Jon Jones "won" a decision against Dominick Reyes, marking his second straight gifted victory - when will it end?
Once again controversy swirls around the UFC's light heavyweight "champion" Jon Jones, this time not for his actions outside of the cage but for his trials inside of it.
At UFC 247, Jones was a heavy favourite against his undefeated challenger Dominick Reyes. At 12-0 with six of those victories coming in the UFC, Reyes had shown off his skills and potential inside the Octagon, but many wrote off his chances given Jones' wrestling capabilities and overrated striking acumen.
Those that have a more honest view of Jon's abilities however saw why Reyes would give him trouble.
While commentators and fans alike praise Jones' boxing and defense, in reality his boxing is rather mediocre - he sports great elbows and clinch strikes, but at range his hands are rather poor and lack power and defensively his technique is atrocious. Turning your back to your opponent and literally running away to reset is not good defense, and even saw him eat several shots against Reyes while doing so.
His defensive flaws have largely been left unexploited thanks to Jones considerable frame for the division and smart control of range - his footwork tends to be sound and he does a good job of gauging the striking distance of his opponents, even if his choice of retreat is almost always to simply back straight up or stiffarm his opponent thanks to his considerable reach.
Jon's offensive boxing regularly leaves him open to counters (which again, is often not punished thanks to his range) and that's exactly where Reyes has excelled. Reyes is primarily a counter striker and as a southpaw, his favourite weapon is a stinging left hand, perfect to exploit Jones' weaknesses.
Jones is a master in a straight-line encounter, using his lengthy limbs to great advantage from his pesky oblique kicks to body kicks and long elbows when anyone stood in front of him and allowed him to hand-fight. When fighters have utilized lateral movement, much of Jon's most effective offense is largely nullified and his wide stance makes him a great target for low kicks, something his most recent opponent (Thiago Santos) exploited perfectly.
The biggest concerns going into UFC 247 for fans was whether or not Reyes could stuff Jon's takedowns and whether he could keep the pace over five rounds as he had never seen a fourth let alone fifth round in his career. In the wrestling realm, Jones has struggled mightily in the past with fighters of his own stature and Reyes certainly fit that bill with his equal 6'4 frame, but Dominick's previous UFC outings didn't instill the utmost confidence in his wrestling defense.
Reyes had been taken down at multiple points in the past and while he did a good job of getting back to his feet, the fact that lesser (on paper) wrestlers were able to get him to the mat and tire him in his decision victories was cause for concern heading into a matchup with Jones.
In the fight, Reyes came in with a stellar gameplan and lit up the champion in the early going, regularly landing crisp punches and stinging kicks while Jones struggled to keep up. Jones pressured the entire time and largely prevented Reyes from using one half of his favourite double threat, the left high kick paired with his straight left, but Reyes made up for this by constantly dipping down to target Jon's body with straights to great effect.
Jones' attempts to take the fight to the mat were nullified by Reyes's vastly improved takedown defense, and the few times Jones managed to secure a takedown Reyes immediately scrambled back to his feet and escaped the clinches without taking damage.
In the third heavy shots stunned Jones and had him desperately clinching and going for a takedown, which he eventually secured for a second before Reyes popped up and fought his way out of the clinch, once again negating Jones' perceived grappling advantage.
Through the first three rounds, the majority of fans, media members, and fighters alike had scored the opening three rounds for the challenger, with Jones needing a finish to keep his title or a dominant 10-8 round just to secure a draw.
We'd soon learn that the judges were watching a different fight - two had given Jones the second round, and two had incredulously given Jones the third.
The fourth and fifth rounds saw Reyes' gas tank near empty. While he was still moving and avoiding taking too much damage, his output significantly declined and it appeared that Reyes was instead content to cruise to a well-earned decision victory, with Jones securing the last two rounds.
Though Jones' flaws have been present for years, he is still a great fighter and his cardio is superb - his constant pressuring may not have secured him the early rounds (in which any competent scorer had him losing) but it did pay dividends in the championship rounds, where his cardio allowed him to turn the tide of the fight. His durability is also something to commend, as he ate some massive shots and recovered well. That doesn't change the fact that he was hurt on multiple occasions and clearly outstruck for the first 15-minutes of the fight.
After five rounds of fighting, most fans were satisfied they had just witnessed the dethroning of the most controversial champion in UFC history. Even some die-hard Jones fans had posted their belief that Reyes had won, while others had posted after the opening three rounds that Jones needed a finish to keep his title. Instead, all three Texas judges awarded Jones the victory, with one judge even inexplicably giving Jones four of the five rounds.
Boos erupted in the arena and once again Jones held onto his title by way of questionable judging.
It isn't the first time a fighter has given Jones a lot of trouble, and in fact Jones' very last outing saw him lose the stand-up battle against Thiago Santos (and without taking the fight to the ground, it was an entirely striking affair).
