An inside look at UFC 247

Feb 8, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Jon Jones (red gloves) fights Dominick Reyes (blue gloves) during UFC 247 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Toyota Center in downtown Houston, Texas, played host to the record-setting UFC 247 event Saturday night. The Jones vs Reyes billed card had 17,401 in attendance and did a $3.5 million gate — both new venue records for the UFC. 

Let’s take a look at what went down last weekend.

Performance Bonuses:

  • Fight of the Night: Trevin Giles vs James Krause
  • Performances of the Night: Mario Bautista and Khaos Williams

Early Prelims

Youssef “The Moroccan Devil” Zalal vs Austin “Lights Out” Lingo (Featherweight)

Zalal of Factory X in Englewood, Colo., made the walk to Drake “Up All Night” and got a massive pop from the crowd right away, especially considering he was fighting against a Texas guy in a still-filling arena. Zalal came out sporting Morocco’s red and green colors for his Reebok Fight Kit. 

Lingo made the walk fighting out of the surging Fortis MMA in Dallas, Texas, to a bass-heavy song that was a strong reflection of the hip-hop culture in Texas. 

The fight started with a flurried exchange of punches and kicks from both fighters, where they both circled the cage until Lingo was able to clinch Zalal momentarily. Zalal used his elusive movement to take back the center of the octagon before attempting a single leg takedown that Lingo stuffed.

Zalal’s jab was crisp and landed at-will, which he made sure “Lights Out” felt upon each of his offensive entries.

Lingo threw every shot with bad intentions, but Zalal drew first blood on with a left hook while circling the fence. Zalal went for another takedown that turned into a front headlock, in which he did damage with knees to the head of Lingo. Zalal then secured a takedown at about the one-minute mark, but Lingo was able to get back to his feet. Lingo returned the takedown offer in short-time, but Zalal Kimura trapped him on the way down to close the first round.

Zalal took Lingo down right away in the second, using a chain of single and double leg attacks. Zalal’s coach, Marc Montoya, was strong with the positional instructions by asking for posture and position before submission. Zalal went for a d’arce choke that Lingo scrambled his way out of, only to be taken down again. “The Moroccan Devil” scored damage points from the top position before Lingo got to his feet to end the round in a neutral position. 

Coming off of the stool for the third round, Lingo took a deep breath. For the first 90 seconds of the round, the fighters exchanged strikes on the feet before locked up yet another takedown. Zalal threw a series of punches and strikes from Lingo’s guard until he attacked the neck for another d’arce attempt. Although the choke didn’t come, Zalal used the opportunity to knee Lingo’s head. 

The third round concluded with Zalal attempting to “find a finish” as per Coach Montoya’s instructions. 

The 23-year-old Moroccan native fighting out of Factory X looked impressive in his UFC debut. Zalal is currently the eighth youngest fighter on the UFC roster.

“It felt amazing to make my UFC debut here in Houston, opening up a pay per view event. I know I belong there. I know my manager, my coaches, everybody was waiting for me to get my shot, and it finally came. Doing my walk to the octagon for the first time, seeing what it feels like… Obviously, I didn’t feel like myself, but it was amazing, I was super ready. I just feel grateful and blessed to have this opportunity,” Zalal said.

Andre “Daii” Ewell vs Jonathan “Dragon” Martinez (Bantamweight)

Ewell came out swinging heat to start the fight. The longer limbed Ewell tried to use his jabs and kicking game to maintain his distance from Martinez.

Martinez kept his composure and returned fire, finding success before Ewell landed a shot that stumbled Martinez, but Martinez recovered and got to his feet right away. The two fighters threw a high volume of an impressive variety of strikes, using all eight limbs. 

The end of the first round was reminiscent of Holloway vs Lamas where they both just bit down on the mouthpiece and threw heat. 

Ewell started the second round strong before Martinez began to unleash the “Dragon.” Martinez hit Ewell with a front kick to the solar plexus that appeared to hurt Ewell, before he followed up a crisp straight punch that landed flush to Ewell’s face. Although “Daii” was hurt and endured a lot of punishment, he was able to survive the round.

Ewell continued to use his movement whenever he found himself in trouble. Ewell’s legs were a point of emphasis in Martinez’s attack. Martinez floored Ewell with leg kicks throughout the contest. There were a couple of noteworthy observations from this matchup, Martinez certainly had the power advantage while Ewell was faster and had a higher striking volume, Martinez’s defense and ability to catch and counter was impressive.

In a very controversial split decision, where Judge Joe Solis scored the fight 30-27, Ewell got the decision. Unfortunately for Ewell, his victory announcement was met by an arena of booing fans that disagreed with the judging. This was the first of many decisions on the night have many calling for reform to the judging process.

