On Saturday night Dominick Reyes continued what has become a trend in the last two years, men step into the cage with Jon Jones and survive… not only do they survive, but they thrive. Something that, just looking back to the beginning of the 2010’s, would seem almost impossible.
Dominick Reyes had a fair amount of hype behind him before he took on Jon Jones at UFC 246 this past weekend, however there were only a small number of people who truly believed that Reyes would come out on top in that matchup. Following the fight, there are only a small number of people who feel that Jon Jones won that title fight.
But Reyes isn’t the first man in recent times to make ‘Bones’ look like a mere mortal, the light heavyweight champion has… struggled in his past three fights. Those struggles have come in a number of different ways, however. Against Anthony Smith, Jones simply didn’t seem as motivated as he needed to be, against Thiago Santos he faced a similar issue – although the key this time around was his inability to stop Santos’ attack on his legs.
Against Reyes, motivation was clearly not an issue for Jones. He managed to avoid the majority of Reyes’ leg attacks. Jones was on the back foot for, arguably, the first three rounds – even while watching the fight myself and a number of fans felt that this was a borderline deliberate tactic, as Jones was able to slip the vast majority of Reyes’ shots. It seemed as though Jones was attempting to let his opponent burn out so he could pick him apart in the final two rounds.
That’s exactly what Jon Jones did. He picked Reyes apart in the final two rounds, however his struggles in getting the challenger to the ground seriously hurt his ability to finish the fight. Reyes was constantly moving, making himself a hard target to hit, in turn making it far more difficult for Jones to finish the fight.
While credit must go to Reyes for that fact, this is where we reach the key question – was Reyes really that good… or is Jon Jones not the same man. Just look back to 2017, when Jones took on Daniel Cormier, two of the greatest fighters of all time going at it. Jon Jones became the first man to knock out Daniel Cormier, it was absolutely brutal and utterly perfect. It was peak Jon Jones. We haven’t seen that man since.
It feels like Jones has lost that killer instinct, having failed to finish any of his last three opponents in fights that he would have been expected to dominate. It could be argued that each fight has been a step up in competition for Jones, however each time out he has come far closer to losing.
In a division without much depth, that he has ruled over for as long as he has been able to fight, it seems as though the era of Jon Jones could finally be coming to an end. It feels as though it is only a matter of time until he loses that light heavyweight belt.
Whether it’s against Dominick Reyes in a rematch down the road, or if it’s another contender stepping up to the plate and taking him on, the days of his reign may well be numbered.