UFC 247 has come and gone, entering the annals as one of the more controversial cards in recent memory.
Both Jon Jones and Valentina Shevchenko defended their championship crowns Saturday night, though it’s safe to say we’ll be discussing the former far more than the latter in the coming days.
Let us take a look at what may be next for both champions, as well as a few of the more noteworthy names that graced Saturday’s pay-per-view card.
Jon Jones vs. Dominick Reyes II
Jon Jones, the greatest MMA fighter of our time, narrowly — and controversially — escaped defeat in Saturday night’s main event. After five hard-fought rounds against a surprisingly competitive opponent in Dominick Reyes, Jones earned a record-breaking championship victory.
The win won’t come without its fair share of questions, with many wondering how qualified Saturday’s ringside judges were coming into the night. Jones endured as big of a beating as he ever has inside the Octagon, though much of that damage took place in the early goings. Reyes began to fade by the championship rounds, opening the door for a historic comeback effort from the champion.
Jones was simply not as effective as we’ve been accustomed to seeing him, failing to secure takedowns with the sort of ease that has afforded him a decade of dominance. Jones struggled with Reyes’ strength and power, paving the way for what is easily the most contested victory of his career.
With as questionable of a decision as we received Saturday, there’s no debate on what should be next for Jones: Reyes.
Expect the odds to be much, much closer next time out, but still favoring the titleholder. Despite his struggles in Houston, Jones still showcased the heart — and cardio — of a champion. But given how incompetent Saturday’s judging appeared to be, the location of a rematch will be worth monitoring before laying any money down.
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Valentina Shevchenko vs. Joanne Calderwood
Valentina Shevchenko is still the greatest female 125-pound fighter on the planet, storming past the division’s No. 1 contender in dominant fashion. The biggest favorite on Saturday’s card, Shevchenko performed as such.
After two rounds of technical counter-striking and aggressive grappling, Shevchenko used a fairly easy trip takedown to secure a crucifix early in Round 3. Chookagian, perhaps too tall to counter the unenviable position, was forced to absorb the onslaught until the referee decided enough was enough.
Shevchenko has now cruised past the division’s Nos. 1 and 2 contenders. It’s become readily apparent thus far that the champion is far and away the greatest talent this weight class has to offer, but that won’t change what comes next.
Joanne Calderwood, ranked No. 3 and coming off a victory in her last fight, should be next in line. She, like the four flyweights that have faced Shevchenko before her, likely won’t receive much respect from the oddsmakers. If you’ve watched even a single round of Shevchenko’s UFC career at 125 pounds, you’d understand why.
Katlyn Chookagian vs. Jessica Eye
Katlyn Chookagian shed light on just how big of a problem the UFC has with Valentina Shevchenko Saturday night. Ranked first in the 125-pound division, Chookagian was essentially outclassed against the only woman ahead of her.
Touting her unique movement and length prior to facing Shevchenko, Chookagian failed to showcase the efficacy of either attribute. She never had the chance to do so, forced to absorb leg kicks, check hooks, takedowns, and a flurry of spinning attacks.
Given the shallow nature of the 125-pound division, Chookagian likely won’t fall too far down the rankings. A top-five matchup should be in her immediate future, possibly in the form of a rematch against fellow former title contender Jessica Eye. A split decision ending last time out, expect a potential Chookagian vs. Eye II to be close from a betting perspective.
Derrick Lewis vs. Walt Harris
It wasn’t easy, nor was it controversy-free, but Derrick Lewis picked up his 14th UFC win against an undersized, but totally game Ilir Latifi.
Lewis surprisingly struggled to deal with the strength of Latifi, who at 5-foot-8, was making his heavyweight debut inside the Octagon. Giving up numerous takedowns and failing to break free from several clinch opportunities, Lewis’ offense wasn’t in full force Saturday night. Lewis offered some surprising techniques when given the opportunity, namely some flying knees and switch high kicks.
Many will question whether Lewis, who couldn’t do much but way for referee interference to get off his back for much of the night, deserved the unanimous decision nod in Saturday’s main card opener. Either way, he’ll likely move on to face a fellow top 10 heavyweight contender.
Walt Harris could be that man. Riding a four-fight unbeaten streak, the No. 9-ranked heavyweight nicknamed “The Big Ticket” could make his return to the cage against the sort of big-name opponent he was scheduled to face last December.
Expect Lewis to be the favorite there.
Ilir Latifi vs. Andrei Arlovski
Ilir Latifi may have a place at heavyweight after all. Despite failing to do enough to convince three ringside judges of his abilities in this new division, he did more than enough to convince the rest of us that he may have some success moving forward.
Giving up about half a foot and several pounds to his naturally bigger counterpart, Latifi surprised us all with the sort of strength he brings to the table at heavyweight. He wasn’t particularly effective at doing much when taking Lewis to the ground or holding him up against the cage, but he was still able to maintain control.
We shouldn’t expect Latifi to make a strong run to the title any time soon (if ever), but he should remain a top 15 contender in this shallow weight class. After accepting a fight in a new division against one of its larger contenders, maybe it’s time for Latifi to find an opponent that isn’t so physically daunting.
Enter former heavyweight champ Andrei Arlovski, who is nearing the end of his run inside the cage. Latifi’s power could make him a compelling pick against the aging heavyweight.
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