In what was an eventful week in mixed martial arts, UFC 197 featured the return of Jon Jones in a fight for the Interim Light Heavyweight Championship against Ovince Saint Preux. Jones was able to win in dominant fashion, but his performance left a lot to be desired for some fans.
In the co-main event, longtime flyweight champion Demetrius Johnson continued his winning ways by dismantling Olympic Gold Medalist Henry Cejudo in just minutes.
The UFC 200 drama that dominated the first half of the week kept the MMA world abuzz even with Jones and Johnson (the top 2 pound for pound fighters in the world) fighting in the same week. With that being said, a Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier rematch is what everybody wanted, and with Jones’ efforts last night, we will likely see that fight sometime this year.
Jon Jones def. Ovince Saint Preux via unanimous decision
The first few rounds seemed to be a feeling out process for both fighters. Jones was showing his range by going for oblique and thigh kicks while Saint Preux tried to find his rhythm. Saint Preux did not seem to let the bright lights of a PPV main event affect him as he fought patiently and avoided major damage.
Although Jones was winning the rounds with ease, he was not interested in long exchanges and tended to resort to throwing his famous elbows and kicks instead of going with a traditional boxing style. Saint Preux definitely has punching power, so it seemed that Jones was not going to go blow for blow and risk losing such a high stakes fight.
In the fourth round, Jones was able to get Saint Preux to the ground and it looked as if he was going to finish him like he has done with so many others. However, the underdog was able to make it to the end of the round without taking major damage.
In the fifth, Jones was able to score another takedown, this time in the middle of the cage. However, he seemed to let Saint Preux stand back up with ease and continued the fight on his feet.
Saint Preux landed some punches throughout the fight and can easily be a contender again in the near future. He now knows that he can hang with one of the greatest fighters of all time, (even on short notice) and increased his marketing power as well.
For Jones, the rematch with Cormier is set. They could fight at UFC 200, but Jones did leave the post fight press conference in a wheel chair and Cormier still needs to clear his leg with his doctor, so we will see. But as long as we see that fight sometime this year, the hype will be just as real as the first time they fought.
Demetrious Johnson def. Henry Cejudo via first-round TKO (2:49)
What Johnson continues to do fight after fight in the flyweight division is truly astounding. He is the only UFC flyweight champion ever, and probably the most well-rounded fighter on the entire roster.
In his fight with Cejudo, he was taken down early in the fight but was able to get back up with ease. Cejudo seemed eager to fight in the clinch with the champion and Johnson accepted the challenge by throwing continuous knees to the body. One knee in particular seemed to rock Cejudo and forced him to disengage. Johnson smelled blood at this point and swarmed on Cejudo, throwing knees and punches until the referee stopped the fight.
The performance by Johnson was one of his best ever, and the flyweight division seems all but cleaned out now. People have suggested a rematch with Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, but there are plenty of contenders in the 135 weight class already. Hopefully the UFC has plans for Mighty Mouse, but expect him to continue to dominate for years to come.
Edson Barboza def. Anthony Pettis via unanimous decision
In what many picked as the fight of the night Brazilian Edson Barboza took on the former WEC and UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis.
In the first round, it was clear that Barboza was slightly faster than Pettis and it helped him connect first in most of their exchanges. He connected repeatedly with inside leg kicks as well as a few left hooks to Pettis’ head.
Pettis fought better in the second round but his front leg continued to be abused and he was unable to hurt Barboza in any significant way. The diverse strikes that Pettis has been known for were nowhere to be seen either.
The third round was more of the same as a significant bruise appeared on Pettis’ front leg and Barboza’s was not showing any signs of slowing down. Barboza earned the biggest win of his career while a third straight loss for Pettis leaves his once bright career in doubt.
Robert Whittaker def. Rafael Natal via unanimous decision
In an important middleweight fight, Whittaker defeated Natal with relative ease for his fifth straight victory. Whittaker was able to connect with hooks and jabs in all three rounds and was never in significant danger.
Natal was able to connect with multiple leg kicks, which left some serious bruising on Whittaker’s front leg but did not seem to slow him down. Whittaker’s punches were not as crisp in the later rounds, but it was clear that he was the superior fighter.
Whittaker is starting to become a serious contender at middleweight, which definitely needs more of them with so many rematches in title fights. He should get a big name in his next fight and another win could propel him into title contention.
Yair Rodriguez def. Andre Fili via second-round KO (2:15)
In one of the most impressive knockouts of the year so far, Rodriguez was able to finish the fight with a roundhouse kick in the second round that left Fili completely unconscious.
Early in the fight, both fighters were putting on a show with an array of strikes that was a great way to start the main card. Rodriguez scored a takedown in the first round but was unable to do significant damage.
In the second, the fighters continued to exchange and Rodriguez was starting to get the best of the striking exchanges. At one point, Fili seemed to favor his left eye and that was when Rodriguez pounced on him with a head kick that landed perfectly and sent Fili crashing to the canvas. The referee stopped the fight soon after.
This was Rodriguez’ fifth straight win in the featherweight division, and a knockout like this will surely get him a big name in his next fight.
Here are the rest of the night’s results:
Sergio Pettis def. Chris Kelades via unanimous decision
Danny Roberts def. Dominique Steele via unanimous decision
Carla Esparza def. Juliana Lima via unanimous decision
James Vick def. Glaico Franca via unanimous decision
Walt Harris def. Cody East via first-round TKO (4:18)
Marcos Rogerio de Lima def. Clint Hester via sub (arm triangle) (R1, 4:35)
Kevin Lee def. Efrain Escudero via unanimous decision