Your UFC 235 main card preview is here! You know the drill, below we have provided you with analysis as well as our picks for the weekend!
Light Heavyweight: Jon Jones (c) vs Anthony Smith
Physically, both Jon Jones and Anthony Smith share similar attributes. Both have the same height and similar leg reaches. The deciding factor in physique is Jon’s freakish arm reach. Jon holds a reach of 84 inches, 8 inches longer than Anthony.
Jones’s reach could be key for him retaining his belt. Against Alexander Gustafsson, Jon halted everything that Alex tried to get going. He threw various strikes to disrupt Gustafsson’s rhythm. This made Alex hesitant to engage. Anthony Smith cannot afford to be hesitant to engage. Smith loves to go in for the kill by racing forward in a straight line, throwing with intent every step of the way if he smells blood.
Smith has had a journeyman’s fight career, with 44 fights under his belt. Striking-wise, Anthony is dangerous both outside of reach and inside of the clinch. He can grapple too, which we recently saw in Smith’s last fight against Volkan Oezdemir where he submitted Volkan in round three.
Coming into this fight, Jon has a chip on his shoulder. He’s recently had controversy regarding his USADA drug test results. For years, Jon seems to have made headlines for the wrong reasons. However, this year is his year for redemption. He’s looking to keep his head down, fight often and finish his opponents in devastating fashion.
It’s hard to bet against the arguably pound-for-pound best fighter of all time in Jon Jones. Smith is a good jack of all trades, but nothing seems to jump out about his fight game that could hurt or give him the edge over Jones.
Prediction: Jones by TKO.
Welterweight: Tyron Woodley (c) vs Kamaru Usman
In the co-main event we have a battle of collegiate wrestlers. On the one hand, Woodley is an NCAA Division I All-American. Whereas Kamaru is an NCAA Division II All-American. What tends to happen when wrestlers collide is that they cancel each other out in that department, and the bout ends up being a striking contest.
In terms of grappling, Division I is better than Division II and Woodley holds a black belt in Jiu Jitsu. With this in mind, we’d give Tyron the slight grappling advantage. Although, Usman is a highly skilled grappler who smothers his opponents. Given Tyron’s grappling pedigree, Usman won’t have such an easy ride.
Recently, Usman has been churning out decision victories over his opponents. Some argue that he lacks the killer instant and that could be why he has been overlooked for a title shot until now. Woodley too has been criticised over boring decisions. Truthfully speaking, there is potential for this fight to end up that way.
But in conclusion, we strongly believe this will be an exciting back of fourth contest between the two best in the division. Woodley has a deciding factor that separates him starkly from his opponent. This is of course his lightning one punch knockout power. If he lands he is capable of putting anyone out in the division. He made a statement against Till and this is why we believe Woodley will knockout Kamaru Usman.
Prediction: Woodley by TKO.
Welterweight: Robbie Lawler vs Ben Askren
Ben Askren makes his long awaited debut and his game plan is no secret. He is an NCAA Division I and an Olympic wrestler. Perhaps the best wrestler the sport of MMA has ever seen. He’ll look to take Robbie down relentlessly and when the fight does eventually go to the ground, he’ll look to tire and finish Lawler.
Ben is the Khabib of the Welterweight division. However, he is unproven in the UFC, with many feeling that Octagon jitters are a real thing. Look at Daniel Cormier, also an Olympic wrestler. The pressure and the intimidation got to Daniel in his UFC debut and he felt like it massively impacted his performance.
Robbie Lawler is no slouch though. This will absolutely not be a walk in the park for Ben. Robbie wrestled in high school too and, although Robbie’s wrestling skills don’t compare to Ben’s, he could absolutely stuff a takedown and knock Askren clean out with his tremendous power.
Lawler is also a former UFC Welterweight champion whose used to the big stage events. In our opinion, we feel Ben’s mindset is too strong and that he will not let the moment get the better of him. He’s extremely competitive and he’ll look to impose his will on Saturday. He’s never gone up against competion like Robbie in MMA before. But Ben has what it takes to get it done on Saturday night.
Prediction: Askren by decision.
Women’s Strawweight: Tecia Torres vs Weili Zhang
Pundits across the board are overlooking Zhang right now. She is currently 2-0 in the UFC. The consensus appears to be that Tecia is a solid gatekeeper of the Straweight division. Torres holds power wrestling in her arsenal as well as an ever improving stand up game.
Many feel that Tecia will be able to outwork Weili to a decision victory. After all, 9 out of Tecia’s 10 victories are by decision. Another argument is that Zhang is still very green. This can be seen by watching footage on each figher. Tecia’s striking is very polished and technical, whereas Weili’s striking is a bit wild and chaotic.
Zhang has the potential to be a high level contender of tomorrow. However, today Tecia is the more well rounded fighter who should be able to grind out a decision.
Prediction: Torres by decision.
Bantamweight: Cody Garbrandt vs Pedro Munhoz
The biggest question of this matchup is, which Cody Garbrandt will show up? There are two sides to Cody, the amped up one, like we saw against TJ Dillashow who throws wrecklessly on emotion. The other is a calculated Cody, as seen against Dominic Cruz where he defeated the Bantamweight kingpin for the belt.
Cody is currently on a 2 fight losing streak, having been knocked out twice by TJ in relentless fashion. He left himself open and swung for the fences. TJ capitalised and was able to pick him apart. This was down to the animosity between the two fighters. They were once teammates at Team Alpha Male and Cody felt like TJ sold out after he left to train with Duane Ludwig in Colorado.
There is no such animosity between Cody and Pedro Muhnoz. The two were very respectful of each other in a recent press conference. But who is Pedro Muhnoz and what does he bring to the table?
Pedro is an extremely tough fight for Cody. Muhnoz is a black belt in Jiu Jitsu and translates this very effectively to his MMA game. Out of Pedro’s 17 wins, 9 have come by way of submission.
On the other hand, Pedro hasn’t faced a top contender as of yet. Plus, Cody’s wrestling game is strong and he should be able to stop the fight from going to the ground. If Cody can keep the fight standing, he’s easily the better striker and could finish Muhnoz.
Prediction: Garbrandt by TKO in round 1.