HOUSTON – Jon Jones faced his toughest challenge in years, holding Dominick Reyes at UFC 247 on Saturday night. After a surprisingly strong Reyes opening, he retained his lightweight UFC heavyweight belt.
The unanimous decision of 48:47, 48:47, 49:46 was made with occasional applause and loud voices from the audience, as many believed that the challenger had proven enough to win the title.
Jones (26-1-1) gave fourth placed Reyes (12-1) their first loss and improved to 15-0 in title fights. He became the leader in UFC title defense.
Jones fought for the first time since defeating Thiago Santos last July at UFC 239, his longest time between fights in over five years.
Reyes came out on the attack in the first round and threw Jones shortly two minutes after the start of the fight. Jones rebounded on lap two and landed several strong hooks on Reyes' head.
The lively crowd rocked back and forth to support one of the two fighters and sang both names in different places.
In the third round, Reye's blows landed on Jones' head and he drew blood at the start of the fourth round. Jones ended this round strong and the once lively audience became calm and tense in anticipation of the last round.
Jones stepped up his attack on the final lap, but Reyes seemed to have enough distance from the champion to hand him over to the judges.
In the UFC 247 co-main event, flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko defended her title against Katlyn Chookagian and stopped the challenger in the third round.
Kyrgyzstan-born Shevchenko (19: 3) won her fifth fight in a row and fought against the Pennsylvania-born Chookagian (13: 3), who was the best contender on the belt. After the fight, Shevchenko made her trademark cartwheels and danced in the ring.
Houston-based heavyweight Derrick Lewis (23-7) unanimously beat Ilir Latifi (15-8) in the pay-per-view part of the 12-fight race at the Toyota Center and was late in a rally rally. Lewis, the No. 6 heavyweight who rescued the flood victims at Hurricane Harvey in Houston in 2017, played Houston hip-hop music that entered and left the ring, and was roused by the crowd.
Another Houston heavyweight, Juan Adams, had a much more bitter return than New Zealand-born Australian Justin Tafa scored his first UFC victory in less than two minutes.
Featherweight Dan Ige (13-2) won his fifth fight in a row and made a decision over Mirsad Bektic (13-3).
Before the pay-per-view portion of the event, UFC honored Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and the other seven victims of the January 26 helicopter crash with a video homage and a nine-minute silence. Bryant was a partner of UFC sponsor Body Armor and an investor in the UFC, said President Dana White.
Sports stars present in Houston included J.J. Watt, Deshaun Watson, Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon, Carlos Correa and others. Missile owner Tilman Fertitta sat near the UFC fan and actress Halle Berry.