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Jon Jones’ coach confident in champ’s victory over Dominick Reyes, welcomes chance to prepare for rematch

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Mike Winkeljohn didn’t doubt for a second that Dominick Reyes was a worthy challenge to UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.

Despite being a sizable underdog going into the UFC 246 main event, Reyes gave Jones everything he could handle. In the end, judges agreed that Jones earned a unanimous decision victory, though there were more than a few dissenting opinions that Reyes deserved the nod.

Winkeljohn concedes the fight was close. But he is confident Jones did enough to earn the victory to retain the belt.

“We lost the first round,” Winkeljohn said in an interview with MMA Fighting on Monday. “The second round I thought we edged. The third round, we might not have got that round. I honestly had [rounds] 2, 4 and 5. I think 2 and 3 were really close.

“You never know with judges. I was telling Jon to keep up the pressure, the pressure’s working. Keep working the body. Keep working those legs. Keep doing what you’re doing and try to break this kid. Of course, I wanted the takedown, too, but Dominick was just an incredible athlete. He’s so good at what he does.

“I just wanted Jon to keep gassing the kid out because he’s known for his endurance and I believe it worked out that way. Jon just kept going, dug down deep and it was an awesome fight.”

Winkeljohn said Reyes really impressed him over the course of five rounds as he came after Jones with everything in his arsenal.

“I won’t lie, when he hit Jon with a punch that put him down [in the first round], Dominick’s back was to me and I said, ‘Oh sh*t’,” Winkeljohn said. “I honestly thought he hit him in the chin, because my view was blocked. Of course, I found out that wasn’t the case, but all in all, he came out guns blazing.

“Greg [Jackson] actually said, ‘He’s coming out hard, you can tell by his posture.’ Greg’s real smart with stuff like that. We knew he was going to come out guns blazing and he did. That kid’s got such a bright future.”

While Reyes deserves all the credit for his performance, Jones’ longtime striking coach sees no controversy in the decision. He just hears a number of loud people making noise, but there’s no doubt in his mind that Jones did his job and deserved to leave the Octagon with his title intact.

“You hear from the ones that disagree,” Winkeljohn said. “The ones that agree don’t get online and start talking. When you’re on top, they want to see them fall. Jon is constantly breaking somebody down, hitting them to the body, hitting them to the legs, whatever the case is, and he always does that, but as soon as he gets hit — ‘Oh my god, the champ just got hit!’

“So emotions get involved, we have to deal with a little bit of that. It’s also styles. Like I said, I know Jon won that fight and he dug down deep to do so because Dominick is that damn good.”

Immediately after the fight was finished, there were plenty of calls for an immediate rematch. Both Jones and Reyes said they are open to the idea if the UFC wants it.

Nothing has been decided yet, but Winkeljohn relishes the chance to help Jones get ready for a second fight against Reyes. After all, “Bones” has fared very well in past rematches with Alexander Gustafsson and Daniel Cormier, and the coach sees no reason to believe he wouldn’t do the same against Reyes when they meet again.

“There’s no doubt about that,” Winkeljohn answered when asked if he expected Jones to face Reyes again in the future. “Jon likes rematches. Jon is a student of the game. We would all put our heads together, but at the end of the day, Jon sits down and says, ‘This wasn’t good, this is what he can do,’ and he’ll be even more motivated. Just like [Alexander] Gustafsson where you saw his performance was totally different.

“It’s not that he took anybody light, but he’s just so smart at making those small adjustments that are needed. Us as a team, we’ll try to help out as well.”

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