This Saturday, the UFC returns to pay-per-view with UFC 247 from Houston, Texas with two championship fights on the bill.
In the main event, Jon Jones will look to set a record for most wins in a championship fight, surpassing Georges St-Pierre. Standing across from Jones and the record is undefeated challenger Dominick Reyes, who earned the title fight after stopping Chris Weidman last October. Plus, Valentina Shevchenko will look for her latest flyweight title defense against Katlyn Chookagain in the co-feature.
We will discuss the UFC 247 card with our own Phil Chertok, plus the inevitable question that will follow Jon Jones if he is successful on Saturday – what are his plans regarding a move to heavyweight?
And, we look at the championship picture at welterweight with the UFC aiming to book a title fight between Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal for the summer and where that leaves Conor McGregor if Masvidal is removed from the list of options.
What are your takeaways from Jon Jones’ recent fights with Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos and does it open your outlook for Dominick Reyes’ chances this Saturday at UFC 247?
What some might call lackluster performances by the long time champion Jones, I don’t see that way. ‘Bones’ has often fought at the level of competition he’s competing against whether it’s a future Hall of Farmer like Daniel Cormier or a mid-tier fighter like Ovince Saint Preux. It’s up to his opponent to really push him to fight at his best. Also, people seem to forget that Jones was well on his way to finishing Anthony Smith before a point was deducted and chose to play it safe for the remainder. People also like to point to the Thiago Santos fight as a demonstration that Jones can be beaten but at no point in that fight was the champion hurt or in any serious danger despite the challenger’s valiant effort. Sometimes when people are so great their minor flaws get amplified, that’s how I feel about most fans’ critiques of Jones’ in-cage actions.
How would you assess the main card of UFC 247 as a whole and what has your interest?
The main card is fairly good from the standpoint that we get to see two dominant champions on the same night, unfortunately, their matchups don’t appear all too competitive. Anyone who’s familiar with this article and our reviews will know about my unabashed admiration for women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko. She might be the most technical and disciplined fighter in any division. Even though her opponent Katlyn Chookagian looks to be horribly outmatched, it will still be nice to see ‘Bullet’ open fire and showcase her deadly arsenal. The main card also includes a fun fight with the return of crowd favorite Derrick Lewis taking on Ilir Latifi who will be making his heavyweight debut. It’s the type of contest where we know each fighter’s game plan ahead of time but will still be on pins and needles as the ‘Black Beast’ can end it at any second.
Earlier this week, Jones spoke openly about moving up to heavyweight believing he can beat Stipe Miocic. Would that be the fight to make for Jones in his heavyweight debut or would you introduce him to the division with a lower risk opponent?
In terms of maximizing the return on what could be a risky move, Miocic would be the fight to do as he’s by far the biggest heavyweight name that Jones could face other than Daniel Cormier. I do like the idea of having him take a heavyweight fight against a lower-ranked opponent though, it would be a fun spectacle that could give the UFC a PPV main event without risking a title belt. Then there’s also the possibility of skipping Miocic, ignoring a low-risk opponent’s and just going after ferocious striker Francis Ngannou. Come to think of it, that fight might be a bigger event than a Miocic title fight just because of Ngannou’s terrifying reputation and his comic-book physique. From a pure fan-friendly standpoint, the Ngannou match is the most fun.
Dana White has outlined the promotion’s plan to book Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal for International Fight Week, however, it doesn’t appear the fight is finalized. Is this the fight to make next for Masvidal?
It does seem that way if the Conor McGregor fight won’t materialize. Masvidal has run through the big names in the division and putting him against heated rival Colby Convington doesn’t make much sense after Chaos’ recent loss. Masvidal is a legit #1 contender after his unprecedented 2019 campaign through the welterweight division. It also makes the most sense for Usman, who despite being an absolute beast and dominant champion, lacks the name value and popularity of some of his lower-ranked contemporaries. Putting him up against MMA’s newest superstar would be the perfect tool to expose him to a broader audience.
If Usman and Masvidal do fight next, is it a lock that Conor McGregor will fight the winner of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson or do you see a viable option outside of those two?
I don’t think it’s a lock at all. McGregor seemed to indicate after his quick win over ‘Cowboy’ last month that he wanted to return frequently and was open to several opponents, not just those two top lightweights. Also because of the UFC schedule and Khabib’s typical yearly sabbatical for Ramadan, the idea that McGregor’s next opponent is one of those two seems unlikely. In the meantime, there appear to be three strong contenders for a ‘red panty night’. In no particular order, they are Nate Diaz, Justin Gaethje and Dustin Poirier. Diaz makes sense because it would be a huge fight and the two have a built-in rivalry, it’s the fight I like the least though because it does nothing to elevate McGregor in either the welterweight or lightweight divisions and it’s a fight that’s available at any time without losing much luster. That leaves Gaethje and Poirier as potential dance partners. Gaethje is number one in line for a crack at the belt after Ferguson, and Poirier was the last one to fight Khabib, so beating either would establish a legitimate case for McGregor to get another crack at the belt. Of the two, I’d prefer to see the Gaethje match. Although a fight with Poirier has a lot of intrigue because the two squared off before, it’s precisely why I would rather see the Gaethje fight instead, it’s just a fresh matchup which is more appealing considering how little we’ve seen of McGregor in the last few years.
Phil Chertok will join John Pollock this Saturday night for our UFC 247 POST Show on the site.