LAS VEGAS >> Jon Jones unanimously outpointed Ovince Saint Preux on Saturday night at UFC 197 to take the interim light heavyweight title in his return to the octagon.
On probation for a previous hit-and-run crash in New Mexico, Jones had been stripped of the title.
Jones improved to 22-2 with winning scores of 50-44, 50-45 and 50-45 from the judges. He will next face Daniel Cormier to unify the title. Saint Preux fell to 19-8.
“I needed to do this and get this fight out of the way. I felt like I only used 20 percent of my technique tonight,” Jones said.
Also, Demetrious Johnson successfully defended his flyweight title for the eighth straight time, stopping Henry Cejudo in the first round.
Jones was unable to inflict any serious damage, but was able to control most of the action, landing numerous kicks and strikes, easily outclassing his opponent. Jones kept Saint Preux at a distance with a variety of leg kicks throughout the first round.
Jones landed two spinning back kicks and a solid side kick to the body, keeping Saint Preux at a distance and preventing him from landing any significant shots. Saint Preux was able to close the distance in the second round, landing a few strikes in a closely contested round.
The usually dominant Jones seemed to show a little rust in his return, with the heavy underdog Saint Preux keeping the fight competitive in the middle rounds with neither fighter gaining an edge. It turned in the fourth round as Jones was able to secure two big takedowns, gaining side control following the second and delivering heavy elbows and punches to easily take the round.
Critical of his performance, Jones eventually was able to enjoy his victorious return.
“I’ve got to kill this Debbie Downer attitude,” he said. “I just won a fight in the UFC. I have a lot to be grateful for. I’m excited to fight Daniel Cormier.”
Jones paced himself entering the fifth and final round and controlled the action, landing a big slam and neutralizing any attempt at a late Saint Preux rally.
Johnson landed a hard right elbow, followed by two knees to the body and a devastating knee to the jaw that sent Cejudo reeling. Johnson followed Cejudo to the mat, landing a couple more power shots that forced the referee to stop the fight at 2:49 of the round.
Johnson improved to 23-2-1 in handing Cejudo his first professional loss at 10-1.
On the undercard, lightweight contender Edson Barboza looked sharp in a unanimous decision over former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. Sergio Pettis, Danny Roberts, James Vick and former female straw-weight champion Carla Esparza also won fights.