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Cathy Chang AASN-Sports
05/24/6:00 AM CT
For the first time in over a year, Jon Jones is a champion again. It was far from his best, but a rusty Jones was more than enough to overcome replacement opponent Ovince Saint Preux to capture an interim light heavyweight title in the main event of UFC 197 on Saturday in Las Vegas. At the end of five rounds, that at times resembled a high-level sparring match more than a Vegas prizefight, it was Jones who came out on top via unanimous decision.
For many, just seeing Jones receive the ritual introduction from ring announcer Bruce Buffer after 477 days away from the Octagon was a victory in and of itself: When the action started, it was evident that Jones and Saint Preux weren't going to rush into anything; Jones due to the unorthodox style of Saint Preux, and Saint Preux seemingly aware of the stakes of his first title fight.
The fighters opened up in the second round, with OSP landing a right hand that briefly shook up Jones, and Jones hurting Saint Preux with kicks of the low and high variety: The championship rounds belonged to Jones as he got his hands on a fading Saint Preux to land a pair of mat-shaking slams. It looked like Jones might finish with ground-and-pound at the end of the fourth, but Saint Preux hung on and survived until the final bell.
Despite blanking Saint Preux on the scorecards, Jones apologized to the audience for not delivering a more spectacular performance. He also reminded everyone that his eye remains on the undisputed title: The subdued celebration belied what had to feel like a triumph for Jones, who was stripped of his title last April and suspended indefinitely by the UFC.
Even after his reinstatement earlier this year, Jones' comeback was put in jeopardy by a traffic incident that threatened to send him to prison for violating his probation. The probation situation was resolved with Jones not serving any further jail time, but the UFC 197 main event had to be rejigged after light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier was forced out with an injury.
Saint Preux agreed to take the fight on short notice. Jones' win streak now stands at 13, good for second place all time behind his idol, Anderson Silva (16). Jones also won his 10th title fight, putting him in third behind Silva (11) and Georges St-Pierre (12).
by Alexander K. Lee Apr 23, 11:53 PM