Five Questions Ahead of UFC 247's Two Title Fights

Light heavyweight champ Jon Jones looks to cement his legacy against Dominick Reyes, while Valentina Shevchenko defends her title against Katlyn Chookagian.
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On Saturday at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, UFC 247 provides another opportunity for Jon Jones to enhance his mixed martial arts legacy.

Jones defends his light heavyweight title against the undefeated Dominick Reyes, who has plowed through twelve opponents without a blemish. But none of those fighters operate in the same realm as Jones.

The card also features a chance to watch flyweight champ Valentina Shevchenko continue her dominance in the cage, as she defends her title against Katlyn Chookagian. There will likely come a day when Shevchenko’s reign comes to a halt, but it will not happen this Saturday.

In his return, Jones looks to introduce Reyes to his first defeat in the Octagon. Reyes should present a serious challenge, even greater than the obstacles Jones faced against Thiago Santos this past July. Santos was injured in the opening round, yet still went a full five rounds in a fight Jones won by split decision.

Reyes has a similar body type and style to Jones, and he is exactly the opponent that Jones needs for an explosive fight.

Here is the main card for UFC 247:

• Light heavyweight champion Jon Jones vs. Dominick Reyes
• Women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko vs. Katlyn Chookagian
• Mirsad Bektic vs. Dan Ige
• Juan Adams vs. Justin Tafa
• Derrick Lewis vs. Ilir Latifi

Here are five pressing questions ahead of UFC 247 on Saturday, Feb. 8:

Will Dominick Reyes be the one to finally solve the Jon Jones puzzle?

Dominick Reyes is wildly talented. He is a big, lanky, athletic guy. His versatility and quickness are big parts of his success, and he has a lot of power in his hands. Straight-up boxing is one of Jones’ best skills and his hands are not his best attribute as a fighter, but he holds the advantage in Muay Thai and grappling. If Reyes can keep Jones on his feet and box, that is the key to winning the fight.

The knock on Jones since he returned is that he does not fight as aggressively and he has become more of a defensive fighter. He has even missed some openings in recent fights, which is atypical for Jones. His fight against Santos was incredibly close despite Santos suffering a first-round injury to his left knee. That fight still went a full five rounds.

But Jones remains the favorite for a reason. He is arguably the greatest ever to compete in mixed martial arts. Reyes has a legitimate shot to win, but this remains Jones’ fight.

There is going to be a finish in this fight. Reyes needs to come out with pressure on Jones, push him back against the cage, limit his mobility and work him through boxing. All that would allow for the possibility of a knockout. But we have still yet to see Jones lose, let alone be finished. The lone loss on his record was a disqualification from beating someone up too badly. He is likely to weather the storm here and artfully use Reyes’ size against him. If Jones gets this fight onto the ground, then his grappling should lead to a TKO by the third round.

Who does the fight community want to win this fight?

Anyone that wants to fight Jon Jones will be rooting for him in his fight against Dominick Reyes, so that he has a chance to be the one to finally defeat Jones.

As a fighter, Jones is one of the best ever. Right now, he is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, above Khabib Nurmagomedov, Tony Ferguson or anyone else. Jones is an amazingly skillful, unique fighter.

If you are potentially in line to fight him, then you want him to win on Saturday– and that goes for potential opponents in Stipe Miocic, Brock Lesnar, and, of course, Daniel Cormier.

Will Katlyn Chookagian dethrone Valentina Shevchenko of her flyweight championship?

With all due respect to Katlyn Chookagian, who is a talented fighter, I just do not see anyone knocking off Valentina Shevchenko.

Since Shevchenko moved down to her more natural weight in the flyweight division, she’s looked unbeatable. Shevchenko has successfully defended her Flyweight Championship twice, once this past August in a unanimous decision against Liz Carmouche and then a couple months prior when she decimated Jessica Eye under 30 seconds into round two of their fight in June. I envision this fight to be similar to the one-sided encounter against Eye.

This has all the makings of a round three or round four TKO. Shevchenko is the female Khabib Nurmagomedov, as she is such a dominant grappler and a vicious mauler who will climb atop you and beat you into submission. Chookagian will stay on her feet as much as she can in the early rounds, until Shevchenko gets her hands on her, and then it will be a trip to ground-and-pound city.

What else of significance is on the 247 card?

The featherweight fight pitting Mirsad Bektic against Dan Ige is another compelling bout. These are two prospects with loads of potential, though both have encountered a couple of stumbling blocks on the path to greatness. This should be a wild, fun fight, and the winner should use that momentum to climb up the featherweight rankings. My feel is that Bektic finally has his breakout moment and moves toward the upper echelon of the division.

The main card also features two heavyweight fights. Juan Adams against Justin Tafa is on the card to give the crowd a knockout. Adams has been a disappointment in the UFC, especially in his Greg Hardy fight, which had a big buildup to nothing, so Tafa is the safe bet here. These are two big heavyweights banging, which should liven up the crowd.

The fight featuring Derrick Lewis against Ilir Latifi is a contrast of styles. Latifi is super stocky but short for a heavyweight, yet he is a power wrestler, exactly the kind of opponent that will cause problems for Lewis. Lewis needs to come out swinging for the fences like he always does to land a finish. Lewis needs a first round finish, or else this is Latifi’s fight.

Overall, the prelims are light and there is not a lot at stake, with the exception of the Andrea Lee-Lauren Murphy flyweight fight. Lee is an outstanding kickboxer, and with a win, she should be positioned for a fight with Shevchenko. She is the one to watch on the undercard.

Where do we go from here?

If Jones defeats Reyes, then he will have again cleared out the light heavyweight division. If he stays in the division, then we will likely see a fight with Corey Anderson. But what else does Jones have to prove as a light heavyweight?

Jones has expressed no desire to change weight classes. Ultimately, though, in the UFC and throughout life, money talks.

Jones should be the top star in mixed martial arts, but his controversies outside the cage have prevented that from happening. If he defeats Reyes on Saturday, there are no relevant fights in the light heavyweight division to make people buy a pay per view. Jones could run it back with Santos, but what does he have to gain from that fight?

Jones needs to move to heavyweight. His best option is to challenge the winner of the eventual Stipe Miocic-Daniel Cormier rematch. If he faces Cormier, then it is a trilogy fight and possibly Cormier’s last fight ever. Miocic-Jones would be an incredible super fight. If Jones defeats Reyes, the timing will be right for a move to the heavyweight division.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.