Matches to Make After UFC 247

By Brian Knapp Feb 9, 2020

Jon Jones’ reign atop the Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight division has grown surprisingly tenuous.

Jones retained his undisputed 205-pound crown with a controversial unanimous decision over Dominick Reyes in the UFC 247 headliner on Saturday 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. The win was Jones’ 14th in a UFC title fight, breaking a tie with Georges St. Pierre for most all-time.

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 attacked the head, body and legs with conviction and made his move toward the decision.

In the aftermath of UFC 247 “Jones vs. Reyes,” here are five matches that ought to be made:

Jon Jones vs. Dominick Reyes: Because of the contentious nature of their first encounter and the fact that there are no other clear-cut contenders—Jan Blachowicz and Corey Anderson would probably disagree as they approach their Feb. 15 pairing atop UFC Fight Night 167—on the rise at 205 pounds, the foundation for an immediate rematch has already been set. Reyes pushed “Bones” to the limit like no other fighter outside of Gustafsson and showed there was plenty of substance to go with the hype surrounding him. Jones turns 33 in July and has not inspired much confidence in either of his last two appearances, leading some to wonder whether or not there are finally cracks in the facade. Should plans for a Jones-Reyes rematch fall through, the Blachowicz-Anderson winner would serve as an obvious fallback option.

Valentina Shevchenko vs. Joanne Calderwood: The Secretariat of the women’s flyweight division, Shevchenko has decimated the weight class in two years. With no potential heir apparent on the horizon, UFC matchmakers find themselves in a difficult position: Force Shevchenko to return to the bantamweight division to face Amanda Nunes—a woman who has already defeated her twice—or work their way down the Top 10 rankings at 125 pounds. In the event they choose the latter option, Calderwood appears to be next in line. The Tristar Gym export has won three of her past four bouts and last competed at UFC 242, where she eked out a split decision over Andrea Lee on Sept. 7.

Dan Ige vs. Shane Burgos: Ige has emerged as one of the true success stories from Dana White’s Contender Series, and he continued his unlikely ascent on the featherweight ladder with a split decision over Mirsad Bektic on the main card. The 28-year-old Hawaiian has rattled off five consecutive victories since he dropped a unanimous verdict to Julio Arce in his January 2018 organizational debut, putting himself in prime position to make a run at the Top 15 at 145 pounds. The once-beaten Burgos last fought at UFC 244 on Nov. 2, when the Team Tiger Schulmann standout disposed of Makwan Amirkhani with third round-punches to improve his overall record to 13-1.

Derrick Lewis vs. Alexey Oleynik: Lewis may never capture UFC gold, but he has carved out quite a niche for himself since he joined the roster some six years ago. “The Black Beast” moved to 14-5 inside the Octagon in his heavyweight showcase opposite Ilir Latifi, as he took a unanimous decision from the determined Swede. One of the most quotable and popular fighters in the sport, Lewis has responded to consecutive losses to Daniel Cormier and Junior dos Santos with back-to-back victories over Latifi and Blagoy Ivanov. At 35, he seems to have several productive years ahead of him. Oleynik closed the book on a two-fight losing streak on Jan. 18, when he submitted Maurice Greene with a second-round armbar at UFC 246.

Justin Tafa vs. Jeff Hughes-Carlos Felipe winner: Tafa rebounded from his first professional setback—a knockout loss to Yorgan De Castro in October—and did so in spectacular fashion, as he chopped down Dana White’s Contender Series alum Juan Adams 1:59 into the first round of their featured heavyweight tilt. The promising Mark Hunt protégé nearly spun Adams’ head around with a right hook, backed him into the cage and leveled him with a crushing right uppercut. The 26-year-old Australian remains one of the more intriguing heavyweight prospects under UFC contract. Hughes will lock horns with the undefeated Felipe at UFC on ESPN 8 in March.
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