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Where: Toyota Center – Houston, TX.
When: Saturday, February 8, 10 PM EST
How: Watch on ESPN+ here!
Height: 6 ft. 4 in.
Reach: 84.5 in.
Although some believe that the light heavyweight has stagnated over the years, there never seems to be a shortage of challengers for the long-reigning champion Jon Jones.
The days of Mauricio Rua, Lyoto Machida, and Daniel Cormier may be over but new and hungry opponents keep knocking on Jones’ door. Dominick Reyes being the most recent.
Since his second fight with Daniel Cormier (in which his victory was overturned to a no-contest), Jones has won three fights in a row. He won his rematch against Alexander Gustafsson in a dominant performance, winning by TKO.
He then faced rising contender Anthony Smith, who he beat via unanimous decision despite being deducted two points.
In his most recent effort, Jones looked uncharacteristically human as he took on Thiago Santos. Jones won via split-decision in a fight that saw Santos seriously injure both of his knees.
Jones’ only loss in his mixed martial arts career came during a bout against Matt Hamill in which Jones was disqualified for using illegal elbows. He has not lost a fight since that 2009 contest.
Fighting out of New Mexico with the infamous Jackson-Wink MMA Academy, Jones has a black belt in gaidojutsu under Greg Jackson and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Roberto Alencar.
The American-born fighter has been active in mixed martial arts since 2008 and has spent most of the last ten years of his career ranked within the top pound-for-pound rankings where he currently sits at number one. He also possesses the longest reach of any UFC fighter in any division.
Jon Jones vs Dominick Reyes Face To Face pic.twitter.com/nqjWKTXadj
— Oguz Murat Guzel (@OguzMuratGuzel1) January 31, 2020
Height: 6 ft. 4 in.
Reach: 77 in.
Dominick Reyes’ climb to the top of the light heavyweight division was not without its controversies.
The undefeated fighter was flying through the division, defeating the likes of Jared Cannonier and Ovince St. Preux.
But his fight with former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir that took place in March 2019 was a tricky one. Reyes won the fight via split-decision – a fight that many believed Oezdemir won.
In his most recent fight, Reyes went on to take on former middleweight champion Chris Weidman in what was Weidman’s light heavyweight debut.
Reyes knocked out Weidman in the first round and immediately called out for Jones, insisting he be next in line for a title shot. It worked.
Reyes, a California native, and college football star began his MMA journey in 2014. Training at the Cage Combat Academy with coach and brother Alex Reyes, Dominick has a blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Although Reyes is the same height as Jon Jones, he will, unfortunately, suffer from a 7.5-inch reach disadvantage in the fight.
Height: 5 ft. 5 in.
Reach: 66.5 in.
There is no doubt about it: Valentina Shevchenko is one of the most polarizing figures in MMA today and is set to be the biggest odds-on favorite of this entire card (yes, more favored than Jon Jones).
Shevchenko’s only losses in the UFC are to dual-champion Amanda Nunes – neither fight taking place at Shevchenko’s proper weight class.
Since her second loss to Nunes, “Bullet” has gone on to win four fights in a row that include beating former strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the vacant flyweight title, avenging her lone loss outside of the UFC to Liz Carmouche, and devastatingly knocking out Jessica Eye with a head kick.
Her most recent win (against Carmouche) took place last summer and Shevchenko won via a very decisive unanimous decision. Carmouche has since left the UFC.
Fighting out of her home country of Kyrgyzstan, Shevchenko trains at Tiger Muay Thai with coach Pavel Fedotov. A southpaw fighter known for her impressive striking techniques, Shevchenko also boasts a professional kickboxing record of 56-3. She has a master of sport in muay thai, boxing, and kickboxing as well as master of sport AND black belts in judo in taekwondo (the latter of which is a second dan rank).
She has been fighting professionally since 2000 and is ranked as the second-best pound-for-pound women’s fighter behind just Amanda Nunes.
Height: 5 ft. 9 in.
Reach: 68 in.
The year of 2018 started strong for Katlyn Chookagian as she won two fights in a row.
But she would then come head-to-head with former title challenger Jessica Eye at the end of the year.
She lost the fight against Eye via unanimous decision.
She bounced back, however, and 2019 also saw Chookagian put together back-to-back wins against Joanne Calderwood and Jennifer Maia – both by unanimous decision.
The latter of those two fights took place at UFC 244 last November and is the victory that earned Chookagian the next title shot against Shevchenko.
From a physical standpoint, Chookagian enters this fight with some advantages, namely her four-inch height advantage and 1.5-inch reach advantage.
Active in MMA since 2012, the American-born fighter trains at the Renzo Gracie Combat Team gym and has a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Renzo Gracie himself.