Fans saw deja vu and where a case could be made in the Santos fight for Jones having scraped by with the victory thanks to his slightly higher volume compared to Santos' more damaging shots, in this case both volume and impact were on Reyes' side for the first three rounds.
Unlike in many of Jones' past close decisions, Jon was not the more active fighter on the feet. Reyes not only landed the visibly harder and cleaner shots, but he also landed more of them. The old "volume vs. damage" debate was a moot point when Jones was behind on both counts through the first three rounds no matter which way you slice it.
Defenders of the decision have largely taken to theories of judging that have no basis in the official scoring criteria.
Many have echoed the sentiment that the championship rounds are more important, and as Jones clearly won those, he won the fight...yet rounds are weighted equally and using that criteria would also contradict the cases made in Jones' last fight, which saw Santos win the fifth round against Jones (not to mention that he fought the last three rounds on a blown out knee, having suffered a complete ACL, PCL, MCL and meniscus tear in the opening round).
Other arguments revolved around Jones' wrestling - the primary criteria is and always has been damage and effective striking. Effective grappling is the second most important criteria, and the keyword there is effective - getting a takedown only for the opponent to pop right back up within moments without suffering any damage or strikes is not effective, nor does it offset a damage or striking differential. Yet two judges incredibly awarded Jones round three, where he was notably rocked on the feet, got outlanded and didn't hold Reyes down for more than a second with his successful takedown.
Another argument being made in Jones' defense was the case for Jones' "octagon control" and "aggression". This is another fundamental flaw in reading comprehension.
In the newer scoring criteria for MMA, damage is the primary scoring criteria, then effective striking and grappling - if those are equal, which in this case they were not, then and only then are octagon control and aggression factored into the score. Even under the older scoring criteria, those were the last criteria in the ordered list of criteria to consider.
Not only that, but I question those that would even attempt to use that argument for any of the first three rounds - Jones was walking forward for much of the time sure, but at multiple points Jones turned his back and ran away from his opponent quite literally. Is that not the literal antithesis of aggression? Is that considered good octagon control? Is walking forward, failing to cut off your opponent while getting hit by more (and harder) shots than you land on them, indicative of success?
No, it's not, pure and simple. Turn off the biased commentary (which still argued against the decision), sit in a dark room and watch the fight again from start to finish. Some rounds were close, but not as close as some commenters have been stating in the aftermath, and it wasn't a "coin-flip" decision. It was a pretty clear 48-47 fight in Dominick Reyes' favour, it's as simple as that.
This may have been the most important botched decision of the night, but it was far from the only one. The utterly incompetent judges hired by the Texas State Athletic Commission royally fucked over Jonathan Martinez and Andrea Lee in their respective preliminary bouts, with one judge in both of those bouts even awarding an inexplicable 30-27 scorecard to the "winners" of those fights.
Likewise on the main card Derrick Lewis won a hometown decision against Ilir Latifi, something that Lewis hilariously predicted earlier in the week.
At one point in the Andrea Lee versus Lauren Murphy fight Joe Rogan pointed out that one of the judges wasn't even watching the fight as it was happening. For a sport where its athletes put their heart and soul into it and one win or loss has massive implications on their career and finances, it's absolutely despicable that any judge wouldn't be taking their position seriously, yet it's hardly a surprise. It's been that way in boxing for years, and there's no sign of anything changing anytime soon.
Dana White once again blasted the Texas commission afterward for the terrible judging, but like usual, nothing will be done to change it. White famously ripped into the Texas officials back at UFC 167 when Georges St. Pierre won a controversial decision over Jonny Hendricks, even going so far as to say the governor needed to get involved and he was scared to bring an event back to the state.
Yet the UFC came back, again and again. And Texas didn't change a thing.
The UFC holds tremendous influence over the state commissions - commissions regularly lose money regulating smaller shows, and need the larger events in order to be sustainable. Yet the UFC has time and again, just like their counterparts in boxing, continued to host events in those same states without those commissions changing a damn thing.
White was notably more calm and less explosive post-UFC 247, and for good reason - Jones won and their star lives to fight another day.
At UFC 167, GSP essentially retired in the cage (and wouldn't compete again for some three years), thus Dana White used the opportunity to blast Georges to build up Hendricks and try to salvage the situation for the UFC, which was losing a big star. At 247, that simply isn't the case and as such White had no reason to bash his "champion" or throw a tantrum like he normally does even though he conceded Jones should have lost the fight.
And so once again, Jon Jones retains his belt and the UFC can continue parading him around as the "GOAT" despite his multiple failed drug tests for steroids, clearly preferential treatment by USADA, and the fact that he arguably lost his last two fights. Greatest of all time my ass.