Journey Newson vs Domingo Pilarte (Bantamweight)

This fight was fast and furious, resulting in Newson claiming the first finish of the night at just 0:38 into the first round. Pilarte hurt Newson right away with a high kick; however, Newson recovered and used a booming right hand off of the step-back jab to drop Pilarte where minimal ground and pound was needed before the contest was stopped. 

“This was unreal. Period. Unreal. It was the game plan all along. I have a devastating right hand, and when he clipped me with that head kick, my basic instinct was just to go to that right hand and it worked,” Newson said.

Mario Bautista vs Miles “Chapo” Johns (Bantamweight)

The first three and a half minutes of the fight served as a feeling-out period in which missed on home run swings. Johns, who used a high guard up to that point, landed the first solid punch of the fight. Bautista threatened Johns until the end of the round with a blend of strikes at the command of his corner, former UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson. 

Bautista was the aggressor against Johns, who appeared to be playing the counter game. However, he left his guard open just enough for Bautista to slip a flying knee through that ultimately led to the TKO finish over the formerly 10-0 Johns.

“We watched his past fights. He is a lot shorter than me, kind of hangs his head in the center, doesn’t really move offline. Working with my striking coach back at home, we do that flying knee all the time, so it was something that we had seen, and it worked,” Bautista said.

Bautista earned a $50,000 performance bonus.

Khaos Williams vs Alex Morono (Welterweight)

Khaos Williams lived up to his name as he brought chaos to the octagon while scoring a TKO at just 0:27 in the first round. 

A left hook from Williams sent Morono flying back to the fence before he was able to follow up with a series of power punches that ultimately drew the stoppage. The hyped-up Williams celebrated by doing a backflip in the center of the octagon. 

“It felt great walking down to the octagon for the first time. I never fold under pressure, I always perform better under pressure,” He said of making his UFC debut. “Pressure busts pipes, but it also makes diamonds. I’m just blessed to be a diamond. The fans can expect me to keep getting better, keep dropping bodies, and stay hungry.”

Williams earned a $50,000 performance bonus is his UFC debut.

Andrea “KGB” Williams vs Lauren “Lucky” Murphy (Women’s Flyweight)

In the first of two women’s flyweight matchups, these two ladies set the tone for the crowd by coming out to rock ‘n’ roll music with the type of guitar riffs that made one want to go full Paul Rudd and “slap the bass.”

Murphy came out to “Bad to the Bone” and she looked ripped to the bone with her muscular physique. The Texan was the crowd favorite to start; however Lee bloodied her face with a strike from one of her early combinations. 

Both fighters lost their mouthpiece in the middle of the round, which required two momentary stoppages from the referee. Lee did take some damage from Murphy, but dealt a lot more and also took Murphy down with a trip from the clinch at the end of the first round.

Lee, a Louisiana native, continued a strong showing of Muay Thai in the second by mixing in an effective variation of punches, elbows, kicks, and knees. Lee also had the striking advantage while in the clinch.

Murphy continued to press forward and pepper Lee, despite the adversity Lee put her through. Murphy had her most substantial showing of offense with ten seconds left in the round where she took Lee down.

Murphy rallied in the third to make it interesting. There’s no questioning the heart of Murphy. She survived a d’arce attempt from Lee and managed to do enough to snatch a victory on the scorecards. In the split decision breakdown, one judge had a 30-27 scorecard. A score that was a tough pill to swallow for many based off Lee’s strong first-round performance. For the record, the other two judges had the Lee winning the first.

“The” James Krause vs Trevin “The Problem” Giles (Middleweight)

On 24 hours notice, Krause stepped in and stepped up in weight class to middleweight to fight Trevin Giles after he was left without a dance partner when his original opponent was deemed medically unfit to compete after making weight.

The savvy vet stayed slippery to start the fight against the young Texan and managed to take the back early. Krause used a body triangle to secure the position while attempting a series of rear-naked chokes. For the majority of the round. Giles was able to reverse the position with less than a minute left but didn’t leave enough time on the clock to do severe damage. 

Giles threw hard and often in the second round, where he found his mark multiple times. Krause avoided a lot of damage with his head movement and grappling. While Krause certainly was the recipient of many strikes, he also slipped a lot of them. Krause also ran into the storm by attempting an armband amidst a flurry of Giles ground and pound. 

In the third round of an even fight, both fighters went for broke and emptied the cup all the way to the beginning. In a razor-thin contest, on a night filled with controversial decisions, the hometown kid was awarded the split decision. Hats off to James Krause for battling like a gladiator until the final bell with unprecedented performance.

