UFC 285 Report: Jon Jones vs. Ciryl Gane Results.
Welcome to POST Wrestling’s coverage of UFC 285 from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The card was headlined by the return of Jon Jones, as after a lengthy period of inactivity, the long-time Light Heavyweight Champion made the move up to heavyweight, to face Ciryl Gane for the vacant UFC Heavyweight Championship. Despite the numerous controversies surrounding him inside and outside of the cage, Jones is unquestionably one of the most talented fighters in the history in the sport, and his long-anticipated move to heavyweight will be one of the biggest stories of 2023. Ciryl Gane is a special talent in his own right, showcasing a level of striking and movement in the cage that is rarely seen at heavyweight. Gane’s lone professional loss came to the former heavyweight champion, Francis Ngannou, in a fight in which Ngannou opted to wrestle with Gane after two unsuccessful rounds of standing with him. Jones is a very accomplished wrestler, and stylistically, this would make for a very heavyweight debut for Jones. This card also featured a bout for the UFC Flyweight Championship, as Valentina Shevchenko looked to defend her title for an eighth time, facing Alexa Grasso, who has compiled a record of 4-0 since moving to the flyweight division. The commentary team for this card consisted of Jon Anik, Joe Rogan, and Daniel Cormier.
- Loik Radzhabov def. Esteban Ribovics by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
- Farid Basharat def. Da’Mon Blackshear by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
- Tabatha Ricci def. Jessica Penne by armbar at 2:14 of Round 2
- Cameron Saaiman def. Leomana Martinez by majority decision (29-26, 28-27, 28-28)
- Ian Garry def. Kenan Song by TKO at 4:22 of Round 3
- Marc-Andre Barriault def. Julian Marquez by TKO at 4:12 of Round 2
- Amanda Ribas def. Viviane Araujo by unanimous decision (29-27, 30-26, 30-27)
- Dricus Du Plessis def. Derek Brunson by TKO at 4:59 of Round 2
- Cody Garbrandt def. Trevin Jones by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
- Bo Nickal def. Jamie Pickett by arm triangle at 2:54 of Round 1
- Mateusz Gamrot def. Jalin Turner by split decision (29-28, 30-27, 28-29)
- Shavkat Rakhmonov def. Geoff Neal by rear-naked choke at 4:17 of Round 3
- Alexa Grasso def. Valentina Shevchenko by rear naked choke at 4:34 of Round 4 to win the UFC Flyweight Championship
- Jon Jones def. Ciryl Gane by guillotine choke at 2:04 of Round 1 to win the UFC Heavyweight Championship
ESTEBAN RIBOVICS (11-0, 156) VS LOIK RADZHABOV (16-4, 155.5) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Radzhabov immediately rocked Ribovics with a heavy right hand, before taking Ribovics to the ground. Ribovics escaped to his feet but ate another hard shot as the fighters traded hands. Ribovics countered a takedown from Radzhabov with a kimura, which allowed him to defend the attempt. Radzhabov found more success on his next attempt, however, and he worked his way to the back of Ribovics along the cage. Radzhabov transitioned to half guard, but Ribovics was able to escape the position and returned to his feet before time expired. 10-9 Radzhabov.
Ribovics began the second round with a strong combination but was quickly taken back down. Once again, Ribovics escaped to his feet, but he was largely unable to defend Radzhabov’s takedown attempts and was returned to the ground multiple times. Ribovics’ ability to return to his feet every time was impressive, however, defense does not win you rounds, and Ribovics was in need of a significant moment of damage. That moment came in the round’s final minute, when Ribovics hurt Radzhabov with a combination of body shots, before dropping Radzhabov with a right hand over the top, stealing the round back late. 19-19.
