UFC 247: What Makes Dominick Reyes Dangerous?
Many generations of talent have come and gone during the light heavyweight reign of Jon Jones. From the Rampage’s and Shogun’s to the Gustafsson’s and Cormier’s, and even to the newer breed of divisional contenders like Santos and Smith, “Bones” has toppled every single man that stood across the Octagon from him.
Scandals aside, Jones is commonly regarded as the most dominant MMA fighter of all time. He is the youngest champion in UFC history and has yet to taste legitimate defeat in his 12 year career (need we mention the absurdity of the Matt Hammill disqualification?). Still, however, Jones remains in the light heavyweight division, ready and willing to take on new contenders as opposed to seeking “champ champ” status like most of his contemporaries. At UFC 247, he will make his third walk to the octagon since recapturing the title in December 2018. His opponent – the undefeated “Devastator” Dominick Reyes.
Reyes first caught the MMA community’s attention in the summer of 2017, when his headkick knockout over Jordan Powell went viral on social media. Within one week, Reyes was signed to the UFC, replacing an injured opponent and fighting Joachim Christensen. Reyes swarmed the Danish veteran with a flurry of punches in just 29 seconds, asserting himself as a must-watch prospect in the division.
Reyes then earned two first round stoppages – a submission against Jeremy Kimball and a knockout against current middleweight contender Jared Cannonier. Next, Reyes received the classic prospect treatment – a main card fight on a Conor McGregor pay-per-view. Reyes fought former title challenger Ovince St. Preux at UFC 229, dominating the fight and essentially KOing his opponent at the final bell. The impressive victory earned Reyes a spring 2019 matchup against feared striker Volkan Oezdemir. For the first time, Reyes seemed human in the octagon, struggling in grappling exchanges and unable to land power punches on the Swiss fighter. Controversially, Reyes won a split decision, moving to 11-0 and further climbing the rankings. Most recently, Reyes welcomed former middleweight champion Chris Weidman to the light heavyweight division, delivering a terrifying knockout inside a minute of the first round. After a failed takedown attempt, Reyes dropped Weidman with a blistering right hand, following up with hammerfists and forcing the referee to save the fallen Long Islander.
— caposa (@Grabaka_Hitman) June 3, 2017
Having been on top of the hill for about a decade, surely Jones has seen everything the sport has to offer, right? Well, that is partially true and likely the reason why Jones is a sizable favorite. Nonetheless, Reyes does offer some interesting challenges that set him apart from other contenders in the division.
Reyes lands 5.05 significant strikes per-minute, higher than even the most potent strikers in the division (Gustafsson – 4.02, Smith – 3.19, Cormier – 3.83, Santos – 4.44, Teixeira – 3.46). For comparison, Jones lands 4.31 significant strikes per minute. Similarly, Reyes has a 52% striking accuracy, again higher than most others in the light heavyweight division (Gustafsson – 40%, Anderson – 46%, Santos – 48%). In fact, of ranked fighters, Reyes is only bested by two individuals in striking accuracy – Jones (58%) and Walker (78%).
Moreover, Reyes absorbs 2.27 strikes per minute, statistically lower than many others in the division (Teixeira – 3.91, Cormier – 3.66, Smith – 4.86, Oezdemir – 3.93). Interestingly, Jones bests Reyes in the department by a hair (2.03). Reyes has a takedown defense of 86%, which is astonishingly high compared to many of his peers (Teixeira – 61%, Smith – 50%, Cormier – 78%, Santos – 68%). Jon Jones has a takedown defense of 95%.
Sure, Reyes excels in all of the aforementioned departments, but what truly sets him apart from the pack is his crushing punching power, averaging a 1.21 knockdown ratio (Teixeira – 0.45, Oezdemir – 0.72, Jones – 0.24, Smith – 0.65, Santos – 1.25). Reyes also lands 50% of significant strikes to the head, dividing the remaining 50% equally between the body and legs, suggesting a fully formed arsenal of striking.
The moment Reyes entered the UFC, he informed all media members that he was a force to be reckoned with and would eventually fight Jones. Am I proclaiming a Reyes upset victory? Not quite. At this stage, it would be foolish to say that the Jones era is coming to an end. However, he has looked exceedingly vulnerable as of late, failing to quickly dispatch Anthony Smith at UFC 235 like many pundits predicted and subsequently winning a highly controversial split decision against Thiago Santos at UFC 239. Indeed, every dominant fighter’s era comes to an end. Be it Anderson Silva, Demetrious Johnson, Ronda Rousey – there comes a time when the game catches up, when those young contenders that have been studying your game for years finally arrive to violently take the baton that you never intended to pass.