At the time of writing, Chookagian is ranked as the number-one contender in the flyweight division and the tenth-best pound-for-pound women’s fighter in the world.
Height: 6 ft. 5 in.
Reach: 81 in.
Juan Adams started his career undefeated and was discovered via the Dana White Contender series where he fought Shawn Teed in the summer of 2018. Adams would TKO Teed in the first round and go on to win his UFC debut, also by TKO, over Chris de la Rocha.
However, Adams would go on to lose his next two fights in a row.
One to Arjan Bhullar via unanimous decision and, more recently, one to former NFL star Greg Hardy.
Adams took on Hardy in July 2019 after a heated build-up. Hardy won the fight via TKO just 45 seconds into the fight.
The Texan-born fighter is a former NCAA Division I wrestler.
He has only been competing in MMA since 2017. The tallest fighter on the UFC 247 card, Adams trains with Paradigm Training out of Houston, Texas. He is currently unranked by the UFC.
Height: 6 ft.
Reach: 74 in.
Justin Tafa went 3-0 in the XFC promotion before making his UFC debut on October 5, 2019 on the UFC 243 card. He fought Yorgan de Castro and ended up losing his debut via first-round knockout due to a vicious counter-right hand.
The Australian-born fighter looks to gain his first UFC win against Juan Adams but it won’t be easy. Tafa, although two years younger, will be five inches shorter and have a whopping seven-inch reach disadvantage. Like Adams, Tafa is also unranked by the UFC.
Height: 5 ft. 8 in.
Reach: 70 in.
Mirsad Bektic started his UFC run with a four-fight winning streak before his first loss in 2017 which is remembered for the amazing comeback performance by Darren Elkins after being dominated for most of the fight by Bektic.
He bounced back with two wins in a row throughout 2018. In his last performance during the summer of last year, Bektic took on rising contender Josh Emmett. He would suffer a first-round TKO loss at the hands of Emmett.
This will be his first fight since July 2019.
The Yugoslavian fighter now lives in the USA but trains out of Montreal, Quebec at the gym famous for producing welterweight great Georges St. Pierre; Tristar Gym. Bektic has been active in MMA since 2011 and is known for both his wrestling and karate style. He is currently unranked in the UFC featherweight division.
Height: 5 ft. 7 in.
Reach: 71 in.
After losing his UFC debut at the start of 2018, Dan Ige has gone on to secure four wins in a row. In March of 2019, Ige defeated Danny Nery via first-round submission and his victory was awarded performance of the night bonus.
His most recent fight then came, in which he fought, and defeated, Kevin Aguilar via unanimous decision in the summer of 2019.
The Hawaiian fighter has trained with both the American Kickboxing Academy and Xtreme couture MMA over the course of his six-year MMA career.
Fighting out of Las Vegas, Ige has a brown belt in judo and a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He is also currently unranked in the featherweight division at the time of writing.
Height: 6 ft. 3 in.
Reach: 79 in.
One of the UFC’s most entertaining fighters both in and out of the cage, Derrick Lewis returns to the octagon for the first time since November 2019.
After amassing a three-fight winning streak, Lewis was given a shot at then-heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier but was submitted in the second round.
He then lost his second fight in a row, suffering a TKO loss to Junior dos Santos. In his last fight, Lewis bounced back, winning a split-decision over Blagoy Ivanov at UFC 244.
The imposing New Orleans native is known for his boxing techniques and knockout power. Active in mixed martial arts since 2010, Lewis trains out of Texas with the 4oz Fight Club team with trainer Bob Perez.
At the time of writing, Lewis is ranked as the sixth-best heavyweight in the UFC.
Height: 5 ft. 10 in.
Reach: 73 in.
After suffering back-to-back losses in the UFC light heavyweight division, Ilir Latifi will be making his heavyweight debut.
Ilir Latifi fought top-contender Corey Anderson in late 2018 and he went on the lose that fight via unanimous decision.
He followed that performance by taking on former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir last summer. Latifi was knocked out in the second round.
Some questioned Latifi’s methods when he decided to not only make the move to heavyweight but to challenge Derrick Lewis in his debut. The Swedish-born fighter will stand four inches shorter than Lewis and will have a six-inch reach disadvantage. He is also two years older than Lewis.
Latifi trains out of Sweden at the Allstars Training Center and works with American Top Team when in the USA. He has wrestled at the Swedish national level and is currently ranked at number-12 in the UFC light heavyweight division.
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Ryan Bristlon is a Canadian writer currently residing in Hamilton, Ontario. He studied print and broadcast journalism at Humber College and has been a lifelong fan of the sport of hockey and the NHL.
Email: [email protected]More info on Ryan Bristlon
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