Thiago Santos vs. Jon Jones Full Fight UFC 239 Part 1
- Posted on May 02, 2020
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A wonky knee may have kept us from seeing one of the biggest upsets in the history of mixed martial arts Saturday night.
As is, Thiago Santos came one round away on one judge’s card from handing UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones the first legitimate loss of his professional career.
Santos (21-6 MMA, 13-5 UFC) peppered Jones (25-1 MMA, 18-1 UFC) with leg kicks, but appeared to blow out his left knee in doing so. Still, a game Santos hung with the competitor many consider the greatest male MMA fighter of all-time in the main event of UFC 239 before dropping a split decision
The judges’ scores in the main event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas were all 48-47, with two of those going in Jones’ favor for a split decision.
“Oh my goodness, boy was he tough,” Jones said in his post-fight interview. “Thiago, we all know his best chance of winning this fight was by knockout. I played it smart, and I brought home the gold for my family and my team.“
Santos served notice early by blistering Jones with kicks to the thigh and calf, wobbling Jones more than once and causing him to switch stances.
The Brazilian challenger was a clear-cut winner of the opening round, and Jones appeared in for his biggest firefight since his famed 2012 war with Alexander Gustafsson. But on his first kick of the second round, Santos’ knee buckled, which altered the complexion of the fight.
Jones picked things up the second round and began mixing up his strikes. He also clearly respected his foe’s power, and never put the pedal to the medal in true vintage Jones fashion.
By the third, a nasty welt appeared on Jones’ left thigh. But he was answered with kicks of his own, and Santos, despite his obvious injury, also continued to throw kicks. Jones landed his most significant strike of the fight in the round, as an elbow to the head opened a cut on Jones’ hairline.
The championship rounds turned into a grueling battle of attrition. The leg kicks had clearly slowed both fighters. Each picked their spots. Jones threw in higher volume. Santos landed his shots harder. Santos showed urgency in the fifth round, but Jones’ defense stayed stout in a bout which never had mat exchanges and he held on to retain his crown.
“He was just technically a lot more sound than I thought,” Jones said. “Thiago is a black belt in muay Thai. I’m proud of myself for standing there with him.”
Santos, through an interpreter, acknowledged the injury but refused to make excuses.
“In the beginning of the first round, something went out,” Santos said. Something in my knee went out. But there’s no whining – it is what it is.”
Jones, who fought for the third time in just over six months, has now won 16 consecutive fights since his controversial 2009 disqualification in a bout against Matt Hamill. It was the first split decision win in Jones’ career. Santos had a four-fight win streak snapped.