4 Ways Dominick Reyes Can Beat Jon Jones at UFC 247
Dominick Reyes faces a towering task at UFC 247 on Saturday: beat UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
In 27 professional fights, Jones has lost just once, and that was via disqualification after he stapled a grotesquely outmatched Matt Hamill to the canvas with a series of illegal elbows. Jones' victories, meanwhile, have come against world-class talents such as Ryan Bader, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans, Vitor Belfort, Alexander Gustafsson, Glover Teixeira, Daniel Cormier, Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos.
Over the course of his incredible run of dominance in the UFC, Jones has been so impressive that it seems nearly impossible that anybody will beat him without the help of a baseball bat or a sword. Yet that is what Reyes will attempt to do when he steps into the Octagon with the UFC light heavyweight champion in Houston.
Can the +325 underdog, per Caesars Palace, pull it off? It's unlikely, but it is possible.
Reyes has a few narrow paths to victory. Let's take a look at them.
Box Him Up
Reyes, brimming with confidence after a perfect 12-0 start to his MMA career, has stated several times that he believes Jones is weak in the boxing department.
"It's no secret that Jon isn't the best boxer in the UFC," he said during a panel Wednesday. "He's a great kickboxer. He has great range. He uses his kicks very well. But he's not the best boxer. I intend to exploit that."
Reyes doesn't just think Jones' boxing is subpar. On the flip side, he's also extremely high on his own hands—and fairly so. His cross lands like a missile almost every time he fights, and he has arguably the best left hook at 205 pounds.
"I think my boxing is probably the best in the division," he said. "With footwork and fearlessness, I'll get in there and put these hands on him. I'm a true southpaw. I got this left hand with me right here. We'll see what happens."
While Reyes isn't that far off base in suggesting that Jones' hands are the dullest weapons in his arsenal, that's not saying much. The champion's boxing is still nothing to smirk at, and he's got a rock-solid chin to fall back on if Reyes does start landing.
Reyes' assertion also ignores one key reality: This isn't a boxing match. It's an MMA fight involving perhaps the most well-rounded fighter in the sport's history.
The Devastator can definitely win this fight with his punches, but he will need to be extremely vigilant as he goes head-hunting, as a Jones takedown could materialize at any moment.
Kick Him in the Head
Jones is an excellent kickboxer—particularly from a defensive standpoint. The champion is a ghost on the feet, blending excellent footwork with distance-managing strikes like jabs, teeps and oblique kicks to keep himself out of danger.
In fact, Jones has been so difficult to land on that we're left grasping at straws when looking for information on how he reacts to getting hit. People just don't land clean on him often.
Reyes, however, is a big, long and sneaky striker. He's nearly decapitated several of his opponents with his legs before—most notably Jordan Powell in the LFA cage. With a little bit of patience and a whole lot of luck, he might just shock the world by wrapping his shin around Jones' head Saturday.
It's a long shot, but still one of his best chances.
Throw Caution to the Wind
OK. Admittedly, this is probably a bad idea. But there's just so little to work with when discussing ways to beat Jon Jones. So please just hear it out.
The problem with Jones is that even in the fleeting moments when he's been in trouble in his fights, he's tough enough that it doesn't matter. As we've already covered, he's got a great chin. And he's also got a big-enough heart to carry him through any patches of adversity he encounters in the cage.
Tough as he may be, however, Jones has lost rounds when fights start getting ugly. Alexander Gustafsson won a few frames against him in their 2013 slugfest, and Thiago Santos almost beat him by decision in his most recent fight. Both of those guys were rabidly aggressive against the champion.
It's a risky maneuver, but if Reyes bites down on his mouthpiece and goes for broke, he might be able to take enough rounds from Jones on pure aggression to win a decision.. Then again, he might also get taken down repeatedly or pummelled into applesauce by the champ's counter-striking.
Pray That Jon Jones Has a Bad Night
As good as Jones has looked over the course of his career, he has had a few bad nights.
There was his 2013 war with Gustafsson—though he later claimed he barely trained for that fight. There was snooze-inducing 2016 win over Ovince Saint Preux. There was his dominant but undeniably slow 2019 win over Anthony Smith. And most relevant of all, there was his 2019 fight with Santos—arguably the closest he's come to losing his title in the Octagon.
So many fighters have stepped into the cage with Jones with what they believe to be the perfect game plans and perfect skill sets. Yet nobody has been able to beat him.
The impression you're left with after watching enough of Jones' fights is that if he's going to lose, it will not only require his opponent to fight the perfect fight but for him to also have a bad night at the office—whether it's from lack of training, ego, illness or sheer boredom brought on by his years of dominance.
Really, with all due respect to Reyes, who is an incredible fighter, praying to whatever deity he believes in that Jones doesn't show up at 100 percent might be his best shot at victory.
That's not a knock on our unheralded challenger—just a nod to the sheer brilliance of the champion.