Undefeated light heavyweight contender Dominick Reyes has the opportunity of his life ahead of him at UFC 247 on Feb. 8 in Houston.
Reyes, 30, from Hesperia, Calif., challenges Jon Jones for the UFC light heavyweight championship. While Reyes is undefeated in his MMA career at 12-0, Jones is considered by most to be the preeminent fighter of the generation.
UFC 247 takes place February 8 at 10 p.m. Eastern time. It will air as a pay-per-view on ESPN+.
Here are a few things Reyes and his team should be considering as they build the game plan for fight night. If Reyes hopes to do what no other UFC fighter has ever been able to do before, no stone should be left unturned. Reyes wants beat up the UFC’s pound-for-pound king, or at least escape the situation by doing enough to leave cageside with the stunning upset victory, so here are several things from Jones’ past fights that could help Reyes pull the shocker.
1. Even Jones Isn’t Always Perfect
As unbeatable as Jones has appeared to be inside the Octagon so far, the 32-year-old MMA superstar remains only human. While that has mostly only revealed itself to be true in the fighter’s life outside the sport, Jones has also appeared a handfful of times to be just as vulnerable inside the sport.
If anything, Jones’ disqualification loss to Matt Hamill in 2009 should serve as a constant reminder that even Jones can suffer a loss. Sure, he was winning every single moment of that fight before he illegally struck Hamill with 12-6 elbows, but it went down as a loss on his record nonetheless.
Moreover, Jones might have suffered a loss to Chael Sonnen in 2013 had things worked out a little differently. Jones gruesomely dislocated his toe against Sonnen in the first round but found a way to stop his opponent with just 27 seconds left in the round. Had that not happened, the fight could have been stopped by the ringside physician or Jones’s corner with Sonnen declared the victor.
So Reyes can’t let the mystique of fighting Jones get to his head because anything can happen on fight night. Besides, there have been plenty of UFC stars come along during the company’s history that have also looked unbeatable only to find themselves shockingly upended.
Peaks don’t exist without valleys. Sooner or later, Jones will probably find himself in a similar position, too.
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2. Surprise Submission?
Even Jones has been in real trouble at various times throughout his career. In fact, Jones was almost submitted by Vitor Belfort at UFC 152 in 2012 before rallying for his own submission win. While Reyes isn’t the same level of grappler as Jones, his overwhelming physical strength and ability to stun his opponents with hard strikes could put the fighter in position to at least consider attempting the submission.
Moreover, Reyes could certainly benefit the element of surprise. Imagine the shock Jones would feel if the devastating striker Reyes suddenly gained the upper hand on Jones via armbar or rear-naked choke. Those are things Jones probably wouldn’t have spent all that much time during training camp thinking about and could be something Reyes potentially tries to pull off at UFC 247 if the opportunity suddenly presented itself.
Stranger things have happened in the sport than powerful strikers suddenly gunning for the submission win. While he’s never done it in any of his UFC fights, Reyes has submitted two previous opponents in other MMA fights.
3. Jones Relies Heavily on His Physical Advantages
Part of what has helped Jones be so dominant at light heavyweight is the tremendous physical advantage he usually enjoys over his opponents. It’s bad enough that Jones is such an excellent striker, elite wrestler and world-class submission artist, but Jones also stands 6 feet 4 and possesses an absurdly long 84-inch reach.
Does that seem fair?
Additionally, Jones is lanky but still quite sturdy enough to generate serious power. That alone has given him the upper hand over most every other 205-pounder in the UFC. But Jones also knows how to use those particular assets to make it virtually impossible for others to beat him at 205, and he’s steadily improved his game over time.
Still, Alexander Gustafsson, who stands 6 feet 5, gave Jones a seriously tough fight at UFC 165. Part of the effort was Gustafsson’s excellent boxing skills, but another big part of the equation was probably that Jones didn’t tower over Gustafsson like he usually does other fighters.
The bad news? Since almost losing to Gustafsson, Jones has added brutal leg kicks, hard teep kicks to the body and sharp hooks that helped make the rematch against Gustafsson five years later a UFC 232 a whitewash finish for Jones in the third round.
Still, like Gustafsson, Reyes won’t be looked down upon by the usually taller light heavyweight champion. Additionally, Reyes is one of the premier athletes in the sport, and those two things together could help the fighter capitalize on some of the things Gustafsson proved could be effective against Jones the first time around.
4. Could Age Play a Factor at UFC 247?
Jones is only 32, but he’s been fighting world-class opposition for about a decade now. Who knows what kind of havoc that can wreak on the human body? While Jones remains the top fighter in the sport, there should at least be a little concern among his handlers at Jackson Wink MMA Academy about the fighter’s performance in his last fight.
Jones narrowly escaped Thiago Santos via split decision at UFC 239 in July despite Santos fighting the majority of that contest with serious knee injuries. Additionally, Jones had to be helped out of the cageside area following the fight. Is the wear and tear of so many fights finally catching up to him?
Look, 32 isn’t ancient by any means, but combat sports are outrageously tough on the human body, so Jones’ 32-year-old form might be someone else’s 50. He’s faced an amazingly high level of opposition over the years and could at least theoretically be near the end of his rope.
5. Leg Kicks Could Help ‘The Devastator’ Break ‘Bones’ Jones
Santos almost pulled off the huge upset by focusing his attention on landing massive leg kicks on Jones during the opening round at UFC 239. Might Reyes try the same?
Reyes is also a fighter known for devastating kicks, so it’s possible Reyes could take some of the lessons learned from Santos almost pulling off the shocker and apply it to his own game. In fact, it would be sorta dumb if he didn’t.
After all, Reyes is six years younger than Santos and could reasonably follow a similar game plan Santos and his team put together for Jones last year. And what if that happens? And what if Reyes doesn’t end up injured the same way Santos did?
Well, then that might just be how Reyes pulls off the massive upset of one of the best fighters in the world today. Bigger upsets have happened, and Reyes absolutely has the talent and ability to get the job done.