Last month, the UFC had one of its most outspoken and controversial stars make a triumphant return to the octagon when Conor McGregor knocked out Donald Cerrone. Tomorrow night, the only man who can arguably claim to be a bigger star in the UFC will step into the cage to defend his title.
Light Heavyweight champion Jon Jones will bring his title and all of his unparalleled talent to the Toyota Center in Houston where he will face off against undefeated challenger Dominick Reyes. Something has to give when these two go toe to toe. On top of that, UFC 247 will also feature a women’s Flyweight Championship bout between one of the most dominant female fighters the sport has ever seen and a very dangerous challenger. Plus, two heavy-handed heavyweights will do battle.
Let’s take a closer look at those three bouts:
Heavyweight bout: Derrick Lewis vs. Ilir Latifi
When you think of a UFC heavyweight, you probably think of someone like Derrick Lewis. 18 of his 22 career wins have come by way of knockout. On the flip side, four of his seven losses have also been knockouts. To make a long story short, Lewis likes to throw hands. Coming off of a split decision victory which snapped a two-fight losing streak, Lewis will look to keep building momentum.
His opponent is making the jump from light heavyweight to heavyweight, but make no mistake about it, Latifi is dangerous at any weight. Six of his 14 wins have come by knockout with another four coming by submission. The 36-year-old Swede us a well-rounded fighter who can hold his own anywhere. It will be interesting to see if he tries to take Lewis to the ground, or if he’s will to stand and trade with him. Either way, Latifi will have to do whatever he can to snap his own two-fight losing streak.
Women’s Flyweight Championship bout: Valentina Shevchenko vs. Katlyn Chookagian
Here is a list of women who have beaten Valentina Shevchenko without eventually losing to her in a rematch: Amanda Nunes. That’s it. The only woman who hold a positive record over Shevchenko is the most dominant woman in UFC history, and even she got taken to a split decision in their second fight. The women’s Flyweight champ is as good as they come, with wins over some of the best to ever step in the cage. 12 of her 18 wins have come by a stoppage, so you know she’s going to look to make short work of her challenger.
Chookagian will certainly not make that easy though. The challenger boasts a 13-2 record, with both of her losses coming by split decision. She may not have as many flashy finishes as the champ (only two knockouts and one submission, none of which came in the UFC) but she has also never been finished herself, something Shevchenko can’t claim. With both of these fighters owning some serious grappling skills, it will be interesting to see where this fight takes place. If I was to make a bet, my money would be on this one for the ‘Fight of the Night’ bonus.
Light Heavyweight Championship bout: Jon Jones vs. Dominick Reyes
There have been a handful of fighters throughout the history of the UFC that have created a feeling that when their music hits and they start making that walk to the octagon, you get the sens that you’re about to watch something great. Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell, Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre are some of the names that come to mind. None of them have accomplished what Jon Jones has accomplished.
It took Jones just six fights to earn a UFC contract. Well, six dominant wins (five knockouts, one submission) in which only two opponents made it out of the first round. Since then, Jones has gone 19-1 with his only loss coming on a questionable disqualification due to illegal elbows. He captured the UFC Light Heavyweight championship in 2011 and has defeated a who’s who of the UFC’s best ever since, including names like Quinton Jackson, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida and Daniel Cormier. And even after turning 32 years old and fighting for over 11 years, he has not once looked any less dominant since he broke onto the scene.
Now imagine being the challenger stepping into the octagon against that. For the 12-0 Dominick Reyes, that’s a dream come true. The +350 underdog has done everything he possibly could to earn this shot and no amount of reputation, no matter how incredibly impressive, is going to shake him now. Reyes is coming off of an impressive knockout win over former Middleweight champ Chris Weidman. Before that, he won a split decision over seventh-ranked light heavyweight Volkan Oezdemir and a unanimous decision over Ovince St. Preux, a man who once challenged Jones for the same title. There are questions as to whether or not Reyes will be ready for such a big challenge. All we know for sure is, we’ll find out tomorrow night.
UFC 247 will be held tomorrow night, Saturday, February 8 at 10 PM ET. Fight fans can order the pay per view through ESPN+ and receive a special offer: $84.98 for UFC 246 and an ESPN+ annual plan. ESPN+ subscribers can order the pay per view for $59.99.