Radzhabov stunned Ribovics with a pair of heavy strikes at the beginning of the final round. Radzhabov took Ribovics back to the ground with three and a half minutes remaining in the fight, where he began to work from the guard of his opponent. Much like the first round, Ribovics escaped the disadvantageous position by threatening a kimura, and the fight returned to the feet. Radzhabov wasted little time in returning Ribovics to the ground, however, and largely controlled Ribovics until the round’s final minute. Ribovics went on the attack late, looking to secure the late stoppage, but the finish didn’t come, and I thought Radzhabov took this round. 29-28 Radzhabov.
WINNER: Loik Radzhabov by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
Radzhabov took this fight on short notice, and I thought you could see that reflected in some of his struggles with cardio throughout the bout, but he powered through his exhaustion and was absolutely relentless in his pursuit to take Ribovics to the ground throughout these fifteen minutes. Both fighters were able to hurt their opponent on the feet, showcasing their respective power, but the difference maker in this one was ultimately Radzhabov’s ability to take Ribovics to the ground at will, despite Ribovics doing an impressive job of continuously escaping to his feet. This marked Radzhabov’s UFC debut after a lengthy run in the PFL.
DA’MON BLACKSHEAR (12-4-1, 136) VS FARID BASHARAT (9-0, 136) – BANTAMWEIGHT
The fighters exchanged kicks throughout the first minute of the bout. Eventually, Blackshear caught a kick from Basharat and pushed him to the cage in search of a takedown. Basharat showcased strong takedown defense, and was able to keep the fight on the feet, where he landed several strikes before securing a takedown of his own. Blackshear escaped to his feet after an uneventful period of top control from Basharat, and the fighters traded kicks for the remainder of the round. 10-9 Basharat.
Blackshear changed levels and secured a takedown early in the second round, but Basharat popped right back to his feet. Blackshear pulled Basharat back to the ground, and practically took his back in in the process. Once again, Basharat escaped to his feet, but there were only two minutes remaining in the round, and Basharat had to get to work in order to steal back this round. Basharat quickly secured a takedown of his own, and he maintained the position for the remainder of the round, landing some solid elbows in the process. This was a very close round. 20-18 Basharat.
Both fighters found early success on the feet in the final round. Basharat eventually opted to wrap Blackshear up in the clinch and tripped him to the ground near the cage. After a lengthy period of top control from Basharat, Blackshear was able to escape to his feet but was in need of something big with only two minutes remaining in the fight. Basharat threw a lead elbow before taking Blackshear back to the ground, and he maintained this position until the end of the round. Towards the very end of the fight, Blackshear threw up a triangle choke, and he had it locked in tight, but Basharat was able to hold on until time expired. 29-28 Basharat.
WINNER: Farid Basharat by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
This was a very competitive fight, but Basharat just seemed to be the slightest step ahead of Blackshear throughout the bout. Blackshear certainly had his moments and was seconds away from finishing the fight at the end of the third round, however, Basharat did a better job of maintaining control after securing his takedowns, and seemed to be landing the more damaging strikes throughout the first two rounds. This fight marked Basharat’s UFC debut.
JESSICA PENNE (14-6, 116) VS TABATHA RICCI (7-1, 115.5) –STRAWWEIGHT
Ricci secured her first takedown of the fight just seconds into the bout. Penne quickly returned to her feet, but Ricci brought the fight back to the ground. Penne looked to improve her position, and the fight moved to the cage, where the fighters began to battle in the clinch as Penne looked for a takedown of her own, but once again, it was Ricci who took Penne down, where Penne threw kicks off of her back from guard. Ricci eventually opted to follow Penne to the ground after realizing that Penne had no interest in standing with her, and she worked from top position for the remainder of the round, throwing down short ground and pound strikes.
An early right hand from Ricci appeared to cut Penne above her left eye in the second round. Ricci threw Penne to the ground with a hip toss, and once again, began to work from top position. Ricci transitioned to an armbar in impressive fashion, and she had the submission fully locked in, forcing Penne to submit.
