The Real Winners and Losers from UFC 247

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistFebruary 9, 2020

The Real Winners and Losers from UFC 247

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    The UFC 247 card in Houston was silly with recurring themes.

    Hometown fighters didn't do so well. Fighters who arrived as favorites did even worse. And the judges...well, let's just say the judges have had nights that were a lot less complicated.

    So to say the 12 fights that ran from early Saturday evening to early Sunday morning—including two bouts in which longtime champions were defending titles and pound-for-pound statuses—were chock-full of winners and losers would be an understatement.

    With that as our backdrop, we compiled our own list of the most significant Ws and Ls heading out of the Toyota Center, including some that will no doubt fuel conversation in the days and weeks ahead.

    Sorry, no spoilers here.

    You'll have to click through to get them, or to see whether your impressions match ours.

Winner: Championship Drama...(ish)

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    Ask anyone, and they'll tell you Jon Jones is the best light heavyweight mixed martial artist in the world. And he's held that status, by consensus, for the better part of a decade.

    So, sure, it's easy for people to start taking that greatness for granted and finding it predictable.

    But after Saturday night against Dominick Reyes, it may be a little less easy to do that.

    Jones was put into legitimate championship-level peril for the first time in a while against the No. 4 challenger, but he found another gear in the final two rounds to escape with a dramatic and reed-thin unanimous decision in the 25-minute main event at the Toyota Center.

    Two judges saw Jones a 48-47 winner, giving him three of five rounds, while a third judge scored it a bit wider at 49-46, with four of five rounds going in the champion's favor. Bleacher Report went the other way, seeing it 48-47 for Reyes after giving him Rounds 1, 2 and 3.

    The official announcement from Bruce Buffer drew boos from the Houston crowd and a puzzled look from a clearly disappointed but still gracious Reyes.

    "I thought I won [Rounds] 1-3," he told ESPN+ commentator Joe Rogan. "He was on me in 4 and 5, but I popped right back up. I was all over him, but it is what it is. That's the game we play. This just proves I'm the real deal."

    Jones, whose win gave him a UFC-record 14 in title fights, agreed.

    "He's a lot better than I thought he was," he said. "But I wouldn't want it easy. If this stuff was easy, everybody out there in the audience would do it.

    "I knew it was a really close fight, and I turned it on. Between the takedowns and the fact that I turned it on in the fifth—that fifth round was the whole fight. I believe the takedowns won me the fight."

    In fact, Reyes finished with a striking edge in three of five rounds and a 103-96 edge overall, while Jones indeed scored the fight's only two takedowns on nine attempts.

    "The difference tonight was the wrestling," commentator Dominick Cruz said. "It's not just striking. This is mixed martial arts."

Loser: The Women's Flyweight Division

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    It might seem counterintuitive. After all, Valentina Shevchenko is a dominant champion at 125 pounds, and her third-round TKO of Katlyn Chookagian gave her three title defenses, the third-most among incumbent UFC titleholders.

    But the better she is, the worse it may be for female flyweights.

    "What fight do you want to see in this division now?" Rogan asked as Shevchenko went through her requisite post-fight routine of cartwheels and flips. "None of them make sense."

    Indeed, though Chookagian was fully qualified and deserving of her top contender status, she entered the cage as a double-digit underdog, which meant an upset win would have been the third-biggest statistical upset in women's UFC history.

    If she's the best of the lot, how much better is Shevchenko than anyone beneath her?

    And lest we forget, as good as she is, Shevchenko's already lost twice to pound-for-pound queen Amanda Nunes, who's a champion at both bantamweight and featherweight. So there's not exactly an obviously lucrative showdown elsewhere.

    "I almost feel bad for Valentina for being so dominant," Rogan said. "She's such a specialist. She's so good."

    The champ showed superior snap and power in her shots from the jump on Saturday night and scored takedowns in each round, landing an elbow in the first that opened a bloody gash on Chookagian's forehead above her left eye. The dominance continued through the second round and into the third, when another takedown led to a crucifix position from which Shevchenko landed unblocked shots to the left side of the challenger's face until a humane rescue by referee Jacob Montalvo at 1:03.

    "I feel there are a lot of very good girls in the 125 division," Shevchenko said. "But I'm open for anything. I'm open for any fight that comes in the future."

Winner: Home Cooking

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    Derrick Lewis was happy. The fans were happy.

    But Cruz was not.

    The commentator rained on the Houston heavyweight's parade after the night's pay-per-view curtain-raiser, ripping the scorecards that provided Lewis a narrow unanimous-decision victory over Ilir Latifi.

    Lewis was given a 29-28 edge on all three cards.

    On the contrary, Bleacher Report had it 29-28 for Latifi, who held a 62-27 advantage in strikes and had the fight's only three takedowns.

    "I like Derrick Lewis as much as anyone else," Cruz said. "But if the judges are actually watching these fights, I think they should be ashamed of themselves."

    Nevertheless, the Lewis win was the second in four tries for the card's Houston residents.

    He followed Trevin Giles' split-decision defeat of James Krause at middleweight, after the card had begun with sudden stoppage losses by Houston's Domingo Pilarte and Alex Morono.

    Later, Houston's Juan Adams also took it on the chin, losing by TKO at 1:59 of the opening round against Justin Tafa, making the "Space City" an inglorious 2-3 on the night.

Loser: Early Betting Favorites

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    Combat sports are oftentimes a theater for the unexpected, so it's hardly a surprise when a UFC show is dotted with favorites getting spanked.

    But while once or twice is a coincidence, a half-dozen is certainly a trend.

