, Jones remains spectacular, but he looks a lot more limited, a lot more human. “Bones” now wins almost entirely off the strength of his kicks. His wrestling is less of a factor — he never established top control in this fight even in his brief takedowns. His elbows did not land with any real consistency. Jones snuck in some good punches, but that’s never been his strength.
The cracks have begun to show. Jones is still one of the best in the world, but he’s no longer the unstoppable phenom that rose through the ranks. Instead, he’s a brilliant competitor stretching out his championship with veteran experience.
A Class of Her Own
Valentina Shevchenko is a special fighter.
That’s not to say all of her fights are guaranteed to be barn-burners, though personally I’ll never miss one of her fights as an admirer of masterful technique. At 125 pounds, she appears to be completely untouchable. Not “untouchable” as in she’ll never lose, but her challengers literally cannot touch her. Chookagian is a high-volume kickboxer with a solid understanding of range, but she did not land a single head strike, according to Fightmetric.
That’s ridiculous. Chookagian was really only able to land with her kicks, and the majority of them were countered or missed entirely. In fact, that’s how the finish came about: Shevchenko caught a kick and landed a sweep like the Muay Thai fighter she is. Once on the mat, Shevchenko immediately secured a crucifix, smashing her opponent to draw the referee stoppage and claim a nearly flawless victory.
Derrick Lewis, Decision Machine?
Look, obviously I’m joking by calling “The Black Beast” a decision machine, but who would have predicted that Lewis win two straight fights via decision?
Despite the end result, Lewis lived up to his swang-n-bang reputation. In a fight where both men only landed 25 total significant strikes total, power ruled the night. The first round fell to Lewis, who landed a major jump knee and a couple hard switch kicks. Latifi stormed back in the second with takedowns, grounding Lewis for significant portions of the round.
Latifi’s wrestling success continued into the third round, and he seemed set to score the unlikely upset. Unfortunately for the Swede, Lewis is the comeback king for a reason. As Latifi slowed from all the effort exerted in holding Lewis down, “The Black Beast” stormed forward, cracking his foe with a brutal uppercut. It’s a wonder Latifi didn’t hit the floor, but Lewis’ late flurry was enough to steal back the round and fight.
Lewis is still a dangerous and flawed fighter, while Latifi’s skill set seems to have translated better to Heavyweight than expected.
Williams Wins Big
Alex Morono is not an easy debut opponent, let alone in his hometown of Houston, Texas. Morono had nine fights of UFC experience and a three-fight win streak behind him. Worse still, “The Great White” has made a habit of using his tricky skill and toughness to overcome athleticism gaps.
Williams entered with athleticism as his best asset as a +335 underdog on short-notice, and most expected history to repeat itself.
Instead, Williams started quick, and Morono obliged him. It proved to be a mistake, as Williams landed a heavy left hook that sent Morono stumbling into the fence. Williams pounced, swarming on his wounded foe and ending the bout emphatically. It’s about as excellent a debut as a fighter can hope for, and Williams is definitely one to watch.
- Justin Tafa defeats Juan Adams via first-round knockout: Tafa might just turn out to be something special. The former training partner of Mark Hunt clearly carries some of his mentor’s habits into the cage with him. He’s deceptively quick for such a big man, and the end result of that combination is serious power. Against Adams, Tafa made great use of his lead right hand, repeatedly landing a lunging right hook. After stunning Tafa with one such jumping hook, Tafa instead fired a right uppercut directly into the jaw of his foe, who ducked into the strike.
- Mario Bautista defeats Miles Johns via second-round knockout (HIGHLIGHTS): This bout proved an interesting clash of styles. Johns was muscular and planted, looking to blast his opponent with massive punches. Meanwhile, Bautista ran all over the place, feinting constantly and trying to run into combinations. Neither man found many openings in the first round, but Bautista managed to time a knee in the second that ended the contest.
- Journey Newson defeats Domingo Pilarte via first-round knockout (HIGHLIGHTS): In a short fight, Pilarte started strong, blasting his shorter foe with a high kick and chasing him around the Octagon. Newson looked thoroughly uncomfortable on his feet right up until the moment he landed a picture-perfect right hand, one which sent his opponent to the mat instantly.
- Andre Ewell defeats Jonathan Martinez via split-decision: I don’t know that the right man won, but in fairness, it was a hard fight to score overall. Regardless, this was an excellent fight. Martinez’s left leg proved a game changer: he slammed the calf, injured his foe’s forearm, twice rocked his foe with mid-section teeps, and nearly took Ewell’s head off with a left knee. All the while, Martinez kept his guard high, showcasing great composure in a firefight. As for the official victor, Ewell threw a ton of strikes, making use of his absurdly long arms to land at a fair rate. In addition, he did an excellent job of targeting the body with his left hand to work around his foe’s high guard.
For complete UFC 247: “Jones vs. Reyes” results and play-by-play, click HERE!