After three years away from the Octagon, Jon Jones is back, and he made it all look very, very easy as he captured the undisputed heavyweight title at UFC 285 in Las Vegas.
The former UFC light heavyweight champion made his heavyweight debut and submitted No. 1-ranked contender Ciryl Gane in short order in the first round in the main event to become a two-division UFC champion and return to the top of the sport in emphatic fashion.
After a short spell with the pair sizing each other up from distance, Jones stepped in and dragged Gane to the mat with ease, then immediately set to work as he looked to set up a swift submission finish. He took Gane’s back and attempted to move into position for a rear-naked choke, but Gane managed to turn out of the position. But Jones kept the pressure on and grabbed a guillotine choke to force the tap after just two minutes, four seconds.
It was as dominant a return as anyone could have envisioned, as Jones looked outstanding to finish Gane without taking any damage.
It means one of the sport’s biggest stars is back on top, and a summer clash with former heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic may well be next, with talks already underway to book the pair in a blockbuster main event at UFC 290 on July 8 during UFC International Fight Week.
Grasso stuns Shevchenko for women’s flyweight crown
Jones’ title win followed a title-winning submission finish of another kind, as Alexa Grasso stunned Valentina Shevchenko to capture the women’s flyweight title.
After three highly competitive rounds that saw the bout’s momentum swing firstly toward Grasso after a strong opening stanza, then back to Shevchenko as the champion established her takedowns and ground game, the bout went into the championship rounds with both fighters eyeing victory.
Then, in the fourth round, Grasso produced the moment that earned her champion status. Shevchenko threw a spinning back kick, which Grasso evaded, before the challenger immediately jumped on the champion’s back and instantly locked up a rear-naked choke. The pair then fell to the mat, where Grasso adjusted her grip and applied the squeeze to force the champion to tap with 26 seconds left in the round.
Rakhmonov proves he’s the real deal at 170
Kazakhstan contender Shavkat Rakhmonov wanted to deliver a statement in his bout with Geoff Neal and, after a hard-fought battle, he did just that with a third-round submission finish to extend his perfect professional record and continue his incredible 100 percent finish rate.
Rakhmonov looked sharp on the feet and was relentless in the wrestling exchanges, though Neal’s outstanding takedown defense ensured the action stayed standing during the matchup.
But, with the fight on the feet, Rakhmonov’s sharp boxing from range, and crushing body work in the clinch, started to drain the gas tank of Neal, who missed weight by four pounds at Friday’s official weigh-ins.
It looked like Neal’s sheer toughness would carry him to the final horn, but Rakhmonov continued to pursue the finish, and eventually got it with a standing rear-naked choke as he locked up his ninth career submission with just 43 seconds left in the bout.
After the fight, Rakhmonov stated that he was ready for a shot at the UFC welterweight title, then called for a bout against former interim champion Colby Covington, or a title shot, for his next fight.
Short-notice Gamrot halts Turner’s rise
Polish lightweight contender Mateusz Gamrot may have been ranked above rising prospect Jalin Turner, but “Gamer” played the role of spoiler as he halted “The Tarantula’s” momentum in their lightweight matchup.
Gamrot stepped on 10 days’ notice to replace Dan Hooker against Turner, whose height and reach make him a dangerous proposition for anyone at 155 pounds. But, despite conceding both stats to Turner, and despite his short-notice prep for the matchup, Gamrot claimed the decision victory after a performance full of grit and determination.
While Turner looked to strike from distance and sting Gamrot with long, crisp strikes, Gamrot bulldozed his way into takedown range and dragged his opponent to the mat. With the bout on the mat, the Pole connected with strikes and controlled the action on the ground. But when the fight was on the feet, he had to run the gauntlet of Turner’s striking in order to keep the momentum on his side.
After a tight contest, the judges were split on the verdict, with the split decision going Gamrot’s way with scores of 29-28, 28-29, 30-27 to add another impressive win to the former two-division KSW champion’s growing UFC resume.
Nickal dominates on debut
The opening main card bout saw the eagerly-anticipated UFC debut of three-time NCAA Division I national wrestling champion Bo Nickal, who submitted Jamie Pickett in less than three minutes to kick off his UFC career in style.
Nickal quickly shot for a takedown and, after some initial resistance from Pickett, took his man to the mat. Once there, the former Penn State standout quickly snatched Pickett’s neck and set about the task of finishing him with an arm-triangle choke.
It took a number of readjustments before Nickal had the optimum position to force the tap, but the debutant never let up his pressure and stayed patient as he calmly adjusted his grip and positioning before eventually forcing Pickett to tap at the 2:54 mark.
Preliminary card roundup
On the preliminary card, South African middleweight contender Dricus du Plessis claimed his biggest win in the UFC Octagon with a second-round TKO finish of No. 5 middleweight contender Derek Brunson.
In a wild scrap, both du Plessis and Brunson enjoyed their successes as big shots were traded, but it was “Stillknocks’” punch power that eventually made the difference as he broke down Brunson with heavy shots, before taking him down and bludgeoned him with heavy ground strikes to force Brunson’s corner to throw in the towel just before the horn sounded to end the second round.
The prelims also saw an impressive TKO victory for Canadian middleweight Marc-Andre Barriault, who defeated Julian Marquez via second-round TKO.
Marquez started the faster of the pair, but after initial strong spell from “The Cuban Missile Crisis,” Barriault took control, with his vaunted conditioning helping him take over and eventually finish Marquez with a non-stop barrage of strikes against the fence.
Also on the prelims, there were key decision victories for former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt, who outpointed Trevin Jones, and for women’s flyweight Amanda Ribas, who defeated Viviane Araujo.
Early prelims recap
Earlier in the night, there were impressive stoppage victories for Ian Garry and Tabatha Ricci on the early preliminary card.
Ricci armbarred former strawweight title challenger Jessica Penne in the second round of their 115-pound matchup, while Garry recovered from a tough opening round to claim a third-round TKO finish of Song Kenan in their welterweight bout.
UFC 285: Official results
- Jon Jones def. Ciryl Gane via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 1, 2:04 – for heavyweight title
- Alexa Grasso def. Valentina Shevchenko via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 4, 4:34 – for women’s flyweight title
- Shavkat Rakhmonov def. Geoff Neal via submission (standing rear-naked choke) – Round 3, 4:17
- Mateusz Gamrot def. Jalin Turner via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27)
- Bo Nickal def. Jamie Pickett via submission (arm-triangle choke) – Round 1, 2:54
- Cody Garbrandt def. Trevin Jones via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Dricus du Plessis def. Derek Brunson via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 4:59
- Amanda Ribas def. Viviane Araujo via unanimous decision (29-27, 30-26, 30-27)
- Marc-Andre Barriault def. Julian Marquez via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 4:12
- Ian Garry def. Song Kenan via TKO (punches) – Round 3, 4:22
- Cameron Saaiman def. Leomana Martinez via majority decision (29-26, 28-27, 28-28)
- Tabatha Ricci def. Jessica Penne via submission (armbar) – Round 2, 2:14
- Farid Basharat def. Da’Mon Blackshear via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Loik Radzhabov def. Esteban Ribovics via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)