 

These two earned the $50k Fight Of The Night bonus in a well-deserved effort. Giles took home the split decision, but once again there was controversy, Judge Joe Solis’ scorecard was the culprit — again. In an unexplainable fashion, he gave Giles the first round, a round in which the young Houston cop spent the majority of fighting off rear-naked choke attempts from Krause.

 

 “I love Houston,” Giles said. “This is my true home here. I love to be able to get a win for the crowd. It was important for me. This was my dream to be able to come here in the UFC and fight in Houston, Texas.”

Main Card

Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis vs Ilir “Sledgehammer” Latifi (Heavyweight)

Latifi came out to the original “Rocky” theme song, acknowledging his underdog status in the matchup. To no surprise, Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis walked out of the tunnel to a roaring crowd in his hometown. 

Latifi made a move up from light heavyweight against the grain as many experts thought he would be better suited dropping to middleweight. “The Sledgehammer” weighed in at around 246.5.

 

Lewis was explosive with his striking, mixing in high kicks and knees with his punches until Latifi secured a bodylock against the fence. Referee Dan Miragliotta separated the two for stalling.

Not much changed in the second round. Lewis showed flashes with his striking, but Latifi used his grappling to neutralize “The Black Beast”. Latifi got a takedown, but did zero damage with it and laid on top of Lewis until they were broken for stalling again. 

While it is worth offering that Latifi was in a better position throughout the fight and secured a couple of takedowns, he did nothing with it. He laid and prayed for three rounds without doing damage, advancing positions, or attempting submissions. Lewis struck at higher efficiency and did damage with every opening he had. Fans were even treated to seeing a flying knee from Lewis.

Another fight that went to the cards, another controversial decision. Lewis won by unanimous decision, which drew a visible reaction from Latifi and his corner. The offense that Lewis managed to employ stole the victory. 

“Fighting in Houston was almost nerve-racking, all the adrenaline… The crowd helped me push at the end, that was a good job from them; it really helped me out.”

Dan “50k” Ige vs Mirsad Bectic (Featherweight)

With the lack of action in the PPV opener, Ige and Bectic came out of the chutes with a pace that made you keep your eyes open so that you didn’t miss a second. In this high-octane featherweight bout, Ige looked to get the best of Bectic. To give credit where credit is due, Bectic stayed in the pocket and traded with Ige, managing to land two notable counter-hooks.

Ige and Bectic met in the middle to commence the second-round before a grappling scramble ensued where Bectic ended up on top and found the opening for an arm triangle attempt. Yes, his upper body position was right by getting his right ear to Ige’s right ear, but he was backwards with his lower body. With Ige on bottom and in half-guard, he neutralized the sub attempt by securing the lockdown on Bectic’s left leg. Technically speaking, Bectic needed to also get his right hip over Ige’s and slow squeeze with the arms while sinking his hips towards the mat. 

While Bectic was attempting the submission, it appeared that Ige was letting Bectic squeeze himself out before working for the escape or reversal. This was confirmed in speaking with Ige at the airport on Sunday morning, by saying he felt the pressure from Bectic was going to fatigue his arms and that based on the body positioning, he was looking for an arm triangle of his own.

Ige and Bectic both dug deep in the third round. The third round was a “who wants it more” type of effort between the featherweights and Ige was able to push the performance and score enough to get the decision in a gritty performance in which he was able to overcome adversity in the second round.

Justin “Bad Man” Tafa vs Juan “The Kraken” Adams (Heavyweight)

In this heavyweight bout, both fighters were coming off of losses, so the good news is, someone was going to end their losing streak.

Justin Tafa was explosive early and the seemingly ultra-athletic Adams never really got going. Adams is a wrestler that tried to stand with a power puncher and quickly found out that that was a bad idea. Tafa used a lead right hook that setup a right uppercut that sent Adams to the canvas. Tafa nearly walked off in Mark Hunt, a mentor of his, fashion before securing the finish with ground and pound. 

That is now three losses in a row for Adams. The once-promising prospect who busted the entrance doors on his walk to the octagon on Dana White’s Contender Series is potentially on the chopping block.

With the first-round finish, Tafa earned his first UFC victory.

(C) Valentina “Bullet” Schevchecko vs Katlyn “Blonde Fighter” Chookagian (Women’s Flyweight Championship)

Chookagian patiently waited her time to get the opportunity to fight for UFC gold, where she once passed on a title shot in lieu of her already scheduled marriage date. With no shortage of confidence, “The Blonde Fighter” knew her chance would come again.

And it did. 

Unfortunately for her, that shot came against the arguably most pound for pound dominant champion, male or female, who has the most complete mixed martial arts skillset of any active fighter. 

