Fighters Only’s UFC 247 preview is brought to you by 5Dimes.
UFC hits Houston, Texas this weekend for UFC 247 at the city’s famed Toyota Center.
The promotion’s second pay-per-view event of the decade features two title fights.
Jon “Bones” Jones will seek to defend his UFC light heavyweight gold against unbeaten contender Dominick “The Devastator” Reyes in the main event. In the co-main event, Kyrgyzstan’s Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko is aiming for the third defence of her UFC women’s strawweight title against Katlyn “Blonde Fighter” Chookagian.
As always, along with the preview of the key fights at UFC 247, Fighters Only will be providing our picks for the best bets and 5Dimes provide the odds.
But before that, make sure you take a look at our free MMA guide, created in partnership with 5Dimes.
UFC light heavyweight championship fight: Jon Jones vs. Dominick Reyes
The UFC’s 205-pound king Jon “Bones” Jones is back in action inside the Octagon. First up for him in 2020? Dominick “The Devastator” Reyes, a man who is yet to taste defeat in mixed martial arts competition.
Jones, of course, should also be considered as an unbeaten mixed martial artist, with the sole blot on his copybook coming via a controversial disqualification against Matt Hamill back in 2009.
Since his win over Daniel Cormier was overturned to a No Contest in the summer of 2017, Jones has fought three times. His performances? One supreme. The second, dominant. The last, underwhelming.
The enigmatic talent became reacquainted with the cage on 29 December 2018 and handily dispatched long-time foe Alexander Gustafsson by a third-round TKO upon his return.
After that, it was a quick turnaround for Jones, who fought again in March. He faced Anthony Smith, a middleweight-turned-light heavyweight who had knocked out former UFC light heavyweight champions Rashad Evans and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua on his rise to title contention. Jones dominated all five rounds to win the fight 48-44, the scorecard being two short of the maximum 50 total due to receiving a two-point deduction for hitting Smith in the head with an illegal knee in the fourth round.
Four months later, Jones took on another former middleweight who had been wreaking havoc on the 205-pound division, Thiago Santos. Jones won a split decision but his performance was underwhelming to many, saying he should have been more convincing in his win over the Brazilian after he had picked up multiple knee injuries in the bout. Santos, meanwhile, became the first man to ever win a judge’s scorecard against Bones.
Once upon a time, Jones was in a similar position to what Reyes finds himself in today. Each time Bones blew past his opposition as a young contender, sights were immediately set on the next level up in competition. Reyes may be older than Jones was on his upward trajectory to MMA stardom, but Reyes has constantly levelled up in competition for each fight he’s taken on and he has passed every test with flying colours.
Reyes had a perfect 5-0 record as an amateur and only had to win six straight as a professional to get signed up to the UFC’s roster of fighters.
The Californian demolished Danish veteran Joachim Christensen on his UFC debut, ending him in less than 30 seconds by TKO.
The 30-year-old then went on to submit Jeremy Kimball and knocked out Jared Cannonier – both in the first round – to move to 9-0 in his professional career. Only one of those nine wins went beyond the first round.
While impressive, there were inevitable questions about Reyes and his abilities, as well as his experience, to compete in a hard-fought three or five-round fight once the level of competition had increased.
Reyes put paid to that. His next to wins both went to the judges’ scorecards, defeating former UFC light heavyweight title challengers Ovince Saint Preux and Volkan Oezdemir by decision.
To earn a title shot, Reyes would have known that he had to put on a big performance against former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman. The Devastator did just that, living up to his moniker by crushing Weidman in less than two minutes with a knockout victory.
And here we are. It’s been some time since Jones has fought an unbeaten mixed martial artist who surged to prominence – the last being Daniel Cormier in their first bout back in January 2015.
Reyes poses plenty of problems for anyone in the light heavyweight division in the UFC and beyond. He’s tall, rangy and has knockout power; potent mix for anyone to come up against. He’s also shown proficiency in the grappling stakes with good takedown defence and the level of competency to avoid trouble on the ground against most 205-pounders.
Then there’s Jones. He’s skilled in all areas of a mixed martial arts but has consistently shown he has one of the most valuable, unteachable skills of all – adaptability. If he senses he’s in danger while fighting on the feet, Bones has the ability to take the fight to wherever he feels most comfortable, whether it’s in the clinch against the cage or down to the canvas where he can make us of his dominant top game.
