On Saturday, April 22, 2016, the UFC showcased two title fights with Jon Jones (21-1) vs. Ovince Saint Preux (19-7) for the interim UFC Light-Heavyweight Championship and men’s flyweight kingpin Demetrious Johnson (23-2-1) defending his strap against Olympic gold medalist wrestler and No. 2 contender Henry Cejudo (10-0), live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

Also featured on the main card was former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis vs. No. 8 Edson Barboza, Ultimate Fighter: Smashes-winner and No. 8 middleweight Robert Whitaker vs. No. 13 Rafael Natal, and last but not least rising stars Yair Rodríguez and Andre Fili, who opened up the Pay-Per-View (PPV) in a featherweight bout.

Jones was coming off a 15-month layoff, with us last seeing him defend the 205-lbs belt opposite Daniel Comier in a five-round, yet one sided, war. He was subsequently stripped of his title after his involvement in a hit-and-run, and other legal troubles. Originally scheduled to rematch Cormier, who was pulled from the card due to injury and is the current UFC Lightheavyweight Champion, Jones faced No. 6 OSP who is coming off a unanimous decision win over former Strikeforce champion Feijao Cavalcante.

Saint Preux has overall had mixed success in the last couple of years and was the highest ranking opponent available on last minute who had not been previously bested by Jones or also coming off a loss (No. 2 Anthony Johnson was the presumptive choice however a recent procedure rendered him unavailable). Nonetheless, he is a formidable opponent and can present challenges to the former champion, who will had his first significant test with ring rust.

Making his eighth-straight title defense, Johnson looked to further cement his legacy as one of the greatest fighters in history, even if no one is watching, with a test the likes of which few champions inside the Octagon have had to face. Cejudo brings to the table the highest level of wrestling credentials possible, but has had weight issues in the past and that could have a major impact in later rounds. Either way, this may just be the fight that puts the flyweights on the map.

Also on the card is a marquee preliminary flyweight bout between No. 14 Sergio Pettis (13-2) and unheralded Chris Kelades (9-2), and a women’s strawweight bout featuring former champion and No. 2-contender Carla Esparza and No. 14 Juliana Lima.

MAIN CARD SUMMARY

Yair Rodríguez vs. Andre Fili

Round 1: Yair spent the first part of the round using his kicks to control distance and set the pace. The second half of the round, save the end, was spent with Yair in top position trying to land strikes, but to his credit Fili stayed active from the bottom and rallied at the end. Unfortunately it was not enough to take back the round. 10-9 Rodriguez.

Round 2: After some light exchange, Yair gets a takedown almost a minute into the round, but lets up after less than a minute and not much damage landed. After the stand up, it’s only a matter of time before Yair finds a home for his left knee lands on Fili’s face and the ref calls it a night. Spectacular knockout performance by Yair Rodriguez.

Robert Whittaker vs. Rafael Natal

Round 1: Nearly the entire round spent on the feet, Whittaker managed to land a little more often, but Natal did damage to Whittaker’s left leg. After four minutes of tactical back and forth, a flurry of exchanges ensued in the closing minute with Natal being dropped and rocked at least once, and entering his corner at the bell on shaky legs. 10-9 Whittaker.

Round 2: Whittaker came out more aggressive at the start, likely trying to capitalize on his success at the end of the previous round. The assault did not pay off as intended, as Natal weathered the storm and began finding a home for his right leg kick. By the halfway point in the round, Whittaker had visibly slowed down, but was still able to land first, and land often. 10-9 Whittaker.

Round 3: Another leg kick by Natal opens up the third round, but an accidental groin strike by Whittaker puts a quick pause to the action. Natal doesn’t spend much time recovering before they begin again. He spends the next several exchanges making it his go to move again, but Whittaker seems to have wised up, at least a bit, and begins switching his stance more often. As the round progressed Whittaker begins to land some leg kicks of his own, although not nearly as damaging. Natal is beginning to wear more, and is coming up short in these exchanges more often than not. Whittaker by contrast seems to be landing with ease, and has his range dialed in perfect. Most of his strikes don’t carry much power, but the volume is scoring big, and he’s putting a lot into the overhead left he keeps throwing and having mixed success with. Natal starts to land big again with his leg kicks in the last minute, but Whittaker presses forward drops Natal with a headkick in the last few seconds, but is unable to finish and Natal fully recovers before the bell. 10-9 Whittaker.

Anthony Pettis vs. Edson Barboza

Round 1: This fight was hyped as a war between two exciting stand up fighters, and it did not disappoint from the get go. Barboza displayed his speed and blooded up Pettis early. Two hard left hooks clearly cracked Pettis, but he was overall unhindered and was able to return a body kick in kind and attempted a showtime style kick at the end. 10-9 Barboza.

Round 2: Barboza found a home for that left hook early, but Pettis definitely found his range better. While Baroza threw more volume, he seemed to have lost a half step and wasn’t landing as well. Pettis did well early with a knee and his one-two. A failed takedown attempt in late in the round did not help, but he closed out with some more showtime action. Close to call, but 10-9 Pettis.

