Matches to Make After UFC 197

By: Brian Knapp
Apr 23, 2016

Jon Jones spent his 25 minutes with Ovince St. Preux knocking off the rust from a 15-month layoff that was the result of his own doing.

Jones laid claim to the interim Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight title with a unanimous decision over St. Preux in the UFC 197 main event on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. “Bones” pitched a shutout on all three scorecards: 50-44, 50-45 and 50-45. Jones has won 13 fights in a row since being disqualified against Matt Hamill at “The Ultimate Fighter 10” Finale in December 2009.

St. Preux, who served as a short-notice fill-in for injured light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, enjoyed little to no success. According to FightMetric data, Jones delivered nearly twice as many significant strikes, 105-57, and total strikes, 111-58, connected at a much higher percentage, 66-35, and completed three of his five takedown attempts. He was at his best in the fourth round, where he landed 15 more strikes than St. Preux threw, executed two takedowns and passed guard three times.

In wake of UFC 197 “Jones vs. St. Preux,” here are five matchups that ought to be considered:

Related » By the Numbers: UFC 197

Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier: In his first appearance since Jan. 3, 2015, Jones looked superb at times, pedestrian at others. Nevertheless, the 28-year-old left the cage with a lopsided win over a top 10 opponent under less-than-ideal circumstances. Jones remains the standard by which all other light heavyweights are measured -- a true pound-for-pound great who has traversed his 23-fight career untouched, save for his disqualification loss to Hamill and five-round war with Alexander Gustafsson. Little mystery surrounds the identity of the Jackson-Wink MMA rep’s next opponent. Jones soundly defeated Cormier at UFC 182 and was scheduled to rematch “DC” at UFC 197 before a leg injury forced him to withdraw and opened the door for St. Preux. Upon beating “OSP,” Jones shunned the interim championship and set his sights back on Cormier. “I don’t think I want that belt,” he said. “It’s not the real belt. I want my actual belt back.”

Demetrious Johnson vs. Dominick Cruz-Urijah Faber winner: Johnson has nothing left to prove at 125 pounds. “Mighty Mouse” made another would-be successor look ordinary, as he carved up Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo with knees and punches to retain his flyweight championship. Johnson needed less than three minutes to get the job done against a man who entered the Octagon with a perfect 10-0 record. During his historic reign atop the division, the AMC Pankration export has turned away Cejudo, John Dodson (twice), Kyoji Horiguchi, Chris Cariaso, Ali Bagautinov, Joseph Benavidez and John Moraga. Perhaps the time has come for Johnson to return to 135 pounds. Cruz -- the last man to defeat Johnson -- will defend the bantamweight championship against longtime rival Faber at UFC 199 on June 4.

Edson Barboza vs. Michael Chiesa: Barboza no longer lacks a signature victory, as the former Ring of Combat champion can point to his unanimous decision over onetime UFC and World Extreme Cagefighting titleholder Anthony Pettis whenever critics fire their barbs. Barboza handed “Showtime” his third loss in a row, as he chewed up the inside of his lead leg with kicks, piled up points with a jackhammer jab and kept Pettis on his heels with a series of left hooks to the head. Chiesa last fought at UFC on Fox 19, where he submitted Kings MMA standout Beneil Dariush with a second-round rear-naked choke and cemented his place as one of the organization’s top lightweights.

Robert Whittaker vs. Michael Bisping: It has become impossible to ignore Whittaker at 185 pounds. “The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes” winner has posted four consecutive victories since moving to the middleweight division in 2014. Whittaker, 25, weathered some nasty leg kicks to pocket a unanimous verdict over the resurgent Rafael Natal in their three-round showdown on the UFC 197 main card. Bisping last appeared at a UFC Fight Night event on Feb. 27, when he upset former middleweight champion Anderson Silva by unanimous decision in London.

Yair Rodriguez vs. Doo Ho Choi: Rodriguez has the makings of a potential superstar in the featherweight division. The 23-year-old wiped out Team Alpha Male’s Andre Fili with a flying switch kick in the second round of their pairing, as he authored an early contender for “Knockout of the Year,” put his fifth straight win in the books and continued his climb on the 145-pound ladder. Choi finds himself on an 11-fight winning streak. “The Korean Superboy” has finished his first two UFC opponents, Sam Sicilia and Juan Manuel Puig, in less than two minutes combined.

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