It’s been a timely rise to title contention for light heavyweight challenger, Dominick ‘The Devastator’ Reyes. Just shy of three years under the UFC’s banner, undefeated striker, Reyes earns a crack at 205-pound – against the promotion’s best mixed-martial-artist available. On Saturday night in Houston, Reyes is tasked with handing Jon Jones his first, legitimate professional defeat – while Jones tackles an undefeated record for the first time since his premier tie with arch-rival, Daniel Cormier.
Hesperia born, Reyes has been described by UFC color commentator, Joe Rogan, as Jones’ sternest challenge since his pair of matches with the previously noted, Cormier – some may view this statement as a stretch. Reyes is undeniably a formidable challenge, one that Jackson-Wink MMA staple Jones, must not overlook – but billing as the toughest opponent since Cormier is something I personally disagree with.
Another billing that has been placed on Reyes – is his notable athleticism, stemming mainly from his collegiate football background. Claiming the #4 rank in a division that has developed to the extent that the light heavyweight ranks have recently, is certainly no easy task. Reyes has toppled Jared Cannonier – a heavy-hitter who has made gigantic waves as he approaches middleweight title contention. On his résumé, we’ve also got a victory over Volkan Oezdemir, albeit contentious. The Swiss striker is a former light heavyweight title challenger – and has taken out the likes of Jimi Manuwa, Ilir Lafiti, and prospect, Aleksander Rakic during his UFC stint. The 30-year-old has also beaten Ovince Saint-Preux, a former interim light heavyweight title challenger, and opponent of Jones. Most recently, Reyes catapulted himself to championship contender status with a first-round knockout of former middleweight gold-holder, Chris Weidman.
The talent is most definitely present, along with a deceivingly sharp and poised boxing game. Where things get dicey for Reyes – is his ability to mix up techniques. In Jones’ most recent title defense, he struggled considerably with Brazilian finisher, Thiago ‘Marreta’ Santos. The Muay Thai style of Santos proved problematic for Jones – with both inside and outside calf kicks utilized to tremendous success. Santos, in what proved to be a losing effort – blew out both his knees, and still managed to cause problems for the Albequerque based fighter offensively – and take the victory on judge, Junichiro Kamijo’s scorecard.
Along with his collegiate football background, Reyes amateur wrestled. With boxing and wrestling – it offers some dangerous facets, but yet again, nothing Jones hasn’t shared the Octagon with before. The 32-year-old is a Juco national champion – and during his first pairing with rival, Cormier, became the first to take down the high-level wrestler. Offensive grappling and wrestling have been displayed by Jones in meetings with almost every opponent, including his recent demolition of Anthony Smith, and his rematch shutout against Alexander Gustafsson.
Ultimately – Reyes is neither the most difficult challenge awaiting Jones at light heavyweight today or a simple walkover for the reigning champion. In terms of division challengers as of today – Reyes is simply dimensional in every sense of the word.