Round 3: No time was wasted by Barboza this time before he landed big on Pettis’s left leg. A possible groing shot on Pettis paused the action, but only briefly and Barboza went right back to work on that leg, and follow up big with a body kick. Pettis tried to rally in this last stanza, but Barboza was able to shut him down at every turn and continue torturing that same leg. Pretty clear who took this one. 10-9 Barboza.

Demetrious Johnson (c) vs. Henry Cejudo

Round 1: This one was over just as it got started. It was clear early on the clinch would be where this fight was going to take place, and during the first one DJ showed his speed landing a right hand in the break. During the second clinch, Cejudo showed by he’s the Olympic gold medalist, but DJ responded by showing why he’s the UFC champion and quickly recovered to his feet. Both wasted no time getting back in the clinch, but this is where DJ showed his experience, skill and fight IQ, as he did a better job of keeping his balance while landing several unanswered knees with speed and accuracy before cracking Cejudo good and going in for the kill. Quick work, and he barely broke a sweat.

Jon Jones vs. Ovince Saint Preux

Round 1: Both fighters came out showing each other respect, but not so much they didn’t engage. Early on OSP was able to land a big leg kick, but Jones landed several kicks of his own. The leg kicks would give OSP some success, but not enough to over come the mixed bag of tricks from Jones. The round closed with a solid knee and clinch by Jones. 10-9 Jones.

Round 2: No time wasted getting into action. Jones was finding a good home for his leg kicks, but OSP slipped a few jabs in. A clinch halfway through showed why Jones is who is he, landing with knees, elbows, and the kitchen sink. OSP had more success later in the round, getting his 1-2 combo in several times, but not often enough to slow the leg kick onslaught from Jones. Close round, but Jones was more active. 10-9 Jones.

Round 3: The damage from the previous round start to take their toll on OSP, as he started to slow down and throw less at the midway point of the fight. Lack of preparation time may play a role, but those leg kicks have to hurt either way. Jones by contrast is getting more comfortable as the fight progresses, and begins to execute flawlessly an onslaught of precision body kicks. OSP did seem to find his footing better at the close of the round, but Jones isn’t likely to be any less active in the next round. 10-9 Jones.

Round 4: OSP’s second wind kicked in just in time, but it wasn’t clear early on if that would be enough. A takedown by Jones proved it would be, as he quickly recovered and was visibly looser in his movement, as the commentators also noted. He didn’t have much success, as Jones pressed the action and got OSP’s back against the cage where he more easily got another takedown. This time OSP would not get up as easily. Jones works his way to side control and begins to land several unanswered elbows before working into a submission attempt which allowed enough space for OSP to attempt an escape. Jones would stay on him and keep the fight on the ground before working to his back and landing big shots. The round would close with Jones dropping a barrage of punishment on the still lucid OSP. 10-9 Jones.

Round 5: OSP showed what heart is, as he still stayed engaged in the fight despite getting out struck at every turn. Jones landed a big takedown, but allowed it to be stood back up. The second half of this round is the first time Jones started to look tired, but not enough to help OSP turn the tide. The round closes out with little action, and despite a lack of a finish, it was clear who was the winner. The commentator’s mention how OSP will get a “rub” in his career from fighting Jones, and that he’ll go on to be bigger and better because of the fight. I would agree, as he did just as well as of those who came before him, and he’s only going to get better from here.

FULL RESULTS

MAIN CARD

Light Heavyweight – Jon Jones defeats Ovince Saint Preux via unanimous decision (50-44, 50-45, 50-45) for the interim UFC Light-Heavyweight Championship
Flyweight – Demetrious Johnson (c) defeats Henry Cejudo via technical knockout (strikes) at 2:49 of Round 1 for the UFC Flyweight Championship
Lightweight – Edson Barboza defeats Anthony Pettis via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Middleweight – Robert Whittaker defeats Rafael Natal via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Featherweight – Yair Rodríguez defeats Andre Fili via knockout (flying head kick) 2:15 of Round 2

TELEVISED PRELIMINARY CARD

Flyweight  -Sergio Pettis defeats Chris Kelades via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Welterweight – Danny Roberts defeats Dominique Steele via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Women’s Strawweight – Carla Esparza defeats Juliana Lima via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Lightweight – James Vick defeats Glaico França via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)

FIGHT PASS PRELIMINARY CARD

Heavyweight – Walt Harris defeats Cody East via technical knockout (strikes) at 4:18 of Round 1
Light Heavyweight – Marcos Rogério de Lima defeats Clint Hester via submission (arm-triangle choke) at 4:35 of Round 1
Lightweight – Kevin Lee defeats Efrain Escudero via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

About The Author

Justin Fuller
Associate Editor/Senior Writer

Justin Fuller is a writer, broadcaster, and political analyst. With a background in sports talk radio, he now runs his own podcast, "The Fuller Fight Factor LIVE."