The history of combat sports is littered with broken promises. So when Jon Jones said he would make his UFC 285 main event contest opposite Ciryl Gane look “surprisingly easy,” I had doubts about that claim.
The reasons for those doubts? Jones hadn’t fought in over three years. He hadn’t looked great in his wins over Thiago Santos in 2019 and Dominick Reyes in 2020. He was facing a true heavyweight in Ciryl Gane. There was no benchmark to judge a heavyweight Jones against as he hadn’t established a baseline in that weight division.
Help build the new BE!
Bloody Elbow is transitioning away from Vox Media, and relaunching as an independent, reader-supported website. Keep independent MMA journalism alive by subscribing to #TheNewBloodyElbow.
It took the former UFC light heavyweight champion 124 seconds to deliver on his pre-fight promise. as he scored a takedown and secured a guillotine choke to win the vacant UFC heavyweight title. Did he make it look surprisingly easy? He did.
Alexa Grasso scored a more surprising victory in the evening’s co-main event. For a woman who came across as unsure if she wanted a title fight against UFC women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko following her win over Viviane Araujo in October, Grasso did not look bothered by the spotlight or overwhelmed by the moment.
Unlike Jones, Grasso did not have an easy go of things, but her ability to seize upon a rare mistake gave her the win and the flyweight title. In submitting Shevchenko in the fourth round, Grasso ended her opponent’s nine-fight winning streak, becoming the first woman ever to force Shevchenko to tap.
Also on the UFC 285 pay-per-view card, Shavkat Rakhmonov kept his run of UFC wins via stoppage alive with a nasty submission win over Geoff Neal and Bo Nickal increased the hype around his MMA career with a submission win of his own against Jamie Pickett.
UFC 285 took place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The main card streamed on ESPN+ pay-per-view following prelims on ESPNews and early prelims on ESPN+. Read on for the winners and losers from the event.
Jon Jones: Well, he said he was going to make it look easy and he did. Jon Jones returned to action after more than three years away from the octagon and at a higher weight and just ran through Ciryl Gane, securing a takedown and a sneaky guillotine choke that brought a quick tap from the former interim UFC heavyweight champ.
Did Jones answer every question we had about him at heavyweight? No, but he answered many of them. The rest of those questions could be out to rest if Jones faces former champion Stipe Miocic in his first UFC heavyweight title defense.
Stipe Miocic: The former UFC heavyweight champ hasn’t fought since he lost that title to Francis Ngannou in March 2021. With Jones winning the belt at UFC 285 and Francis Ngannou out of the picture, it looks like Miocic will get the first shot at removing Jones from the top of the UFC heavyweight division.
Alexa Grasso: Alexa Grasso had a good first round opposite Valentina Shevchenko, scoring with her boxing in the first round of the co-main event of UFC 285. However, Shevchenko, who has shown herself to be a smart and patient fighter who can adjust in the heat of battle, did just that, exploiting Grasso’s suspect takedown defense.
Unfortunately for Shevchenko, Grasso was able to take advantage of Shevchenko missing a spinning back kick. With Shevchenko out of position, Grasso quickly took her back and looked for a rear naked choke, ending the fight — and Shevchenko’s title reign — in the fourth round.
Geoff Neal vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov: Geoff Neal and Shavkat Rakhmonov put on a splendid catchweight contest. Neal, who came in at 175 pounds for the scheduled welterweight scrap, showcased his boxing skills, hurting Rakhmonov more than once. Meanwhile, Rakhmonov mixed up his striking techniques, picking apart his opponent with head strikes and body blows while at the same time displaying a sturdy chin.
With his late third-round submission win, Rakhmonov scored his fifth consecutive finish during his five-fight UFC career. At 28, Rakhmonov looks as if he is ready to face the top five of the 170-pound division.
Mateusz Gamrot vs. Jalin Turner: Mateusz Gamrot took a chance in accepting a short notice fight against Jalin Turner and it paid off for him as he took a split decision win. The victory was a bounce-back performance following a loss to Beneil Dariush in October.
As for Turner, his five-fight winning streak came to an end on Saturday night.
This was a good fight. Turner used his length when the bout took place at range, while Gamrot shined when he could close distance, pick up takedowns, and work on the mat.
Bo Nickal: Is Bo Nickal ready for ranked UFC competition? Looking at his performance at UFC 285, his two previous Dana White Contender Series victories and the depth of the UFC middleweight division, the answer is yes.
Cody Garbrandt: Cody Garbrandt fought smart in the first two rounds against Trevin Jones, but by no means did he live up to the hype that Joe Rogan piled on him during the broadcast, especially since Jones landed a total of nine significant strikes throughout the first 10 minutes of this bantamweight fight.
I wouldn’t say Garbrandt is ready to face a ranked opponent in his next outing, but at this point in his career, the 31-year-old former UFC champ needed a win. He got that at UFC 285. That’s not nothing.
Dricus Du Plessis: The 29-year-old Dricus Du Plessis added another win over a sliding middleweight on Saturday when he stopped Derek Brunson at the end of the second round. Du Plessis has wins over Brad Tavares, Darren Till and now Brunson since July 2022. This was a significant victory for Du Plessis since Brunson was the No. 5 fighter in the official UFC middleweight rankings ahead of UFC 285.