WINNER: Tabatha Ricci by armbar at 2:14 of Round 2
Ricci was able to take Penne down at will, and largely dominated this fight on the ground. Penne had numerous opportunities to return to her feet throughout the fight, but she opted to keep the fight in her comfort zone, throwing up kicks from her guard whenever Ricci returned to her feet until Ricci would eventually re-engage with her on the ground. The submission finish was an especially impressive one from Ricci, becoming the first woman to submit Penne (a strong grappler in her own right) in nearly a decade. Ricci is now 3-1 in the UFC, with this marking her first finish in the promotion.
LEOMANA MARTINEZ (10-3, 137) VS CAMERON SAAIMAN (7-0, 135) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Martinez missed weight by 1lb, and was fined 30% of his purse.
An early shot from Martinez busted open Saaiman’s nose, and Saaiman seemed to be having trouble with his left leg after a calf kick from Martinez, causing Saaiman to stumble multiple times. Martinez was the recipient of a brutal low blow and was given time to recover from the accidental kick from Saaiman, but shortly after the action resumed, another one of Saaiman’s kicks landed low, flooring Martinez. Saaiman was deducted a point by referee Herb Dean, but the fight continued after Martinez was given time to recover. Saaiman may have edged this round out on the scorecards, but with the point deduction taken into account, this was likely a 9-9 round.
Saaiman connected with a number of heavy body kicks in the opening minute of round two, and he was looking very comfortable on the feet early in this round. Martinez was looking to time-heavy counters, and was finding a decent level of success with his counter strikes, but was often missing big whenever he went on the attack himself. A heavy jab from Saaiman knocked Martinez down, and Saaiman followed him to the ground, taking top position with two minutes to work. Martinez was looking for an armbar off of his back, but Saaiman was wise to it, and this was a fairly dominant round for Saaiman after the point deduction in round one. 19-18 Saaiman.
Saaiman continued to find success on the feet in the final round. He pressured forward, throwing his strikes in combination, but just when it looked as though he was starting to overwhelm Martinez on the feet, he clearly poked Martinez in the eye, and the fight was paused once again while the doctor was brought in and Martinez was given time to recover. Saaiman was given a hard warning, but no point was deducted, and the fight continued. Saaiman opted to take the fight to the ground after catching a kick from Martinez. Saaiman landed strong elbows from top position, and he maintained this position for the remainder of the round. 29-27 Saaiman.
WINNER: Cameron Saaiman by majority decision (29-26, 28-27, 28-28)
This was largely a dominant performance from Saaiman, with his numerous fouls throughout the bout being his greatest enemy. He showcased some very solid striking, mixing up his offense on the feet, before taking the fight to the ground at the end of each of the final two rounds, where he landed damaging ground and pound strikes. Two of the judges gave Saaiman a 10-8 round for round three, which ultimately earned him the win, as the fight would have been scored a majority draw without that dominant third round. Saaiman will certainly have to be mindful of the accidental fouls in the future, but this was a strong showing regardless. Saaiman is now 2-0 in the UFC following this win.
IAN GARRY (10-0, 171) VS KENAN SONG (19-6, 171) – WELTERWEIGHT
Both fighters were fighting somewhat hesitantly in the first round. Garry worked his jab while throwing kicks to the lead leg of Song, and he was pulling away with this round based on activity alone with ninety seconds remaining in the round. Just when it was starting to look as though Song had nothing to offer Garry here, a huge left hook from Song dropped Garry hard. Song followed Garry down as he attempted to finish the fight with ground and pound, but Garry weathered the storm and made it out of the round.
Garry seemed to be fully recovered by the start of the second round, and the first minutes of round two were looking much like the majority of round one, with Garry in firm control of the bout. Garry attacked the body in combination, which allowed him to move in with some big elbows, and there was not a ton of offense coming in return from Song. Garry’s leg kicks had done significant damage to Song’s lead leg, and his left eye was starting to swell from Garry’s jab as well.
