UFC 235 - Breakdown & Predictions
When is UFC 235? Sunday 3rd March, 2019 – 03:00 (UK)
Where is UFC 235? T-Mobile Arena, Paradise, Nevada
What channel is UFC 235 on? BT Sport 2
Where can I stream UFC 235? BT Sport subscribers can stream the fight online via the BT website
Are tickets still available for UFC 235? http://uk.ufc.com/event-ticket-info?utm_source=ufc&utm_medium=tab&utm_campaign=tickets
Jon Jones vs Anthony Smith
Jon Jones is back in action after seeing off Alexander Gustafsson in his comeback fight. The new light heavyweight champ is keen to make up for lost time and get some fights under his belt, with the new contender Anthony Smith rising to the challenge.
Smith has enjoyed a remarkable resurgence in the last couple years to earn a title shot. In truth, the division has become hollow compared to what it used to be but Smith’s performances have been exceptional.
After stringing three knockouts together, he met fellow slugger Thiago Santos in a violent battle but was on the wrong end of the killer blow, which lead to the decision of moving up to light heavyweight. Blazing a trail in the division, he kneed Rashad Evans into retirement, he battered Shogun Rua out of Germany and held his own against the big and dangerous Volkan Oezdemir, breaking him down and finishing the former title contender off with a submission.
As good as Smith has looked, Jones is simply on another level. Nobody has ever got the better of Jones in the cage and even after long lay-offs, he still came back to knock out Daniel Cormier and Gustafsson, who are two elite 205ers in their prime.
Smith will be a massive underdog but that does not mean he hasn’t got a chance. Despite fighting most his career at middleweight, he has the power of a light heavyweight as well as the frame - standing at 6’4” - and as we have seen in the past, upsets are always lurking around the corner.
Remember the likes of Matt Serra against Georges St Pierre, Chris Weidman against Anderson Silva, TJ Dillashaw against Renan Barao etc – Jones has to be respectful of Smith and his endurance and heart will make him dangerous in every round.
This may be a closer contest than people predict but in this case the stats do not lie. Jones is a better striker; he is better technically from all ranges and his grappling is also a step above with sound wrestling and one of the most dangerous clinches in the game.
Despite their durability, this is unlikely to go to a decision. Smith needs to turn the fight into a brawl but Jones has the repertoire to punish Smith in all areas. Whether that is from a distance with oblique kicks and using his abnormally long reach or from short range with dirty boxing and elbows in the clinch.
Winner: Jones via KO/TKO
Tyron Woodley vs Kamaru Usman
The first title fight of the evening is a belter and it’s for the welterweight championship with Tyron Woodley looking to defend his strap for a fifth time against Kamaru Usman.
The UFC seemed to have grown tired of Colby Covington’s antics as Usman has leapfrogged him in the queue of contenders but this is a very similar match-up for Woodley. ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ is an immense wrestler and riding an incredible 13-fight win streak.
Woodley’s streak is not as big but more impressive, collecting the scalps of the best welterweights in the division and although he is under appreciated in the UFC, he is one of the most gifted fighters on the roster. Many slammed Woodley’s fights with Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia but he implemented perfect tactics to nullify their unique talents. He then reminded everyone of his weapons in his fight with Darren Till so a lot is expected from ‘The Chosen One’.
Usman has climbed up the ranks on the back of his wrestling where he has dominated every grappling contest. His striking is nowhere near the level of Woodley’s but his wrestling is so strong that it creates openings for punches to slip through which makes him even more dangerous. Usman claims he can knock Woodley out if he wants to but his game plan will surely be to take 'The Chosen One' down and beat him up on the floor.
However, Woodley’s takedown defence is arguably the best in the UFC and the biggest question in this fight is if Usman can take him down. If he can’t, it will be a mismatch on the feet and although Usman eats hardly any shots, Woodley’s power requires only one shot to to end ‘Nigerian Nightmare’s’ dreams.
Woodley is not afraid to coast a decision to get the win but he doesn’t have the submission threat of Maia and the striking threat of Thompson and Till so there is a good chance we see the trademarked explosion and eruption of power strikes to end the fight.
