A rusty Jon Jones went the distance with Ovince Saint Preux to take the UFC interim light heavyweight title at UFC 197. Jones dominated all five rounds and almost finished OSP in the fourth round. The win sets up Jones for a title unification bout against current LHW champ Daniel Cormier.
Jones came out aggressive, landing front kicks to the knee of Saint Preux, a move many view as a dirty attack. Saint Preux tried to slow the pace and seemed to confuse Jones momentarily with his awkward movement but Jones quickly landed a brutal body kick. Jones began to cut off the cage and back Saint Preux into the fence. Jones scored again with a side kick to the gut. Jones swept OSP to the ground towards the end of the first but Saint Preux popped right back up.
In the second OSP came out aggressive and landed a flurry of punches. Jones quickly fired back and retook the initiative. Jones endured another couple tough exchanges then forced a clinch and began to batter OSP. But Saint Preux escaped and landed a hard punch. Jones' oblique kicks started to really hurt OSP but Saint Preux landed some sharp jabs and ended the round with a hard left in response to a spinning back kick to the head that landed.
Jones came out working the leg attacks in the third. OSP answered with some sharp jabs and 1-2 combos. Jones landed a spinning elbow. Jones tried to push OSP back but Saint Preux wouldn't have it. OSP landed a sharp punch but ate three or four kicks in return.
Jones pushed OSP against the fence and slammed him down early in the fourth, but OSP was able to quickly force a scramble and get back to his feet. Jones landed a pair of spinning elbows and pressed OSP back to the cage and again slammed OSP down. This time he got right to side control and began to work elbows from the top. OSP briefly reversed but Jones took him right back down and got mount position. OSP then gave up his back and Jones began to rain down blows. Jones stood up and rained down damage to end the round but OSP survived.
Jones opened the final round with more oblique strikes to OSP's knees. Jones landed another spinning kick to the body. Jones again pressed Saint Preux against the cage and slammed him to the ground with about two minutes left. Jones let him right back up but OSP's left arm dragged limp after the take down.
Jones returned to action after an 18 month layoff following a guilty plea for leaving the scene of an accident. The UFC stripped Jones of his title following the incident and suspended him for six months. He was set to rematch the current LHW champ Daniel Cormier Saturday but Cormier had to pull out with an injured leg. Jones decisions Cormier at UFC 182 in January, 2015.
Flyweight champ Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson destroyed Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo with knees in the clinch for a first round finish. Cejudo got a very slick takedown the first time they locked up but did little with it. Johnson bounced right back up and from there the clinch became a fatal morass Cejudo could not escape. Johnson landed knee after knee, leavened with punches and elbows until Cejudo fell from a knee to the liver and was finished with a barrage of punches.
Edson Barboza utterly outstruck Anthony Pettis en route to a unanimous decision win. The former UFC LW champ Pettis opened up aggressive but Barboza started to connect with the left hook and that quickly changed the dynamic of the bout. After eating a spinning kick to the middle, Pettis was the first to attempt a take down but got stuffed.
Pettis came out aggressive in the second but quickly ate another left hook. Barboza fired off a high kick that Pettis blocked. Pettis landed some slick punching combinations but Barboza responded with much harder strikes. A kick to the body late in the round really hurt Pettis.
Pettis missed with a capoeira wheel kick off a handspring to open the third. Barboza soon landed three unanswered shots in response. Barboza started picking Pettis apart as the final round progressed with brutal inside leg kicks. Barboza landed a spinning head kick near the end the fight. Pettis tried to answer but came up short again.
Aussie Robert Whittaker edged Brazilian Rafael Natal in a wild brawl. Whittaker hurt Natal badly in the first and again in the final seconds of the third, but couldn't finish the hard-headed Sapo. Natal's leg kicks were hurtful but no match for Whittaker's combination punching to the head.
Hot prospect Yair Rodriguez scored his first UFC finish with a spectacular flying roundhouse kick that put Andre Fili out cold early in the second round. Rodriguez' Taekwondo style and high-risk, high-reward approach to fighting makes him one of the hottest young talents in the UFC today. Rodriguez dominated the first round, mostly with grappling. Fili hung tough until he rubbed his eye after trading punches with Rodriguez. That moment of distraction was what Yair had been waiting for and he leapt in for the killshot immediately.
Sergio Pettis made it two straight decision wins by dominating Chris Kelades in the Fox Sports 1 prelims headliner.
Danny Roberts beat Dominique Steele in a hard-fought back and forth battle that ended in a unanimous decision.
Carla Esparza got back on the winning track after losing badly in a title shot. She dominated Juliana Lima with strong grappling over three long rounds en route to sweeping every round on all three judges' cards.
James Vick remained undefeated with a dominant decision win over Glaico Francavia. Vick pulled away after an eye poke that Ref. Dan Miragliotta missed and battered the half-blind Francavia at range for the remainder of the bout.
Walt Harris finished Cody East in a wild brawl to close the UFC Fight Pass preliminary card.
Marcos Rogerio de Lima beat up Clint Hester with ground and pound before finishing him with an arm triangle choke in the first round of their Fight Pass bout.
Kevin Lee survived an early scare to beat Ultimate Fighter winner Efrain Escudero via unanimous decision in the night's opening fight.
UFC 197 Main Card results
Light Heavyweight Jon Jones def. Ovince Saint Preux via unanimous decision (50-45 x2, 50-44).
Flyweight Demetrious Johnson def. Henry Cejudo via TKO (knees & punches) at 2:49 of Round 1.
Lightweight Edson Barboza def. Anthony Pettis via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28x2).
Middleweight Robert Whittaker def. Rafael Natal via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27x2).
Featherweight Yair Rodríguez def. Andre Fili via KO (flying head kick) at 2:15 of Round 2.
Preliminary Card Fox Sports 1
Flyweight Sergio Pettis def. Chris Kelades via unanimous decision(30-27x3).
Welterweight Danny Roberts def. Dominique Steele via unanimous decision (29-28x3).
Women's Strawweight Carla Esparza def. Juliana Lima via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Lightweight James Vick def. Glaico Francavia unanimous decision (29-2x3 30-27).
Preliminary Card UFC Fight Pass
Heavyweight Walt Harris def. Cody East via TKO (punches) at 4:18 of Round 1.
Light Heavyweight Marcos Rogerio de Lima def. Clint Hester via submission (arm-triangle choke) at 4:35 of Round 1.
Lightweight Kevin Lee def. Efrain Escudero via unanimous decision (29-28x3).