Song’s lack of output continued to hurt him in the third round, as Garry overwhelmed him with his own activity. Song was a stationary target at times and wasn’t doing enough offensively to trouble Garry, who was just teeing off on Song at times, doing considerable damage to his lead leg. Song showcased a solid chin, but that was about as much as you can say for him in this third round. In the round’s final minute, Garry really went on the attack in pursuit of a finish, and it came after a flurry of strikes sent Song to the ground. Garry followed him down and ended the fight with ground-and-pound strikes as Song covered up.
WINNER: Ian Garry by TKO at 4:22 of Round 3
I thought this was a very strong outing for Ian Garry, who absolutely dominated the vast majority of this fight. Song was certainly close to finishing the fight after knocking Garry down in the opening round, but that was the lone highlight for him in this bout, as the output was nearly non-existent for him at times offensively. After the fight, Garry expressed his interest in fighting on the Miami card in five weeks’ time and vowed to be a welterweight champion in a few years’ time. Garry improved to 4-0 in the UFC following this win.
JULIAN MARQUEZ (9-3, 186) VS MARC-ANDRE BARRIAULT (14-6, 185) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Marquez and Barriault exchange jabs and short hooks to begin the fight. There were a number of exchanges in the clinch in which both fighters connected with heavy hooks and uppercuts. Marquez was landing with power, and even managed to put Barriault on the retreat at times, but Barriault was largely able to hold his ground and fired back. This was a very evenly contested round, but I thought Marquez had the slight edge in terms of damage, and that is ultimately what decides rounds.
Barriault was fighting with more aggression in the second round, charging forward with flurries, and landing with more power as a result. Marquez was still throwing his countershots with considerable power, but Barriault’s forward pressure was starting to overwhelm him. Barriault eventually just started unloading with strikes as Marquez covered up against the cage, but Marquez just refused to go down, despite eating shot after shot for well over a minute. This went on and on, and eventually, referee Mark Smith had no close but to stop the fight, as Marquez was taking a concerning amount of damage without improving his position.
WINNER: Marc-Andre Barriault by TKO at 4:12 of Round 2
The first round of this fight was very competitive, but Barriault just went on the attack in round two, quickly overwhelming Marquez with his non-stop forward pressure. The damage added up quickly, and Marquez found himself with his back to the cage for a considerable portion of the second round, where Barriault just teed off on him for an extended period of time. While Marquez never went down, I thought this went on for far longer than it needed to, as Marquez really took a considerable amount of unnecessary damage in this position from Barriault, who just unleashed a seemingly never-ending onslaught of left hands and elbows on Marquez, who was barely defending himself by that point in the fight. Marc-Andre Barriault improved to 4-5 (1 NC) in the UFC following this win.
VIVIANE ARAUJO (11-4, 126) VS AMANDA RIBAS (10-3, 126) – FLYWEIGHT
Araujo jumped for a guillotine in the fight’s first minute, giving up top position as a result. Araujo did a good job of defending herself from her back, and eventually escaped to her feet without taking much damage, but the clock was working against her with less than two minutes remaining in the round. A right hand from Araujo landed with power, which was arguably the most damaging strike landed throughout the round. Ribas was not connecting with the same level of power but seemed to be slightly ahead on the strike count, making for a very close round. 10-9 Araujo.
Ribas rocked Araujo early in the second round, and she opted to take the fight to the ground in search of a submission finish. Araujo seemed to have recovered, but Ribas had a strong position in half guard, and she attempted to make the most of the position, landing numerous short left hands. With a minute remaining in the round, Ribas took the back of Araujo, a position that she maintained until time expired. I thought this was a 10-8 round for Ribas. 19-18 Ribas.
