Photo Credit: Josh Hedges – Zuffa LLC
The road to the UFC light heavyweight championship still runs through Albuquerque, New Mexico – albeit quite controversially. Jon Jones suffered some legitimate scares against Thiago Santos last year on his way to a split decision victory – and Saturday in Houston, the 32-year-old left the Toyota Centre strapped with 205-pound gold, surprisingly once more.
Dominick Reyes was labeled one dimensional by me in the run-up to Saturday’s headliner – and to my own detriment. The California native started fantastically against Jones, clearly two rounds ahead going into the third frame. The challenger managed to outstrike the champion over the course of ten minutes – but a pace that caused early problems dropped off considerably during the penultimate and final round, allowing Jones to recuperate. The judging as a whole was horrific – evident with Joe Soliz’s decision to award Jones a 49-46 unanimous decision triumph. I’ve watched the bout back twice and I can’t see a four-round sweep for the Jackson-Wink MMA. The sticking point seems to be the third round. Reyes begins to slow down and Jones begins to open up midway through the frame.
Our co-main event showing was crystal clear. Dominance is still the name of the game for Muay Thai specialist, Valentina Shevchenko. Launching a range-finding calf kick on the end of her combinations rather than that patented check right hook, ‘Bullet’ looked as composed as ever. Quakertown native, Katlyn Chookagian was resilient and durable – but struggled notably off her back. A third-round body-kick was caught by Shevchenko, with Chookagian attempting to pull guard, a decision which ultimately led to the end. Shevchenko sliced straight through to side-control, then mounted crucifix before slicing with more elbow strikes and ground-and-pound. Flawless performance from the Krygyzstan native.
Below, check out what matchups I’d book for the winners, and losers of UFC 247’s main, and co-main events.
Jon Jones vs. Dominick Reyes II:
Last July, I was adamant that an immediate title rematch awaited Brazilian bruiser, Thiago ‘Marreta’ Santos. The Muay Thai practitioner is still currently sidelined after suffering catastrophic knee injuries against Jones and has lost some considerable momentum. Seven months later, Dominick Reyes is totally deserved of a championship rematch. The Hesperia native was incredibly unlucky to leave The Lone Star State last night without his undefeated record and light heavyweight gold. He proved many critics wrong over the course of the five-round affair – and caused Jones more problems than some of the best light heavyweights to walk the face of the earth. There’s unfinished business here. Whether they meet again right away is still unknown – but make no mistake about it, Jones vs. Reyes II needs to happen in the future.
Jon Jones vs. Corey Anderson – Jan Blachowicz II Winner:
We roll right around next weekend to UFC Fight Night Rio Rancho – with more light heavyweight action claiming curtain-closer status. Two 205-pound contenders who’ve voiced their warrants to face Jones clash, as wrestling ace, Corey Anderson clashes with former KSW light heavyweight best, Jan Blachowicz once more. Anderson currently holds bragging-rights over Blachowicz, lodging a unanimous decision win over the Pole back at UFC 191 in 2015. The Illinois native attempts to finally meet with rival, Jones – and add Blachowicz to an impressive win streak that includes Johnny Walker, Patrick Cummins, Glover Teixeira, and Ilir Latifi.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Blachowicz – has managed two impressive victories of his own recently, handing losses to former UFC and Strikeforce middleweight champion, Luke Rockhold – and in a forgetful clash, took a split decision win over another one-time Strikeforce champion, Jacaré Souza. Whoever leaves Rio Rancho with a victory, especially a convincing triumph, will more than likely cement their status as number-one contender and earn a matchup with Jones.
Thiago Santos vs. Dominick Reyes:
With fellow top-contender, Anthony Smith preoccupied with the previously noted, Glover Teixeira – let’s pair two former title challengers together to establish a possible second tilt for the victor. Santos has earmarked a summer return recently – and a possible pairing with Reyes offers both strikers the chance to regain some considerable momentum. If the promotion elect against pairing Jones and Reyes once more – let’s see a title-eliminator between two competitors who’ve pushed ‘Bones’ to his absolute limit.
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Joanne Calderwood:
It’s more of the same at flyweight. Valentina Shevchenko appears to be a puzzle that won’t be solved anytime soon. Priscila Cachoeira, Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Jessica Eye, Liz Carmouche, and now Katlyn Chookagian, have tired and failed to overcome the striker since her 125-pound bow back in 2018. Shevchenko is multiple levels ahead of her opposition, not just in striking exchanges, but now in the possible grappling clashes. A flyweight contender which currently stands out, is Scottish striker, Joanne Calderwood.
In a division that is clearly lacking in legitimate contenders, 33-year-old Calderwood is a certain outlier. With three victories since her climb to flyweight back in 2018 – the Kilmarnock native has bested Kalindra Faria, Ariane Lipski, and Andrea Lee to nab the #3 rank at 125-pounds. Chookagian has managed a victory over Calderwood – but in the current landscape of the division, Calderwood represents the most viable next challenger to Shevchenko’s throne.
Katlyn Chookagian vs. Jessica Eye II:
It’s another rematch – but one that has a quite legitimate case to be matched. Two former title challengers eager to get that second chance at Octagon gold. Immediately after Chookagian’s loss last night, Jessica Eye took to her official Twitter account to call for a second opportunity at dispatching Valentina Shevchenko. The 33-year-old suffered a brutal high-kick knockout against Shevchenko last June – but has returned to the win column since. In a December meeting with Brazil’s Viviane Araújo, Eye reigned supreme but the gloss from her performance was overshadowed by a botched weight-cut which seen the Ohio native tip the scales at 131-pounds. At UFC 231 in Ontario, Eye earned a title shot via a razor-thin split decision triumph over Chookagian.
Katyln Chookagian vs. Viviane Araújo:
With Chookagian and Araújo now both coming off defeats – a matchup of two of the division’s top-tier candidates offers the possibility for both to really stake their claim as contenders who are there to stay. Brazil’s Viviane Araújo is only a three-fight UFC veteran but has made big waves in the promotion already. The 33-year-old arrived with a knockout win over Talita Bernardo, before securing a convincing unanimous decision shutout against Alexis Davis. Before his UFC 245 defeat to Jessica Eye, Araújo had managed five straight victories.