The ordering process for Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-views has changed: UFC 247 is only available on ESPN+ in the U.S.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday will feature a pair of title bouts with UFC 247 at the Toyota Center in Houston, as Jon Jones defends his light heavyweight crown against Dominick Reyes in the main event and Valentina Shevchenko puts her women’s flyweight belt on the line opposite Katlyn Chookagian in the co-headliner. Stakes are high on a number of fronts.
WHO HAS THE MOST TO GAIN?
Dominick Reyes: One would be hard-pressed find holes in Reyes’ path to a title shot. At 12-0 overall, he has won all six of his fights in the UFC, four of them finishes. Even so, the odds seem stacked against him ahead of his five-round showdown with Jones—arguably the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all-time. Reyes needed to get his striking in gear as quickly as possible. While Jones may not be a fast starter, he becomes virtually impossible to overcome once he figures out his opponent’s rhythm. Reyes carries hellacious power, and he will want to throw fight-ending blows as early and as often as possible. Sitting back and waiting will do him no good. Reyes has length and power to complement a crisp boxing game. That combination of tools has given Jones difficulty in the past.
Dan Ige: Since he lost his UFC debut, the Dana White’s Contender Series alum has been on quite a run, as he has picked up four consecutive wins while closing in on the featherweight division’s Top 15. In his path stands Firas Zahabi protege Mirsad Bektic, a former blue-chip prospect who has yet to realize his potential. What stands out about Ige? His well-roundedness, the ability to finish fights in all phases and cardio that holds up for as long as he needs it. Ige will undoubtedly prefer striking exchanges against Bektic, who was knocked out in both of his losses. Expect the Hawaiian to headhunt early and often.
Ilir Latifi: After experiencing mixed success over a seven-year period in the UFC’s light heavyweight division, “The Sledgehammer” makes the move to heavyweight to take on one of the division’s most vaunted knockout artists in Derrick Lewis. The change in weight is an interesting one in Latifi’s case. At 205 pounds, his gas tank failed him consistently, and while he has plenty of knockout power, one must assume that the lack of a weight cut will have him feeling fresher and stronger than ever. Expect this to turn into a slugfest. Being the smaller fighter, Latifi figures to have a decided speed advantage, but he would be wise to avoid any encounters with Lewis’ fists, as “The Black Beast” can knock out any opponent at any time. A win here validates Latifi’s move and offers the Swede some job security, while a loss might result in calls for his return to 205 pounds.
WHO HAS THE MOST TO LOSE?
Jon Jones: Since Jones made his UFC debut, he has taken the sport by absolute storm. Controversies be damned, Jones has a legitimate claim to the Greatest of All-Time mantle, and at this stage of his career, the champion has made several admissions about finding it difficult to get excited for new opponents he deems ordinary. Reyes is no exception. Jones has seemingly been more interested in teasing a heavyweight debut at some point this year. Despite all of Jones’ accolades and, he would be wise to see Reyes as a serious threat. His opponent has length that rivals his own to go along with power that few light heavyweights possess. Reyes can floor opponents going forward and backward, so Jones needs to mind his Ps and Qs in all standup exchanges. All too often, the greats are dethroned by the contenders we least expect. Will Jones’ time run out at UFC 247, or will he continue to build his legacy in preparation for a move to heavyweight?
Valentina Shevchenko: “Bullet” has looked flat-out unbeatable since the inception of the women’s flyweight division, and many observers view her latest title defense against Chookagian as just another opportunity to put a notch in her belt. Shevchenko is dangerous wherever the fight goes, but she is most comfortable at a distance in standup exchanges, where she can set up her crushing body and head kicks. Chookagian is a long, lanky striker, and while Shevchenko prefers to stay on the feet, she might be best served looking to mix it up with her grappling. Shevchenko is no stranger to the ground game, and in fact, the majority of her wins come via submission. Look for her to mix up her attacks early on and hunt for submissions late in the bout, provided it makes it there.
Juan Adams: It has been tough sledding for Adams as of late. Coming off Dana White’s Contender Series, he was touted as the potential Next Big Thing in the heavyweight division, but after back-to-back loses, he has taken to Jackson-Wink MMA in an attempt to reinvent himself and get back to his winning ways. Adams is a beast of a man, standing 6-foot-5 and weighing well over the heavyweight limit on fight nights. His clearest path to victory against Justin Tafa is to take his opponent out of his comfort zone, put him on his back and unload with heavy ground-and-pound. Adams is a former standout wrestler, and while his striking has improved, he is much more comfortable on top of his opponents. A third consecutive loss sees Adams go from future contender to one foot out of the door. It will be interesting to see what sort of improvements he has made during his time in New Mexico and if they will be enough to turn the tide on his UFC career.