Ribas did good work on the feet early in the final round, landing strong combinations to the head and lead leg of Araujo. Ribas mixed in some spinning back kicks to the body that were finding their target, as well as the occasional head kick to Araujo, who seemed to be slowing down by this point in the fight. With just over a minute remaining in the fight, Ribas took Araujo down, but Araujo threatened an armbar in response. Ribas avoided the submission attempt and ended the round strongly from top position. 29-27 Ribas.
WINNER: Amanda Ribas by unanimous decision (29-27, 30-26, 30-27)
The first round of this fight was very competitive, and while Ribas had that period of control time, I thought Araujo seemed a step ahead on the feet and was doing more significant damage with her strikes. That quickly changed after Ribas rocked Araujo at the start of round two, and from that point forward, this fight was all Ribas, who looked far better on the feet than she did in the first round, while continuing to mix in her grappling to great effect whenever the opportunities presented themselves. Ribas improved to 6-2 in the UFC with this win, and Ribas (the ninth-ranked strawweight contender) will likely take Araujo’s place in the flyweight rankings when they are next updated.
DEREK BRUNSON (23-8, 185.5) VS DRICUS DU PLESSIS (18-2, 185) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Roughly thirty seconds into the fight, Brunson caught a kick from Du Plessis and took him to the ground, where he began to work from side control. Brunson moved into half guard, but Du Plessis was able to escape to his feet. Brunson opted to jump for a guillotine, which resulted in Du Plessis taking top position after escaping the submission. Both fighters seemed to roll for heel hooks before Brunson attempted to take the back of Du Plessis, who was able to return to his feet. Brunson rocked Du Plessis as the action resumed on the feet, and he just swarmed Du Plessis with wild shots until Du Plessis went down near the cage. Brunson followed Du Plessis down to the ground in an attempt to finish the fight, but Du Plessis escaped to his feet and landed a big elbow before time expired.
The fighters were both fighting somewhat wildly in the opening minutes of round two. A left hand from Du Plessis hurt Brunson, prompting Brunson to swing back as he attempted to relieve the pressure. Du Plessis really seemed to be hurting Brunson with his strikes, and Brunson’s body language was looking very poor as the round progressed, seemingly hurt as well as fatigued. Du Plessis’s low kicks were doing significant damage as well, compromising Brunson’s movement. Brunson connected with a heavy left hand that prompted Du Plessis to shoot for a takedown, and while Brunson was able to escape without taking considerable damage, Du Plessis began to unload with strikes back on the feet, rocking Brunson with each successful land. He sent Brunson to the ground in the round’s final seconds and finished the fight with ground and pound just as the horn sounded.
WINNER: Dricus Du Plessis by TKO at 4:59 of Round 2
This was a strange, awkward, wild fight, just as you would expect from these two fighters. Brunson fought a fantastic fight in the first round, using his wrestling to great effect while doing significant damage on the feet, but he was fatigued by the start of round two. Du Plessis was tired himself, but he just had a bit more in the tank, and he was doing a considerable amount of damage with each landed strike in the second round, rocking Brunson numerous times before finally finishing the bout in the round’s final second. Brunson’s corner notably threw in the towel during Du Plessis’s fight-ending ground-and-pound onslaught as well, and I always believe that a corner deserves praise for knowing when their fighter is done and making the tough call, something that we rarely see in the sport. Du Plessis is now 5-0 in the UFC, and he will likely take Brunson’s fifth-ranked spot in the middleweight rankings following this win.
CODY GARBRANDT (12-5, 136) VS TREVIN JONES (13-9, 1 NC, 135) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Garbrandt landed several kicks to the lead leg and body of Jones throughout the opening minutes. Jones’s output was extremely low in this opening round, and Garbrandt was able to utilize his speed advantage to land his strikes before moving out of Jones’s range, leading to a lot of early success. This was not a very eventful round, but still a clear one for Garbrandt. 10-9 Garbrandt.