I’m still unsure of the upside of Du Plessis, but with his win at UFC 285, we should get an idea of just how high he can climb in his next fight, which should come against an opponent inside the top five.
Derek Brunson’s corner: With things going against their fighter at the end of the second round of his bout opposite Dricus du Plessis, Derek Brunson’s corner threw in the towel. This doesn’t happen nearly enough in MMA. It should happen more.
Amanda Ribas: Amanda Ribas had a rough first round against her UFC 285 flyweight opponent, Viviane Araújo, but she bounced back with a knockdown early in the second stanza and then proceeded to dominate the entire round on the ground. Ribas’ confidence increased in the third stanza, where she was more active in her striking and also pushed the pace of the contest.
When the fight ended, Ribas earned the victory, which should be an incredible boost to her standing in the flyweight division, considering Araújo entered the contest as the No. 8 ranked fighter in the official UFC flyweight rankings.
Marc-André Barriault: Marc-André Barriault is known for his pressure and pace. The Canadian fighter did not use much forward motion in the first round of his matchup with Julian Marquez. Instead, he allowed Marquez to dictate the pace of the fight. That was a wise decision because that approach emptied Marquez’s gas tank.
Barriault put the gas pedal to the floor to start the second round and took over the fight, pushing the pace and creating openings that led to the knockout win.
Ian Garry: Ian Garry is a young, confident fighter with good offensive skills. What he lacks — and he hasn’t shown any progress in this department since he made his UFC debut in 2021 — is defense. Nevertheless, Garry did what he was supposed to do against Song Kenan, who was coming off a first-round knockout loss against Max Griffin, stopping the fight in the third round via strikes.
After allowing Song to score a knockdown with a big left hook, Garry went through a rough patch in the first round. Will that be the wake-up call the 25-year-old needs to work on his defense? Because, let’s be honest, he needs to work on his defense if he hopes to rise up the welterweight ranks.
Tabatha Ricci: Tabatha Ricci dominated Jessica Penne on her way to earning her first stoppage win under the UFC banner. Ricci and her team had a good game plan for the strawweight fight and executed well on the way to the second-round armbar win, which put her on a three-fight UFC winning streak.
Loik Radzhabov: Loik Radzhabov took his fight against Esteban Ribovics on short notice and that fact became obvious late in the second round when his cardio faded. However, the 32-year-old did enough throughout the lightweight contest to get the unanimous decision win (29-28 x 3). Much of Radzhabov’s success came thanks to the fact that he rang up 11 takedowns on 21 attempts.
Radzhabov looked good early, but he faded late. So with that, the jury remains out on his potential until we see what he looks like with a full camp under his belt.
Ciryl Gane: It’s hard to see where Ciryl Gane goes from here. He’s clearly a talented fighter, but two title fight losses in a little more than a year will keep him from another shot at the belt for some time. And don’t think future opponents won’t look at the fact that he only defended one of seven takedown attempts combined against Jon Jones and Francis Ngannou.
Valentina Shevchenko: For a fighter known for not making many mistakes, Shevchenko made a costly error at UFC 285, throwing a spinning back kick that missed and failing to return to position. With that, the long-reigning champ found herself in a terrible situation, with Grasso on her back searching for a rear-naked choke, which ended Shevchenko’s title reign 4:34 into Round 4.
Trevin Jones: A late replacement for Julio Arce against Cody Garbrandt, Trevin Jones, who was on a three-fight losing skid, only landed nine strikes in the first two rounds of this bantamweight fight. He picked things up in the third round and seemingly hurt his opponent during the final five minutes. However, his offense was too little, too late and Jones lost his fourth straight UFC contest.
Derek Brunson: Derek Brunson’s days as the middleweight gatekeeper might have come to an end with the way his fight opposite Dricus Du Plessis came to an end on Saturday.
Julian Marquez: Julian Marquez was not as fast as Marc-André Barriault with his striking in the opening round of their middleweight fight. However, he found gaps that allowed him to connect with more power. In the early going, Marquez refused to allow Barriault to dictate the pace and location of the fight. Unfortunately, he could not sustain that early pace in the second round and when Marquez’s cardio began to wane, he became sloppy and allowed openings that Barriault exploited before he finished the fight with an onslaught against the fence.
Cameron Saaiman: Cameron Saaiman looks like a good young fighter, but damn, his propensity for committing fouls — two low blows and an eye poke in his fight opposite Leomana Martinez — and an illegal knee in his UFC debut, is an enormous concern.
Jessica Penne: The 40-year-old Jessica Penne had no answer for Tabitha Ricci. During the fight, which ended with Ricci securing a second-round submission win, Penne let her opponent dictate everything about the contest. With the loss, Penne is 0-2 in her past two outings and she could find herself outside looking in when the UFC goes through its next roster culling.
Esteban Ribovics: Esteban Ribovics showed resiliency and power in his fight against Loik Radzhabov. What he didn’t display was an ability to stop takedowns. If Ribovics, who made his UFC debut on Saturday, doesn’t get favorable matchups or shore up his takedown defense, his run with the promotion could be short.
Jon Anik: In the early moments of the UFC 285 broadcast, Jon Anik mentioned that Jon Jones and Ciryl Gane were fighting for the undisputed heavyweight title. C’mon now. As long as Francis Ngannou is around, that title should be all kinds of disputed.
Source : BloodyElbow