As impressive as Reyes is, it’s hard to look beyond Jones’ rounded, top-level skillset across all areas being the decisive factor in this fight. Reyes has looked good against improved competition and it pains me to pick against him, but there’s no one else like Jones. The Jackson-Wink fighter is known as one of the greatest of all time for a reason.
Betting recommendation: Jon Jones to win inside the distance – 2 units at -114 with 5Dimes
UFC women’s strawweight championship fight: Valentina Shevchenko vs. Katlyn Chookagian
In a battle of two bantamweights-turned-flyweights, both UFC women’s flyweight champion Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko and challenger Katlyn “Blonde Fighter” Chookagian look right at home at 125 pounds.
Kyrgyzstan’s Shevchenko has been the UFC’s only women’s flyweight champion to defend her belt since the division was introduced in 2017, defeating Poland’s former UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the privilege.
The internationally-decorated kickboxer has looked near-unstoppable since kicking the doors open on the UFC roster back in 2015 with her 7-2 record with the promotion. Those two losses came from contested decisions – one unanimous, one split – when fighting up in weight against UFC women’s featherweight and bantamweight dual champion Amanda Nunes; one of the consensus best women to ever compete in MMA.
But since returning to the flyweight division, Shevchenko has been in imperious fighting form. She absolutely brutalised Priscila Cachoeira in her first fight back at 125 pounds, before comfortably defeating the aforementioned Jedrzejczyk to win the belt.
Shevchenko’s two title defences have so far seen her demolish Jessica Eye with a vicious head kick knockout and then avenging the only other loss on her MMA record against Liz Carmouche, easing to a unanimous decision back in August 2019.
Chookagian has similarly looked good since returning to the flyweight division in 2018; the first time she competed at that weight since 2014.
The Renzo Gracie product earned unanimous decision wins against Mara Romero Borella and Alexis Davis upon her decision to drop down from bantamweight. Chookagian hit a stumbling block her run up the UFC rankings with a disputed split decision loss against Eye, but rebounded with impressive wins over Scottish kickboxing talent Joanne Calderwood and Jennifer Maia to reach her long-awaited zenith which sees her earn a crack at UFC championship gold.
In terms of picks, this is a tricky one. From point-scoring kicks at distance to the stunning power shots which took Eye out, to a proficient jab and a piston-like left counter from her southpaw stance, Shevchenko is known for her vast arsenal of striking weapons. However, she is a mixed martial artist in the truest sense, boasting a black belt and Master of Sports in Judo along with similar rankings in striking disciplines.
This is overlooked, but Shevchenko actually has more wins by submission than she does knockout.
Chookagian, meanwhile, is also effective in multiple areas across the board. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt has shown she can hang with talented strikers like she did with Calderwood, but Shevchenko’s credentials suggest she is a step up in competition in that regard.
It’s worth noting that 12 of Chookagian’s 15 fights have went to a decision and she won 10 of them, suggesting the American knows how to get the job done inside the cage.
Shevchenko, like Jones as mentioned above, has plenty of tools to escape trouble against the tough and durable Chookagian, but the latter does have a penchant for finding a crafty way to a decision victory. Based on form from both fighters – it’s also worth noting Shevchenko has went to decision eight times from 21 fights also – and the odds, I feel one of the best bets for the fight is for it to go the distance.
Betting recommendation: Valentina Shevchenko and Katlyn Chookagian to go the distance – 2 units at -180 with 5Dimes
UFC 247: Jon Jones vs. Dominick Reyes full fight card
Light Heavyweight Championship: Jon Jones (c) vs. Dominick Reyes
Women’s Flyweight Championship: Valentina Shevchenko (c) vs. Katlyn Chookagian
Heavyweight: Juan Adams vs. Justin Tafa
Featherweight: Mirsad Bektić vs. Dan Ige
Heavyweight: Derrick Lewis vs. Ilir Latifi
Middleweight: Trevin Giles vs. Antonio Arroyo
Welterweight: Alex Morono vs. Kalinn Williams
Women’s Flyweight: Lauren Murphy vs. Andrea Lee
Bantamweight: Miles Johns vs. Mario Bautista
Bantamweight: Journey Newson vs. Domingo Pilarte
Bantamweight: Andre Ewell vs. Jonathan Martinez