Garbrandt secured an early takedown in the second round, but Jones quickly popped back to his feet. The crowd was booing the action (or lack thereof), which I did not think was entirely unwarranted, as Jones had landed a grand total of three strikes by the midway point of the second round. Garbrandt opted to take Jones back to the ground, where he quickly took the back of Jones with just under two minutes to work. Jones escaped to his feet and shot for a takedown of his own, which Garbrandt successfully defended. This was another round for Garbrandt. 20-18 Garbrandt.
The output from Jones was not significantly higher in the third round, and Garbrandt taunted to urge Jones forward. Garbrandt’s output was not very high by this point in the fight either, but he was clearly ahead on the scorecards, and not the fighter in desperate need of a finish to win this one with time running out. Jones landed a hard right hand at one point, which was his best shot of the fight to that point, and he was able to secure a takedown with a minute to work. Garbrandt was able to defend himself well from his back, and the fight went the distance. 29-28 Garbrandt.
WINNER: Cody Garbrandt by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
I thought this was a very dull fight, with very little activity from either fighter. Jones landed roughly three significant strikes throughout the first two rounds, and Garbrandt was able to take the rounds based on his edge in activity alone. Jones was the slightly busier fighter in round three, and actually had Garbrandt in a few spots of trouble when he committed to his attack, but it was too little, too late, and Garbrandt had his arm raised in the end after banking the first two rounds. Even if it didn’t come in spectacular fashion, this was a much-needed win for Garbrandt, who had lost five of his last six fights since dethroning Dominick Cruz for the UFC Bantamweight Championship back in December of 2016.
BO NICKAL (3-0, 185.5) VS JAMIE PICKETT (13-8, 186) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Nickal slipped on an early head kick attempt, but picked himself up and shot for a takedown. Pickett did his best to defend the attempt, but Nickal quickly took his back and started hunting for an arm triangle. The angle was a bit off, but Nickal applied so much pressure that Pickett was clearly feeling the squeeze, and eventually, Pickett was forced to submit.
WINNER: Bo Nickal by arm triangle at 2:54 of Round 1
Nickal is a highly decorated wrestler and was one of the most highly touted prospects in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts after his short amateur run in the sport in 2021. Since going pro in 2022, Nickal has competed three times, stopping all three of his opponents in the first round. Despite Pickett being the far more experienced fighter in the sport of MMA, Nickal entered this fight as a sizeable favorite, and he made good on those odds with another dominant performance here, stopping Pickett in less than three minutes. Nickal has all the potential in the world, and this was an excellent showcase for him in his UFC debut.
MATEUSZ GAMROT (21-2, 156) VS JALIN TURNER (13-5, 155.5) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Gamrot secured a takedown fairly early in the fight, after attacking the lead leg of Turner throughout the fight’s first minute. Turner used the cage to return to his feet and landed a big knee to the head of Gamrot on the break. Gamrot slipped to the ground after a sharp combination from Turner and was able to make the most of it by turning it into a takedown, landing numerous right hands as Turner returned to his feet. I gave the edge to Gamrot in round one, although the knee to the head from Turner may have been the round’s most significant moment. 10-9 Gamrot.
Gamrot was having a hard time dealing with Turner’s significant reach advantage on the feet, although he was still doing his best to chip away at the taller fighter with leg kicks. A right hand from Turner clipped Gamrot, and he defended Gamrot’s attempt to take the fight to the ground. The fighters exchanged heavy right hands, with Turner’s seemingly stunning Gamrot, and Turner went on the attack as a result, backing Gamrot up. Gamrot shot for a number of takedowns, finally getting Turner back down with just under two minutes remaining in the round. Gamrot trapped Turner in the crucifix position, where he threw down elbows for the remainder of a very close round. 19-19.
Gamrot quickly got the fight back to the ground in the final round. Turner did a good job of defending himself before returning to his feet, but could not escape from Gamrot, who pressed Turner against the cage in pursuit of another takedown. Eventually, the fighters were broken up due to inactivity, and a left hand from Turner found its mark. Gamrot secured one last takedown before time expired, but was unable to do much with it. 29-28 Gamrot.