Winner: Woodley via KO/TKO
Robbie Lawler vs Ben Askren
Finally, Ben Askren is in the UFC. Dana White has got over their beef and realised the organisation would benefit from employing his talent and character. Askren has never been beaten, sitting on 18 wins by dominating the Bellator and One Championship welterweight divisions. As he racked up the wins and titles he began to run out of opponents as well as motivation with Dana White standing behind the closed door of the UFC, but now he has his opportunity which will be his first fight since November 2017.
As one of the very best wrestlers that has ever graced MMA, he is a terrible match-up for anyone. However, he has one of the toughest match-ups possible in the shape of Robbie Lawler. He is the former champion, vastly experienced, a terrific wrestler himself and has the threat of devastating knockout power so this will be a fascinating encounter and test for Askren.
Askren’s wins include some very talented fighters but perhaps none of the calibre of Robbie Lawler. Lawler is an absolute brute and carries his warrior spirit into every fight and he will need to unleash his furious strikes as quickly as possible.
This won’t be a case of if Askren can take Lawler down but how often and how many shots will he eat on the way to securing a takedown. You never want to test your chin against Lawler so Askren will implement his usual tactics of getting his opponent to the ground and keeping him there.
Askren has to be respectful of Lawler, especially as he has not competed for so long. However, Lawler has been out for the same amount of time and has not won a fight convincingly since Rory MacDonald back in 2015. He needs to find a knockout early or it is going to be a long night for the Ruthless one.
Winner: Askren via Decision
Tecia Torres vs Weili Zhang
China’s own Weili Zhang has secured her spot on the main card of the most stacked card of the year so far and it is the opportunity she has been patiently waiting for. After losing her first professional fight, she has swotted away 18 opponents including nine knockouts and seven submissions which is an astounding finishing rate as a strawweight.
Zhang has looked phenomenal but now she has her first real test in the form of Tecia Torres who has been fighting among the best in the division, including Jessica Andrade and Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Even though she lost to these women, this is top-level experience Zhang does not have.
Zhang is a ferocious finisher and that is not just on the feet as we saw in her last fight against Jessica Aguilar, who she finished with an armbar. She will go about this fight in her usual manner and start very aggressively on the feet but Torres has never been finished before and in fact, all her fights apart from one have gone to a decision.
Torres is expected to move and circle Zhang to avoid her power on the feet and attempt to out-strike her to edge the points. However, Zhang won’t rest on a decision and will look to close the distance with Torres and unleash her nasty elbows. This aggression is likely to sway the judges if she doesn’t find a 17th career finish.
Winner: Zhang via Decision
Cody Garbrandt vs Pedro Munhoz
Cody Garbrandt makes his long-awaited return after two crushing defeats to arch-rival and champion, TJ Dillashaw. These were the first two losses of his career and this fight will be a huge test of character to see how he bounces back from two high-profile knockouts.
Garbrandt blitzed his way through the bantamweight division by erasing contenders with his hands, and his exciting style earned him a title shot but it was his fight with Dominick Cruz that confirmed he was part of the elite. Cruz was struggling with injuries as always but Garbrandt put on a clinic and beat him at his own game.
Garbrandt needs to show that form to get past Pedro Munhoz. The Brazilian is a very dangerous opponent and only lost once in seven fights. After losing a tight decision to John Dodson, he convincingly beat Brett Johns and dispatched Bryan Caraway in his last fight.
Garbrandt needs to approach this fight the same way he approached Cruz and that is to stick to a game plan and be patient. In his fights with Dillashaw, there was too much emotion involved and his hunting of the knockout left him vulnerable.
If he shows any vulnerability, Munhoz will exploit it. He is dangerous on the feet but he will wait for any opportunity to get the fight to the floor where Garbrandt is unproven.
Garbrandt should be refreshed after his time off and as long as he respects the skillset of Munhoz, his boxing should be too crisp, too quick and too powerful which may lead to a vintage knockout.
Winner: Garbrandt via KO/TKO
Striking and grappling stats sourced via FightMetric