UFC Pay-Per-View events are always packed with big fights and storylines to watch and UFC 197 is no different.
But the return of the pound-for-pound king Jon Jones (21-1), one of the most dominant fighters in the history of combat sports, deserves its own special section. Jones’ return is the No. 1 reason to watch UFC 197 Saturday night.
“Bones” has won 12 straight times in the Octagon – nine of those wins were in championship fights (eight defenses). Jones’ lone loss was a controversial disqualification against Matt Hamill back in 2009 as the New York native landed an illegal elbow from top position on Hamill, who was moments away from being finished.
The scary part about Jones’ return is that he’s re-dedicated himself to training and physical fitness. After just getting by on pure talent and athleticism in his first UFC run, the former champ is sober and looks to be in the best shape of his life after more than a year away following a suspension.
RELATED UFC 197 CONTENT: UFC 197 Countdown - Jones vs. Saint Preux & Johnson vs. Cejudo | UFC 197 Embedded - Episode 1 | Meet Cody East from latest episode of "Dana White: Lookin' for a Fight" | UFC 197 - Inside the Octagon
Not the best situation for Ovince Saint Preux (19-7), who stepped up on short notice to take Daniel Cormier’s place. He will fight for the interim light heavyweight title against Jones and is approaching the fight with a positive attitude because of the opportunity.
Jones received his opportunity to fight for the title against Shogun Rua earlier in his career, and OSP is hoping to follow in Bones’ footsteps.
Rest of the main card
Despite his penchant for flying under the radar, there’s no doubt Demetrious Johnson (22-2-1) is one of the best fighters on the planet and one of the most dominant champions in UFC history.
He has taken out every single flyweight that’s been put in front of him and now has set his sights on Anderson Silva’s all-time title defense record. Three more successful defenses will tie him with “The Spider.”
Johnson faces Olympic wrestling gold medalist Henry Cejudo, who has put together a perfect 10-0 MMA record since starting in the sport (4-0 in the UFC). Cejudo is also a former Golden Gloves boxing champion. “The Messenger” could present a bigger challenge to the champion than most are predicting.
Also on the main card former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis (18-4) takes on Edson Barboza (16-4) in perhaps the biggest fight of his career. “Showtime” is on a two-fight losing streak and desperately needs a win to stay in the Top 5 of the 155-pound rankings.
Barbosa has alternated wins and losses in his last four fights and a win over Pettis would likely push him into the Top 5. Look for these two entertaining strikers to put on a show on the feet in this one. This matchup has significant Fight of the Night potential.
Rounding out the main card, prospects Robert Whittaker (16-4) and Yair Rodriguez (7-1) are in action against tough tests in Rafael Natal (21-6-1) and Andre Fili (15-3), respectively.
The free fight card on FS1 is absolutely stacked.
No. 15-ranked flyweight Sergio Pettis (13-2) looks to start a win streak after taking out Chris Cariaso last time out.
Former strawweight champion Carla Esparza (11-3) is back in action after more than a year against Juliana Lima (8-2). Esparza was the first-ever 115-pound champ and she’s coming off a brutal beatdown by current champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk. She’ll be looking to erase that memory and begin her trek back to the top of the mountain.
James Vick (7-0) is probably the best and brightest prospect you haven’t heard about. He competed on The Ultimate Fighter: Live (Season 15) four years ago and has only fought an average of once per year since.
But Vick is undefeated and has two finishes by submission on his UFC resume. The latest was a Submission of the Night finish against super Australian prospect Jake Matthews.
Vick takes on Giaico Franca (14-3) to open the FS1 prelims.
UFC FIGHT PASS prelims
There have been some potential stars that have joined the UFC ranks after appearing on “Dane White: Lookin’ for a Fight,” and in the main event of the FIGHT PASS prelims at UFC 197 there could be another set to explode on the scene.
Heavyweight prospect Cody East (12-1) makes his debut against Walt Harris (7-4). White heard a lot about this heavyweight on Episode 4 - Minneapolis before he fought, and then he delivered a TKO after a vicious head kick.
Don’t miss all the action beginning on FIGHT PASS at 6:30pm/3:30pm ET/PT on Saturday night.
Matt Parrino is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MattParrinoUFC