WINNER: Mateusz Gamrot by split decision (29-28, 30-27, 28-29)
Gamrot took this fight on fairly short notice after Turner’s original opponent, Dan Hooker, was forced to withdraw from the fight due to a hand injury. Turner is a very dangerous fighter, who had stopped his five previous opponents coming into this fight, and that finishing ability was on display here against Gamrot, hurting him numerous times on the feet throughout the bout. The difference maker was Gamrot’s ability to take the fight to the ground, which he was able to do repeatedly throughout the bout. It was an extremely close fight, and honestly, I think you could make a compelling case to give each round to either fighter, but I gave the slightest edge to Gamrot here, as did two of the three judges. Gamrot now holds a record of 5-2 in the UFC, all against a very high level of competition.
GEOFF NEAL (15-4, 175) VS SHAVKAT RAKHMONOV (16-0, 171) – WELTERWEIGHT
Neal missed weight by 4lbs and was fined 30% of his purse.
Rakhmonov opened up with a head kick, and the fighters quickly started to wrestle in the clinch against the cage. Neal connected with a right hand as the fighters separated before Rakhmonov landed a strong pair of right hooks. Neal defended a trip attempted by Rakhmonov, and Rakhmonov landed a solid right hand on the break. The fighters traded jabs, and Neal snuck in a solid left hand. Both men attacked the body before a head kick from Rakhmonov stunned Neal. Neal recovered well, although he ate another hard right hand from Rakhmonov after a brief pause in the action as referee Herb Dean went on a journey around the cage to find Rakhmonov’s missing mouthpiece. Both fighters connected with heavy shots right before time expired.
A big knee to the body found its target for Rakhmonov, and he followed that up with a hard kick to the midsection. Rakhmonov brought Neal into the clinch against the cage, but Neal was able to defend his attempts to bring the fight to the ground. Neal landed a trio of heavy shots in the pocket, all shots that would have finished a number of other fighters. Rakhmonov continued to press forward, attacking the body with kicks, as Neal responded with heavy hooks whenever Rakhmonov got too close. This was a very entertaining round and a very close one, but I gave the edge to Rakhmonov, largely due to his bodywork.
The fighters traded kicks to begin the final round. Neal stumbled Rakhmonov with a short combination, and Rakhmonov attempted to wrap him up in the clinch to buy himself time to recover. Neal did a good job of shaking Rakhmonov off of him, but Rakhmonov did not need much time to recover and went back on the attack after they separated. A huge right hand from Rakhmonov hurt Neal badly, and the fighters started trading wildly as both fighters looked to secure the late finish. Despite being rocked, Neal was able to fend off another takedown attempt, but the damage to his body had added up by this point in the fight, and Rakhmonov was able to slip behind Neal, where he locked in a rear naked choke, forcing Neal to submit.
WINNER: Shavkat Rakhmonov by rear naked choke at 4:17 of Round 3
This was a tremendous fight. Neal’s takedown defense was fantastic throughout the bout, and as a result, the vast majority of the fight played out on the feet. Rakhmonov certainly had the more varied offense, and he was doing significant damage with body shots, but Geoff Neal was a game opponent, throwing absolute bombs Rakhmonov’s way, landing some shots that certainly would have felled most other fighters. This was Rakhmonov’s biggest win to date, and he will be perceived as a genuine contender in the division coming out of this one. He is now 17-0 professionally, with seventeen finishes, and on top of that, he’s one of the most exciting fighters in the division. In his post-fight interview. Rakhmonov called for a title fight or a bout against Colby Covington.
