Jan Blachowicz Wins Convincingly, but Specter of Jon Jones Still Looms

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistSeptember 27, 2020

Jon Jones goes through his pre-fight routine in the ring before a light heavyweight mixed martial arts bout against Dominick Reyes at UFC 247 Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
Michael Wyke/Associated Press

"Jon Jones, where are you?"

That's what the UFC's new light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz said to the camera immediately upon stopping top-ranked contender Dominick Reyes in the second round on Saturday night at UFC's Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.

For the first time in almost a decade, there's a new 205-pound champ in the UFC not named Jon Jones or Daniel Cormier.

Both those guys are surefire UFC Hall of Famers. Let's face it, though; the only reason Cormier ever wore that belt in the first place was because of Jones' suspensions and numerous issues outside the Octagon.

With apologies to Matt Hamill, who technically beat Jones in 2009, but only because Jones was disqualified for using illegal elbows in a one-sided beatdown, the only person that's ever really defeated Jones is Jones.

The 30-year-old Reyes claimed to have done just that even though at least half of the people who saw him challenge Jones at UFC 247 earlier this year thought the fight could have gone either way.

More importantly, the three judges sitting cageside scored the fight for Jones, so The Devastator's case largely rested on the opinion of people who just weren't all that used to seeing Jones in competitive fights.

Why would they be? It had almost never happened before.

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Blachowicz entered his big fight against Reyes on a three-fight winning streak, but almost no one thought he would pull off the upset. Nobody at Bleacher Report picked him to win the fight, and only one writer, Scott Harris, thought he would even make it to the final bell.

But the 37-year-old Poland native dominated and stopped Reyes in what's probably the best and most important victory of his career.

Blachowicz threw and landed harder strikes in the first round, and by the second round, the timid Reyes had a huge bruise on his right side due to the heavy kicks he had taken.

Then, it appeared Blachowicz had broken Reyes' nose, so the American decided his best course of action was to attack his opponent with a newfound ferocity.

That didn't work.

Blachowicz hurt Reyes badly with his sharper punches, then won the final exchange with a hard left hook that sent Reyes down for good. Moments later, Blachowicz had his hand raised high in the air as the winner of the fight, and all he could think to do with his big moment was call out Jones.

"Jon Jones, where are you?"

Can you blame him?

The Polish powerhouse had come so close to securing a fight against Jones earlier this year that the duo basically cut a promo video together on the fly after Blachowicz knocked out Corey Anderson back in February.

But Blachowicz lost his big chance when Jones decided to move up in weight.

Jones is still the pound-for-pound king of the UFC. He won 15 title fights in a row before vacating his belt to move up to the heavyweight ranks to hunt for bigger and assumedly more lucrative trophies.

No one is going to come close to doing what Jones did in the light heavyweight division for a long time.

Somewhere deep down inside, Blachowicz knows that. No matter what he does from now to the end of his reign, all he'll have in the debate is that he beat the guy that Jones beat, too.

Sure, Reyes gave Jones all he could handle in their bout at UFC 247. But by the end of the night, all Reyes had won was the hearts and minds of some of the people who watched it.

Sure, there was a thought going around the UFC community that maybe Reyes was on his way to starting his own legacy as a UFC champ and that his fight against Blachowicz was nothing more than a coronation ceremony. And Blachowicz will always get credit for proving all those people wrong. Well done.

He walked through Reyes like none of what happened at UFC 247 mattered at all, and now Poland is the home of light heavyweight supremacy.

"Don't be a quitter," Blachowicz said to Jones through Jon Anik during his post-fight interview. "I'm here. This is how we do it in Poland. I'm waiting for you."

But Jones isn't quite a quitter in this case, is he?

Jones is a finisher, and what he finished as one of the most dominant champions in UFC history won't soon be toppled by Blachowicz or probably any other light heavyweight champion that comes after him either.

So no matter what Blachowicz did against Reyes at UFC 253, the specter of Jones will still loom large over the 205-pound division for a long time.

"Jon Jones, where are you?"

The answer to that is easy. He's in the history books—at 205 pounds at least—so the best thing Blachowicz can do now is let the ghost of Jones go so he can start writing his own story.