Post-Fight Thoughts: Jon Jones -vs- Dominick Reyes
All credit to Dominick Reyes, he put in an incredible effort throughout all 5 rounds of his fight with Jon Jones, and should have been awarded the winner. Reyes easily won the first 2 rounds of the fight, while Jones staged a strong comeback in the back half of the fight. The only round that was up for debate was the third, and I still gave it to Reyes, although there is an argument to be made that Jones won it. The judge who scored it 49-46, however, was ridiculous — there is no way you can give Jon Jones 4 rounds of that fight, none.
Reyes' speed was impressive, and allowed him to close distance more effectively than I anticipated. Reyes fought Jones fearlessly, almost with a sense of disrespect; where other opponents would get mesmerised by what Jones was doing and fall into his pace, Reyes did no such thing. Attacking the body, head and legs — and easily defending multiple takedown attempts — Reyes offered up a diverse attack that Jones took a while to figure out and begin to solve. By the middle of the third round, and throughout the final rounds, Jones was able to slow Reyes with his own strikes to the legs and body. At no point was Reyes, hurt however, and his constant movement prevented any flurries or significant combinations from landing.
Aside from the first fight with Alexander Gustafsson, this is the hardest anyone has made Jon Jones work. Reyes was accurate and landing strikes at a good clip; he made Jones seem very much a mortal man. Also of note was Reyes ability to match Jones in terms of reach, and the success he had countering on the back foot. Ironically, the judges — between their ineptitude and usage of an outdated version of the so-called Unified Rules of MMA — counted Reyes backward movement against him, in spite of how effective he was. As I suspected, the southpaw attack was very successful against Jones, especially in combination with Reyes comparable reach.
While I said there was an argument that Jones won the third, I don't personally think that is true. Dominick Reyes was robbed of a place in the history books, handing Jon Jones his first legitimate loss — and ending his title defence streak at 13, tied with Georges Saint-Pierre for the all-time record. There should be an immediate rematch booked, in a state with a better standard if judging. Whether this actually gets booked, however, I don't know. Title fights seem to be booked with more consideration towards who is available as opposed to which match-ups make the most — or in the case of Jose Aldo Yoel Romero's forthcoming title shots, any — sense in terms of merit.
I also think a rematch better serves Jones. While Reyes put on a masterful performance, doing everything within his power to neutralise Jones' tactics, he wasn't able to truly dominate Jones and began to wane as the fight wore on. Fatigue was no doubt some part of Reyes' diminishing success in the later rounds, but Jones has proven to be the most calculating and adaptable fighters in the game. Given the benefit of another fight camp, with 5 rounds worth of experience to draw from, I foresee Jones performing significantly better in a rematch. I don't think think Jones took this bout as lightly as the first Gustafsson fight, but knowing what Reyes is truly capable of should allow Jon to prepare much more thoroughly.
Reyes did an incredible job, but Jon didn't show any signs of being diminished as a fighter. There is no reason to believe that Reyes can't make improvements after this performance, and am very impressed — he defied everyone's expectations — but he has not rattled my belief in Jon Jones' status as one of the best fighters of all time. That being said, I do believe Dominick Reyes earned the right to an immediate rematch. I am genuinely excited to see these two paired up again; there is finally a glimmer of excitement at the top of the light heavyweight ladder.
Published: February 9th, 2020.