VALENTINA SHEVCHENKO (23-3, 124.5) VS ALEXA GRASSO (15-3, 124.5) – UFC FLYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
Shevchenko looked sharp on the feet early, landing numerous kicks to the body while stepping in with the occasional right hand. The fighters exchanged jabs, and a pair of heavy left hands from Grasso got a big reaction from the crowd. Grasso pulled ahead of Shevchenko on the strike count as the round progressed, although the biggest strikes seemed to belong to Shevchenko, aside from Grasso’s big left hands. Both fighters secured takedowns towards the end of what was a very close round. 10-9 Grasso.
Shevchenko changed levels and took Grasso to the ground in the opening seconds of round two. Shevchenko worked her way into side control, before trapping Grasso in the crucifix position. It was a dangerous position, but Grasso was able to escape to her feet with just over two minutes remaining in the round. The fighters traded right hands in the pocket, before Shevchenko returned the fight to the ground, maintaining top position until time expired.
Grasso was having success trading hands with Shevchenko, landing the harder punches whenever the fighters exchanged. Grasso defended a pair of takedowns from Shevchenko, but the third one grounded her, and Shevchenko took top position with half of the round to work. Shevchenko was eventually stood up, much to the displeasure of Joe Rogan, and honestly, I thought it was a poor stand-up as well. Shevchenko just took Grasso right back to the ground as the fight resumed, and ended the round in top position.
Grasso stuffed Shevchenko’s first takedown attempt of the fourth round, keeping the fight on the feet. By this point in the fight, Shevchenko was not as eager to stand and trade with Grasso as she was in the earlier rounds, and Grasso did not want to overcommit to her attack and be taken down either. Both fighters defended takedown attempts before Shevchenko started to work her jab to great effect. Shevchenko attempted a spinning back kick, and Grasso used the opportunity to climb up the back of Shevchenko, where she quickly locked in a rear naked choke, forcing Shevchenko to submit.
WINNER: Alexa Grasso by rear naked choke at 4:34 of Round 4 to win the UFC Flyweight Championship
Wow. Valentina Shevchenko has had a phenomenal run since moving down to flyweight and was naturally a sizeable favorite going into this fight. Grasso is not a fighter who has recorded many finishes, and is more known for her boxing ability than her submission skills, so for her to submit Valentina Shevchenko here, who has never been submitted in her career, was quite the shocking outcome. I thought this was a very strong performance from Grasso, who gave Shevchenko significant trouble on the feet, and just when it started to feel like Shevchenko was pulling ahead of her, Grasso sunk in the rear naked choke, ending the fight. In all likelihood, the immediate rematch will be booked, and I imagine Shevchenko will still go into that fight as a significant favorite, but Grasso is now the division’s champion, and there is as much intrigue around the flyweight title picture as there has ever been.
JON JONES (26-1, 248) VS CIRYL GANE (11-1, 247.5) – UFC HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
Jones was immediately caught by a low blow, resulting in a short pause in the action while he was given time to recover. Jones controlled the center of the octagon, pressuring forward as he backed Gane into the cage. Jones took the back of Gane on the feet before dragging him down to the ground. Gane attempted to use the cage to make it back to his feet, but Jones countered with a guillotine choke, forcing Gane to tap out.
WINNER: Jon Jones by guillotine choke at 2:04 of Round 1 to win the UFC Heavyweight Championship
After a three-year layoff, Jones made his return to the sport in spectacular fashion here, quickly submitting Ciryl Gane to win the UFC Heavyweight Champion in his divisional debut. There is not much to take away from the fight as it was such a short one, but Jones was clearly confident going into this fight, and that confidence was apparent in the cage, pressuring forward without the fear that has frozen so many of Gane’s previous opponents. Gane’s losses against Jones and Francis Ngannou have displayed a clear hole in his game on the ground, and that’s something that he’ll need to work on before facing a wrestler on the level of Jones again, but he remains levels above the rest of the division on the feet and will remain one of the top contenders at heavyweight. Jones joined the short list of fighters to hold UFC titles in two divisions with this win, and will likely face Stipe Miocic next, in what will certainly be a huge fight for the UFC.