UFC 239: Jon Jones retains light-heavyweight title after narrow split decision win against Thiago Santos

JON JONES retained his UFC light-heavyweight title after overcoming a dangerous and resilient one-legged Thiago Santos.

The pound for pound king was taken to the wire and needed a big push in the championship rounds, just like he did against Alexander Gustafsson in 2013.

Jon Jones defeated Thiago Santos on points to retain the UFC light-heavyweight title
The fight was won on a tight split-decision in Las Vegas

After a nervy start Jones was able to land his creative kicks while an injury to Santos’ leg derailed the challengers gameplan.

After going the distance for the second fight in a row, Jones said: “Oh my goodness. Boy was he tough.

“I had to play it smart. He was technically a lot more sound than I thought.

“He’s been doing kickboxing way longer than me.”

Brazilian Santos come out of the blocks early smashing Jones’ legs with powerful kicks while he had the champion hesitating due to the power in his hands.

Santos pushed forward with heavy hooks with one causing Jones’ mouthpiece to fall out as the underdog’s power was on display.

In the second round the usually creative Jones looked nervy to make the first move as Santos’ explosive power was evidently leaving the champion second guessing.

But the challenger’s rhythm was halted after a missed leg kick caused instant injury that would disarm Santos of his greatest asset.

Jones took advantage of the injury by pressing forward even causing Santos to trip over after a body kick proved too much for the one legged challenger to take.

Despite working with a damaged leg Santos continued to throw kicks and charge forward with hooks, though Jones was able to telegraph the attacks.

The champion sprung into life midway into the third as a short, sharp elbow to the temple had Santos on the floor.

Looking for a finish Jones attempted an audacious flying knee, but unlike Jorge Masvidal’s five second KO against Ben Askren on the undercard, the champion was unable to connect.

The start of the championship rounds saw Jones take most control, aided by the fact Santos’ refusal to stop throwing leg kicks despite a blown out knee.

As the pace of the fight slowed down Jones was able to control the action with leg and body kicks as Santos was struggling to even stand up straight.

However, Santos refused to be denied and in the final round charged at Jones in an attempt to find one slashing hook to write his name in the history books.

The challenger caught “Bones” with a high kick and followed up with a left hand as the Brazilian’s explosive power refused to run out.

Needing to convince the judges Jones never stopped hacking away at Santos’ legs and body with kicks but the challenger was determined to push forward.

Santos took an early lead after looking dangerous with leg kicks and slashing hooks

As the bell went both men raised their hands and unlike most Jones fights, there was no air of inevitability the champion would be walking away with his belt.

But Jones’ consistent kicking mixed in with some eye catching elbows looked to have been enough to cancel out Santos’ moments of power and explosiveness.

Despite Santos receiving the verdict on one judges cards, Jones moved to 25-1-1 and looked, for once, human in the octagon.

The pair embrace after a closely fought title fight at UFC 239


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