Jones fends off challenge at UFC 247 in disputed decision

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Valentina Shevchecko does a back flip after defeating Katlyn Chookagian during the third round of awomen’s flyweight mixed martial arts bout at UFC 247 on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

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HOUSTON (AP) — Jon Jones retained his title at UFC 247, beating Dominick Reyes by unanimous decision.

After the bout, opinions on the outcome were anything but unanimous.

Jones retained his light heavyweight belt Saturday night following a surprisingly strong opening by Reyes. The unanimous decision of 48-47, 48-47, 49-46 was met with scattered applause and loud boos from the crowd, as many felt the challenger had proven enough to take the title.

UFC President Dana White addressed what turned out to be a disputed decision.

“The scoring was all over the map,” said White, noting that he thought Reyes had a 3-1 edge entering the final round. “My kids are terrorizing me that, ‘The fix is in, how did this happen?’

“People had it all over the place, but the reality is … we’re not judges. The judges call the fight, and that’s that. As far as the judging and the reffing tonight, do I think it was perfect? I do not. We need to do some work down here.”

White said UFC can work with the Texas commission to help improve the quality of judging and officiating.

“I do feel disrespected,” Reyes said. “One of the judges had it 49-46. Who are you? I might want to have a word with you. I know I won that fight.”

White said he believes Reyes deserves a rematch.

Jones faced his most serious challenge in years.

“I wasn’t always confident that I was winning the fight,” Jones said. “I was confident that I wasn’t going to give up or slow down. I think I displayed the difference between a champion and an extraordinary contender. Something special happens when it’s time for the champion to present himself, and you guys saw it tonight in the fifth round.”

Jones (26-1-1) handed the fourth-ranked Reyes (12-1) his first loss, improving to 14-0 in title fights. He became the all-time leader in UFC title defenses, breaking the record previously held by Georges St-Pierre.

“I don’t think he was disrespected,” Jones said of Reyes. “I’ve got to watch the fight though. It’s hard to speak with confidence when I haven’t watched the fight.”

Jones was fighting for the first time since last July’s win over Thiago Santos at UFC 239, his longest period between fights in more than five years.

Reyes came out on the attack in the first round, briefly knocking Jones to the ground less than two minutes into the bout. Jones bounced back in the second round, landing several strong hooks to Reyes’ head.

The lively crowd swayed back and forth in support of either fighter, chanting both names at different points.

In the third round, Reyes landed blows to Jones’ head, and he drew blood early in the fourth round. Jones finished that round strong and the once-lively crowd became quiet and tense in anticipation of the final round.

Jones ramped up his attack in the final round, but Reyes seemed to keep enough separation from the champ to put it in the judges’ hands.

Reyes, a 30-year-old from Southern California who played college football at Stony Brook, said before the fight that he expected a victory and that it would be “life-changing.” Instead, he was dealt a controversial loss and said he hopes to get a rematch.

“For me, this is huge validation,” Reyes said. “This was my very first time going all five rounds, and it was against Jon Jones, arguably the greatest of all-time. And I put it on him. I mean, I really took it to him. I feel like I’m the peoples’ champ.”

In the co-main event of UFC 247, flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko defended her title against Katlyn Chookagian, stopping the challenger in the third round.

The Kyrgyzstan-native Shevchenko (19-3) won her fifth bout in a row in dominant fashion over Pennsylvania-native Chookagian (13-3), who entered as the top-ranked contender for the belt. After the fight, Shevchenko did her trademark cartwheels and dancing in the ring.

“After the last elbow in the first round when I cut her, I knew the fight was not going to last five rounds,” Shevchenko said. “I was just trying to find the best way to finish.”

Earlier on the pay-per-view portion of the 12-bout event at the Toyota Center, Houston-native heavyweight Derrick Lewis (23-7) beat Ilir Latifi (15-8) via unanimous decision with a surging rally late. Lewis, the No. 6-ranked heavyweight who rescued flood victims during Houston’s Hurricane Harvey in 2017, played Houston hip-hop music entering and exiting the ring and had rousing support from the crowd.

Another Houston-native, heavyweight Juan Adams, had a much more bitter homecoming, getting stopped in under two minutes by New Zealand-born Australian Justin Tafa, who earned his first UFC win.

Also on the main card, featherweight Dan Ige (13-2) won his fifth straight fight, taking a split decision over Mirsad Bektic (13-3).

Before the pay-per-view portion of the event, the UFC honored Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and the other seven victims of the Jan. 26 helicopter crash with a video tribute and a nine-second moment of silence. Bryant was a partner of UFC sponsor Body Armor and was an investor in the UFC, White said.

Houston sports stars spotted in attendance included J.J. Watt, Deshaun Watson, Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon, Carlos Correa and others. Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta sat near UFC fan and actress Halle Berry.

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