Dominick Reyes maximized his opportunities during a transformative journey through mixed martial arts, from minor-league menace and short-notice Ultimate Fighting Championship replacement to blue-chip prospect and top-flight contender.
Reyes made his professional MMA appearance on Dec. 4, 2014, rattled off six consecutive victories and drew the attention of the UFC with a series of devastating finishes. The Hesperia, California, native joined the promotion less than three years after he debuted, pieced together six more wins without a loss and challenged Jon Jones for the undisputed light heavyweight championship. Though Reyes failed in his bid to unseat Jones, he pushed the pound-for-pound ace to the limit and established himself as a potential heir to the throne.
In a brief but eventful career with its share of defining moments, here are five that stand out:
1. Sub-Minute Savagery
Still an under-the-radar prospect at the time, Reyes cut down Jordan Powell with a first-round head kick in their light heavyweight showcase at Legacy Fighting Alliance 13 on June 2, 2017 in Burbank, California. Powell kissed the canvas 53 seconds into Round 1, giving “The Devastator” his second straight sub-minute stoppage. The two men wasted no time getting acquainted with each other, as they traded punches in the center of the cage. After Powell absorbed a multi-punch volley and shook his head in an ill-advised show of defiance, Reyes unfurled a thunderous left high kick that found its intended target with heat-seeking precision. An unconscious Powell collapsed face first to the mat in what was his undefeated counterpart’s final appearance on the regional scene. Less than a month later, Reyes linked arms with the UFC.
2. A Dazzling Debut
Reyes showed off the skills and killer instinct that made him one of the sport’s top prospects, as he dispatched Joachim Christensen with punches in the first round of their featured light heavyweight affair at UFC Fight Night 112 on June 25, 2017 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma. Christensen bowed out 29 seconds into Round 1. A short-notice substitution for Azamat Murzakanov, Reyes had the Dane ducking for cover after he connected with a straight left and follow-up punches. He then reset and split Christensen’s defenses with another straight left that dropped him to his back. Reyes closed the deal with a quick burst of standing-to-ground punches, improving to 7-0 in a dazzling promotional debut. The victory was accompanied by increased exposure and a $50,000 “Performance of the Night” bonus.
3. Close Call
It could have gone either way. Reyes landed the cleaner blows and emerged with his hand raised, as he eked out a split decision against Volkan Oezdemir in a pivotal light heavyweight attraction at UFC Fight Night 147 on March 16, 2019 in London. Though Oezdemir was seen as the aggressor, he was inefficient in the grappling department and failed to distinguish himself from his adversary. All three judges scored it 29-28: Junichiro Kamijo and Paul Sutherland for Reyes, Andy Roberts for Oezdemir. Reyes outstruck the Swiss standout by narrow margins in the second and third rounds, denied six of his seven attempted takedowns and attacked the head, body and legs effectively before a crowd of 16,602 at The O2 Arena. With that, the Cage Combat Academy rep crossed the threshold to contention.
4. Primetime Performer
Reyes made his intentions known and did so in resounding fashion. “The Devastator” on Oct. 18, 2019 further cemented himself as clear-and-present danger to the rest of the 205-pound weight class, as he brought down Chris Weidman with punches in the first round of their UFC on ESPN 6 headliner at TD Garden in Boston. Weidman succumbed to blows 1:43 into Round 1—the quickest defeat of the former middleweight champion’s 19-fight career. Reyes bounced back to his feet after being taken down, created some space and countered the Serra-Longo Fight Team export with a surgical straight left. Weidman hit the deck and did what he could to defend himself. However, two standing-to-ground hammerfists followed, had him teetering on the brink of unconsciousness and resulted in an immediate stoppage.
5. Narrow Miss
Jones’ reign atop the 205-pound weight class grew surprisingly tenuous, as he retained his light heavyweight championship with a contentious unanimous decision over Reyes in the UFC 247 main event on Feb. 8, 2020 at the Toyota Center in Houston. Despite the fact that the previously unbeaten Reyes outstruck “Bones” in the first, second and third rounds, the judges awarded the champion 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47 scores. Reyes connected with more significant strikes (116) on the Jackson-Wink MMA representative than any other opponent—only Alexander Gustafsson managed to reach triple figures—and denied seven of his nine attempted takedowns across 25 enthralling minutes. Jones found another gear in the championship rounds, where he zeroed in on the head, body and legs with conviction and made his move toward the decision.
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