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UFC starts off 2020 strong with Jones title defense

The sport of boxing for most fans seems rather interesting. Imagine getting a check for knocking out an opponent, or perhaps having a good match ending in a close loss. Last year featured some strong matchups, including Errol Spence vs. Shawn Porter, Jay Harris vs. Paddy Barnes and David Lemieux vs. Maksym Bursak. 

This year has started off strong as well, with the first real bout happening on Feb. 8 between light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and challenger Dominic Reyes. Jones was looking to defend his belt and maintain possession of the title, which he has held since December of 2018. The match was heavily contested, with five full rounds, and eventually came down to a close call by the judges. Reyes delivered on his promises from interviews leading up to the fight, getting in close against Jones and executing a multitude of leg attacks, and his signature left-handed swings. The variance between these attacks and striking paced his early-round strategy. As the match intensified into the third and fourth rounds, Reyes’ hefty attack strategy began to show its effects. However, he continued to show grit and toughness, which many fans enjoyed.

Through the first round, Jones was able to weather the storm, even escaping a pin in the corner. Jones’ stamina and craft turned into pure hustle as he navigated the ring while avoiding the onslaught from Reyes the best he could. After landing a few takedowns, it was clear that this round was going to Jones. He delivered body shots for the remainder of the fights, contrary to Reyes’ lapse.

“I thought I won rounds one through three, he was on me in four and five. I had him one through three, I was all over him,” Reyes noted after the fight, clearly upset with the calls made by the judges throughout the rounds following the conclusion of the fight.

The results were 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46, by unanimous decision. Reyes continued to bemoan the results, given the last judge had a three-point margin. However, to his credit, ESPN broke down the fight for analysis and concluded that Reyes executed 116 strikes compared to Jones 104, an anomaly given that this never happened in a fight that Jones has won. Though his 23rd contest was closer than he would’ve liked it, Jones was able to secure his 14th title bout, making him the longest-tenured belt holder in the UFC. To add more success, his UFC winning streak ties legend Demetrious Johnson for eleven title defenses. 

“That’s the way to make American right there; it wasn’t the most impressive victory, but nothing, absolutely nothing, that has been easy. I showed the heart of a champion and left it out there. Dominick did a tremendous job. Dominick, you have totally earned my respect, man,” Jones noted following the fight, electing to ignore the close proximity of the call.

The controversy stemmed from Jorge Soliz, a judge who has been under the microscope for his calls in an earlier fight. The bout between Andre Ewell and Jonathan Martinez was decided via split decision, although many speculated after the fact that Martinez had won. Most sites suggested Ewell, 29-28, and an 85-74 strike ratio, dominating within the first and second rounds. For the same rounds, Soliz produced 30-27 for Ewell and got roasted by the broadcasting team. His role also included this later fight as well, giving 49-46 to Jones. Many have called for Soliz to be banned from officiating in the octagon, including Reyes himself, but the cries have all but fallen on deaf ears at this point.

“[Jones is] the GOAT with all of the things he has accomplished. He isn’t 25 years old anymore. He’s still taking on these young killers, and he finds a way to win, and I think the bar is set so high, you have to have such high expectations. Dominick would have knocked out 100% of the people he fought with the shots he hit with Jones tonight,” UFC President Dana White commented following the bout, speaking to Jones’ greatness and the power that Reyes brought into the ring against him. 

An upcoming fight between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury is sure to be an entertaining one as the fight is a scheduled rematch from Dec. 28 where Fury proclaimed a draw causing outrage among respected boxing circles. The fate of this match may foreshadow a bout with heavyweight champion Anthony Josuha thereafter.

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