Jon Jones ended a three-year sabbatical from the UFC, moved up to its highest weight class and emphatically won the heavyweight belt Saturday night with a first-round submission over Ciryl Gane.
The 35-year-old Jones took Gane to the mat just a little more into the round and won with a guillotine choke at 2:04 in UFC 285.
“I’m so excited,” Jones said. “I’ve been working for this for a long time. People thought I wasn’t coming back. I’m been faithful to my goal, faithful to my mission.”
For Jones, this was his first fight in three years and his first in the heavyweight division. The former light heavyweight champion is regarded as UFC’s greatest fighter.
Jones, however, wanted to prove he could be just as successful at the highest weight, and that for sure would erase any remaining doubts about his place in history.
The swiftness of this victory cemented that legacy.
There were questions about whether so much time off would affect Jones’ effectiveness, and he spent time at his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to prepare for this night. His last fight was on February 8, 2020, in a unanimous decision over Dominick Reyes.
“I had to show up and get him down to the ground,” Jones said. “I have been wrestling since I was 12 years. I feel stronger than ever. Once I got him in my hands, I know I could take control.”
The victory extended Jones’ record unbeaten streak to 19 in a row, and he improved to 27-1 with one no-contest.
Jones said he next wants Stipe Miocic, who is the second-ranked contender and who Jones called the greatest heavyweight ever.
France’s Ciryl Gane, 32, was the top-ranked heavyweight contender. His record dropped to 11-2.
In the co-main event in a women’s bout, sixth-ranked Alexa Grasso (16-3) of Mexico submitted champion Valentina Shevchenko (23-4) Kyrgyzstan by 4:34 at of the fourth round to capture the belt.
“I feel like this is a dream,” Grasso said. “I’ve dreamed of this moment.”
Shevchenko, 34, had won her previous eight title matches and was in control of this one through three rounds by dictating the action and repeatedly taking Grasso to the floor.
Grasso, however, got Shevchenko to the mat late in the fourth when the now-former champ went for a back kick. Then Grasso, 29, put Shevchenko in a position where she was forced to tap out.
Middleweight Bo Nickal, 27, won his UFC debut, submitting Jamie Pickett, 34 by arm triangle at 2:54 of the first round. Nickal won three NCAA wrestling championships at Penn State. He moved to 4-0 overall; Pickett is 13-9.
Scenes of the remake of the 1989 movie “Road House” were shot in between action in the octagon, with actor Jake Gyllenhaal portraying an MMA fighter.
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