Chookagian stood in the pocket offering everything she had to Schevchecko, but the champ’s technical precision was surgical with the kicks. There was visible bruising to the left thigh of Chookagian that appeared to grow as the fight went on. Schevchecko took the challenger down and immediately opened her up with an elbow from inside Chookagian’s guard. 

Chookagian didn’t let the champ making her bleed her own blood stifle her effort to begin the second round. However, “Bullet” dominated the round again both on the feet and on the ground.

In the third, it was once again pure dominance by the champ before she secured the TKO finish with ground and pound from the crucifix position. The barrage of punches and elbows to an exposed Chookagian face took only a couple of seconds before the contest was stopped

Schevchecko’s dominant performance after dominant performance proves that she is not only a generational great but also a historical great. There is not a single aspect of the champion’s game that is not elite. It is hard to come up with new ways to describe the champ because she is just so far ahead of every fighter in her division that she almost makes it look easy.

“I feel total happiness,” Schevchecko said. “This is what I feel every single time. I worked so hard and I think all athletes feel the same: they struggle for several months, they cut weight, they train hard… When you are done with what you’re supposed to do, you can’t feel any better. It’s the best feeling. It was really special fighting in Houston. As I said in the Octagon, Houston was the start of my US fighter career. Now I’m here as a UFC champion back in Houston, it feels amazing.

(C) Jon “Bones” Jones vs Dominick “The Devastator” Reyes (Light Heavyweight Championship)

The challenger, Reyes, stormed the center against the arguable GOAT, landing a straight punch to the forehead of Jones. Reyes was determined to show off his punching power and managed to put Jones down to the canvas with a left hand to the chest. Jones going down was ruled a slip and not a knockdown, which just adds to the questions concerning the officiating and judging on the night. While Jones may or may not have been hurt from this, it didn’t seem to phase him overall as he got right back to his feet. 

Reyes continued the offense before Jones began to settle in. Overall, a shockingly impressive round for Reyes. 

In between rounds, Jones shook his head as if to acknowledge that he is, in fact, in a fight. It could also be interpreted as a look to say that he gathered the intel he needed to adjust his game plan.

Make no mistake about it, Reyes came to fight and his left hand had thunder in it. The champ was much more effective with his jab in the second. Reyes put his striking skills on display and made Jones respect more than just his left hand. What was most impressive was Reyes using kicks with confidence.

Before the third round, Jones waved his arms for the crowd to make some noise. During the round, Jones’ kicking game started to come alive early. Though he did not throw a large volume, what he did throw looked to be effective enough to slow Reyes down. Reyes remained offensive but finished the round narrowly dodging a flying knee at the end of a Jones combination. 

In the fourth round, Jones put his Greco skills on display and dominated grappling exchanges. The continued mix of oblique and low sidekicks from the champ showed their effects on a slowed-down Reyes. However, it must be offered that Reyes maintained his offensive aggression and hit Jones hard with every shot he landed throughout the round. Again, Reyes hit Jones very hard on multiple occasions. Shots that you could hear the leather cracking up against flesh.

There was not a cheek in a seat at the packed Toyota Center as the fifth and final round began. 

Jones took Reyes down early in the round and got his back, but slipped off after trying to secure his second hook on the legs of Reyes. While he managed to escape, he used a lot of energy in doing so and could be observed taking deep belly breaths with his mouth wide open.

Reyes presented a valiant effort, but he fell short of making history. As a silver lining, his stock and respect amongst the fans grew tenfold. While this was a hair-splitting decision for most spectators, the judges saw it unanimously for Jones. The champ secured the victory in large part due to his wrestling. 

The two takedowns, back-take, and single hook sunk from the position carried weight in the scoring. Though a finish was not threatened, this did just enough to score and to make the challenger use energy to escape.

This fight could have gone either way with a 48-47 score. Many, including Dana White felt Jones got away with one in Houston, who had Reyes winning three rounds. While the ruling is debatable, the thought that it was a narrow fight that went three rounds to two rounds was shared by nearly everyone — except Judge Joe Solis who had the fight four rounds to one for the champ.

“It feels great, I feel victorious. That’s the way to make American history right there: hard-fought. It wasn’t the most impressive victory, but nothing, absolutely nothing that has never been done before is easy.”

I felt like it was my fight. He landed some hard hits. The fans like it when they see me get hit – it doesn’t happen very often. But at the same time, I landed some takedowns, I got his back on more than one occasion. I wasn’t able to keep him down, but I got his back, landed takedowns and completely out-stroke him on the fifth round. A hard-earned victory, but a victory. Reyes is a solid young man.”

-Jordan Kurtz is a founding member of Comments From The Peanut Gallery and The MMA Plug and can be followed on Instagram at @CommentsFromThePeanutGallery and @TheMMAPlug303

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