UFC 235 Main Card (PPV)
Jon Jones vs Anthony Smith
It’s been fun to watch Smith’s unexpected rise to prominence. After all, he’s a fearless, all-action fighter with a terrific knack for finishing fights (11 stoppages in his past 12 wins) and has looked better at ever since moving up to light-heavyweight.
However, most of his big wins of late have come against grizzled veteran stars at the tail-end of their career’s, and there’s also the fact that he was actually TKO’d by Thiago Santos at 185lbs just a year ago.
In fact, over the course of his career, Smith has been beaten no less than 13 times, including eight T/KO’s defeats.
With that in mind he’s got a daunting task ahead of him fighting Jones, arguably the best fighter ever to set foot in the Octagon.
As we’ve come to expect, Jones will enjoy a big reach advantage here (8” to be exact) and he uses that effectively to keep opponents at bay and limit their ability to land, while keeping up a high volume of strikes.
That’s worrying for Smith as he generally relies on sustained offense to put opponents away, which will be tricky to pull off against Jones, while he has major gaps in his defense that the champion will happily expose.
On top of that, Jones is also the vastly superior wrestler and as such will dominate the action if the fight hits the floor. All of which leaves Smith appearing to need something of a miracle to keep his fairytale rise to the top going, and I think Jones will be able to put him away inside of two rounds.
Prediction: Jon Jones to win by TKO in Rd2 – Bet Now
Tyron Woodley vs Kamaru Usman
Woodley’s title reign hasn’t exactly been thrilling so far, doing just what it took to win and no more in several fights, but he demonstrated he can still step up the gears impressively when he wants to last time out against Darren Till.
Against Usman he finds himself going up against an excellent wrestler and athlete who could stifle him on the mat, if he can get him there.
That will be easier said than done though as Woodley has terrific takedown defense, very good range management and also wields big power and explosive speed, so Usman will have to be very wary when he moves into punching range.
In terms of the striking battle, Usman is not without merit, but simply isn’t as dangerous as Woodley and will struggle to make headway if he isn’t able to get his grappling going.
This is another big test for Woodley, but I think he’s going to make it tough for Usman to take him down and at some stage when he feels comfortable will unleash on him and put ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ away with punches.
Prediction: Tyron Woodley to win by TKO in Rd3 – Bet Now
Ben Askren vs Robbie Lawler
When he first joined the UFC, former Bellator and ONE FC champion Askren talked trash about just about anyone who’s anyone in the welterweight division, but Lawler was one of the few that was spared the sharp end of his tongue. So it’s a little odd that this is who he was paired up with in the end.
On the feet it’s something of a nightmare match-up for Askren as he’s simply never developed into much of a striker at all, while Lawler is one of the most fearsome the division has to offer and has the kind of knockout power that ‘Funky’ simply hasn’t had to deal with in the past, despite his long title reigns.
Nevertheless, the reason he’s remained undefeated over the course of his career is that Askren is a phenomenal wrestler and Lawler is going to struggle to stop him from quickly taking him down and refusing to let him back up again for the entire duration of the fight other than to go back to his stool inbetween rounds.
Lawler’s got to land something big early if he wants to avoid that, but though he’s certainly capable of that he’s starting to show signs of aging at 36 and has been out of action for 14 months rehabbing a knee injury, so I think it’s more likely that Askren grinds him into the mat to earn a victory in his UFC debut.
Prediction: Ben Askren wins by decision – Bet Now
Tecia Torres vs Zhang Weili
Aside from a decision loss in her first ever MMA bout, Weili has gone undefeated in her 19-fight career, while Torres own largely unblemished record has suffered a significant dent in recent times due to back-to-back defeats.
This is a definite step-up for Weili though, with Torres being a well-rounded fighter who suffers a from being a bit undersized and also lacking finishing power, but nonetheless she’s the kind of striker who utilizes her speed and movement well in order to outpoint opponents, while she’s also a strong wrestler too.
Weili in the other hand is a proven finisher thanks to the fact that she is very aggressive and violent whether she’s on the feet or the mat, throwing a huge volume of strikes upright and possessing some vicious ground and pound too, including particularly nasty elbows.
This is going to be an interesting one. Torres is likely to stay mobile to avoid coming under sustained fire from Weili’s offensive onslaughts, but at the same time given Torres’ fights almost always go to a decision and her opponent’s forward pressure and constant attacks may play well with the judges.
With that in mind I think Torres has to use her wrestling at times here to ensure she edges rounds and that will be just enough to claim victory.
Prediction: Tecia Torres to win by decision – Bet Now
Cody Garbrandt vs Pedro Munhoz
Garbrandt’s hype train took a big hit with his back-to-back losses against his biggest rival TJ Dillashaw, but though that showed the former champion to be far from indestructible, he still has the skills to be an elite level force in the division.
Munhoz isn’t the easiest fight he could have got as he looks to get back to winning ways. Munhoz will apply a lot of pressure, throw plenty of strikes and look for moments to get the fight to the mat and try to choke him out – by far his most effective finishing move.
However, Munhoz leaves himself open defensively on the feet and that could be a fatal flaw against Garbrandt, who is exceptionally quick, hits extremely hard and is comfortable using that to land on the counter.
As such I think Munhoz is really going to be quite literally playing into Garbrandt’s hands here and will end up eating a fight-ending fist, potentially in the first round, though ultimately his opponent’s toughness may well take it into the second.
Prediction: Cody Garbrandt to win by TKO in Rd2 – Bet Now
Prelims (Fox Sports 1)
(Predicted winners in bold)
Zabit Magomedsharipov vs Jeremy Stephens
Johnny Walker vs Misha Cirkunov
Alejandro Perez vs Cody Stamann
Diego Sanchez vs Mickey Gall
UFC Fight Pass Prelims
Edmen Shahbazyan vs Charles Byrd
Gina Mazany vs Macy Chiasson
Polyana Viana vs Hannah Cifers