    No fewer than six underdogs in seven fights had their hands raised in the early prelim and prelim portions of the Saturday night card, including violent stoppages by Journey Newson (TKO, Round 1), Mario Bautista (TKO, Round 2) and Khaos Williams (KO, Round 1) in consecutive upsets that took a combined seven minutes, 46 seconds.

    Williams was the biggest underdog of the bunch heading into his match with Alex Morono, going in with +275 odds (wager $100 to win $275), per Caesars Palace. Meanwhile, women's flyweight veteran Lauren Murphy was nearly as much of a long shot; she went into the cage as a +260 risk before beating Andrea Lee by split decision.

    Also bucking the odds in Saturday's early action were Youssef Zalal and Trevin Giles, with both winning by surprise decisions over Austin Lingo and James Krause, respectively.

    The PPV portion of the night was only slightly less surprising, with two underdogs—featherweight Dan Ige and heavyweight Justin Tafa—winning against favorites Mirsad Bektic and Juan Adams.

Winner: Khaos Incarnate

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    Houston resident Alex Morono got a big pop from the home crowd upon being announced prior to his welterweight bout against Khaos Williams.

    Less than 30 seconds later, he got popped again.

    A prohibitive favorite at -350, Morono was met in the center of the cage and instantly driven to the fence with a left hand, then erased with a right as Williams completed his first UFC appearance in style.

    It took all of 27 seconds.

    "That is one powerful dude right there, goodness," Cruz said. "They literally stepped to the center and traded. And the more powerful and more accurate man landed."

    The win came after just two weeks' notice for Williams, who stepped in for the injured Dhiego Lima.

    Williams is now 10-1 and has won seven straight.

    "Get used to me. Get used to my name. I'm gonna be here. I'm the future," he said. "If you make a mistake, you've gotta pay. That goes for anybody."

Loser: Predictable Judging

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    Maybe Andre Ewell deserved it. Perhaps Jonathan Martinez was better.

    Either way, no one watching their three-round bantamweight clash could have considered it an easy call.

    No one except a cageside judge, that is.

    Following an impromptu delay that arose from a computer crash at the athletic commission's table, Bruce Buffer read the first two cards as 29-28—predictably with one in each man's favor. But he then elicited boos from the crowd and howls from the broadcast team with a decisive 30-27 tally, or three rounds to none, for Ewell.

    "That's ridiculous," Rogan said. "To score that 3-0 is criminal. Martinez put in an excellent performance. I'm just not sure how, sober, you score that third for Ewell."

    Incidentally, it was Joe Solis who scored it 3-0 for Ewell, and 4-1 for Jones in the main event.

    Cruz suggested the judging crew was out of its collective element as trained boxing observers assigned to score a mixed martial arts competition.

    "We're not always getting the best judges," he said. "They can score boxing. They don't know how to judge kicks."

    Rogan, in fact, was still talking about the mess as the card continued and was back at it again after the Jones verdict.

    "When they nail it, we go, 'Oh yeah, we saw that,'" he said. "We only pay attention when they screw it up. They screwed this one up."

Winner: The 2nd Time Around

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    Journey Newson's UFC debut last summer didn't go quite as planned.

    Clearly, though, he didn't let the scar of losing linger too terribly long.

    The former full-time truck driver arrived for his second go-round as a +110 underdog against local hero Domingo Pilarte, but he became the early favorite for the night's best finish after starching Pilarte with a single right hand just 38 seconds into their bantamweight matchup.

    "What a picture-perfect right hand," Rogan said. "It doesn't get any better than that. Boom. It just shuts the lights out."

    Indeed, Pilarte immediately tumbled to his back after absorbing the shot and then took another quick hammer fist from Newson before referee Jacob Montalvo put a stop to things.

    "We were looking for the right hand," Newson said, "and it paid off."

Loser: Pre-Fight Hype Reels

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    Dallas resident Austin Lingo arrived in Houston with seven wins in seven fights and stoppages in his past three that had covered a combined 63 seconds.

    So, not surprisingly, the brief intro package on ESPN+ was all about the -210 favorite, and Lingo's menacing stare before the fight was typical for a guy expecting a quick night at the office.

    But it took barely a minute for late-notice sub Youssef Zalal to demonstrate clear superiority.

    The Moroccan Devil used movement and technique to expose the one-dimensional Texan, athletically eluding his aggression and scoring repeated takedowns when things got close on the way to a unanimous three-round decision in the card's first fight.

    After taking the bout on two weeks' notice, the winner earned 30-27 verdicts on Bleacher Report's card as well as all three official tallies. He finished with a 58-15 edge in strikes and a 6-1 margin in takedowns.

    The performance earned him a post-fight chat with Rogan, which Zalal called "an honor."

    "[Zalal] just did a great job of using all of his skills in the fight," Rogan said.

UFC 247 Full Card Results

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    Main Card

    Jon Jones def. Dominick Reyes by unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46).

    Valentina Shevchenko def. Katlyn Chookagian by TKO, 1:03, Round 3.

    Justin Tafa def. Juan Adams by TKO, 1:59, Round 1.

    Dan Ige def. Mirsad Bektic by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).

    Derrick Lewis def. Ilir Latifi by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).


    Preliminary Card

    Trevin Giles def. James Krause by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).

    Lauren Murphy def. Andrea Lee by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27).

    Khaos Williams def. Alex Morono by KO, 0:27, Round 1.

    Mario Bautista def. Miles Johns by TKO, 1:41, Round 2.

    Journey Newson def. Domingo Pilarte by TKO, 0:38, Round 1.

    Andre Ewell def. Jonathan Martinez by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27).

    Youssef Zalal def. Austin Lingo by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).