The UFC closes out the month of February with an explosive fight card that includes two title fights. UFC 235 on Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas features the light heavyweight title fight between champion Jon Jones and Anthony Smith. The co-feature will be another title defense by welterweight king Tyron Woodley against Kamaru Usman. To spice up the event, former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler officially welcomes Ben Askren to the UFC in the third big fight of UFC 235.
Jon Jones vs Anthony Smith
Jon “Bones” Jones defends his UFC light heavyweight title against Anthony “Lionheart” Smith in the main event of UFC 235 on Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Jon Jones makes a quick turnaround after winning the 205-pound title with an impressive third-round knockout of Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 232 just last December 29, 2018. The story with Jones though is his out of the octagon issues which include legal woes and failed drug tests. But if you take out those red flags, Jones is universally recognized as the best pound for pound fighter on the planet and is regarded by some as the best mixed martial artist of all-time, if not the most dominant.
Jones stands 6-4 with a reach of 84 inches. Bones is 23-1 with 10 wins by knockout and 6 by submission. His lone loss came in 2009 when he was disqualified for an illegal elbow on Matt Hamill. Since that setback, Jones is unbeaten in 16 fights. He won 16 in a row but one of those wins was overturned to a no-contest after a failed drug test. Jones lands an average of 4.43 significant strikes per minute with 55% accuracy. He is also outstanding on the ground as he averages 2.09 takedowns per 15 minutes. Jones also has tremendous defense as he has a 95% takedown defense and a 65% striking defense.
Odds from betonline.ag as of 2/27/19
Anthony Smith is on his second stint with the UFC and he has made the most out of this opportunity. After getting knocked out by Thiago Santos in February 2018, he made the jump to light heavyweight and has been on fire ever since. Smith has won three fights in a row, winning all three via stoppage. Smith knocked out former champions Rashad Evans and Mauricio Rua then submitted the streaking Volkan Oezdemir via rear-naked choke for his second consecutive Performance of the Night bonus.
Smith is 6-4 and has a reach of 76 inches. Lionheart is 31-13 with 17 knockouts and 11 submissions. Smith has lost just twice in his last 10 bouts and he is on a three bout winning streak. He lands 3.49 significant strikes per minute with a 47% striking accuracy. Smith isn’t as active on the ground as he averages only 0.58 takedowns per 15 minutes. He is easy to hit though at 4.14 significant strikes absorbed per minute. His striking defense and takedown defense are both at only 46% which could be a problem against a machine like Johnny Bones.
I like how Anthony Smith has risen from the ashes and turned himself into a contender but when you take a look at his light heavyweight run, two of the three fighter he beat were washed up former champions. Sure, Oezdemir was a legit win but No Time is nowhere near the caliber of the fighter he is facing on Saturday night.
Jon Jones has no equal inside the octagon, or at least not yet. If not for his troubles, Jones would have probably already wiped out the entire division by now and established himself as the greatest 205-pound fighter in the planet. Jones is a complete fighter and really has no weaknesses inside the octagon. He has crazy athleticism, creativity, power in his strikes, elite wrestling and excellent submission skills.
Smith is going to try and work behind his jab as usual but I’m not sure if he is going to land his best shots on Jones. Jones is a master of finding his opponent’s weaknesses and I think he will feel out Smith at the start. Once he dissects him, I think Jones is going to pick him apart in the second or third round. I believe Jones can end this in Round one but being out too long will make him want to use more time inside the cage. I’m leaning towards a knockout win via ground and pound but once he takes Smith down, I’m not discounting the possibility of a submission win.
Prediction: Jon Jones by knockout
Tyron Woodley vs Kamaru Usman
Tyron Woodley makes his 5th defense of the UFC welterweight title with against Kamaru Usman in the co-main event of UFC 235.
Woodley was an unlikely champion when he stopped Robbie Lawler at UFC 201. But since then, he’s successfully thwarted three challengers in a total of four title defenses to establish himself as one of the welterweight greats. Woodley is coming off a dominant submission win over the previously unbeaten Darren Till at UFC 228 in September 2018. He’s often criticized and underappreciated but when it comes down to business, the 36 year old Woodley had gotten the job done. He has not lost in his last seven fights and considering five of those have been world title fights, no question Woodley is for real.
The champion enters the ring with a record of 19-3 with 7 knockouts and 5 wins via submission. T-Wood stands 5-9 and has a reach of 74 inches. He lands 2.62 significant strikes per minute with a 48% accuracy. He averages 1.47 takedowns per 15 minutes with a takedown accuracy of 42%. Woodley’s striking defense is listed at 61% and he also owns an impressive 91% takedown defense.
Odds from betonline.ag as of 2/27/19
Kamaru Usman is unbeaten since coming to the UFC in 2015. The Nigerian Nightmare is the winner of nine consecutive bouts with seven victories coming by way of decision. He was the winner of The Ultimate Fighter Season 21 welterweight tournament. While Usman’s fight resume pales compared to Woodley, his last two victories over former title challenger Demian Maia and former lightweight champions Rafael Dos Anjos were impressive and most likely earned him this title shot.
The challenger has a record of 14-1 with six knockouts and seven submission victories. Usman stands 6-0 and has a reach of 76 inches. Overall, Usman has won 13 consecutive bouts with his lone loss coming in his second professional fight against Jose Caceres in 2013. Usman lands 3.93 significant strikes per minute at a 50% accuracy. He is a takedown machine who averages 4.47 takedowns per 15 minutes. Usman lands 51% of his takedowns and has never been taken down in his UFC career. The Nigerian Nightmare also boasts of a 59% striking defense.
Usman has been successful in the UFC because he has gotten his fights to where he wants to go and that is on the ground. A gifted wrestler, Usman is a takedown machine with elite wrestling. His fights tend to get boring though as he is often content with fighting from top position and wearing down his opponents. On his feet, Usman is ordinary and he often uses his striking to eventually secure takedowns.
Woodley meanwhile is an explosive athlete who has power in both hands and a mean kicking game. Although he hasn’t been on the ground as much as Usman has, Woodley has excellent takedown offense and has a vicious ground and pound game when on top position. What sets him apart though is his high fight IQ which rarely puts him in trouble during his fights.
Because every fight starts on the feet, Woodley has a massive advantage here. Usman isn’t as equipped in the stand up and for sure, he will go for the takedown and try to drag this fight to the ground. Unfortunately, Woodley is just as good on the ground and that is if Usman can put the champ on his back. I see Woodley avoiding Usman’s traps and keeping this fight on his feet. Woodley completely dominates Usman in the striking game and gets a knockout win here.
Prediction: Tyron Woodley by knockout
Robbie Lawler vs Ben Askren
Former welterweight king Robbie Lawler’s quest for another title shot resumes as he takes on promotional newcomer Ben Askren in a three-round welterweight bout that may have championship implications.
Ruthless Robbie Lawler returns to the octagon for the first time since losing to Rafael Dos Anjos in December 2017. During that bout, Ruthless tore his ACL, forcing him to miss the entire 2018. Hoping to get one more crack at his old belt, Ruthless has been tasked to welcome the highly touted newcomer Ben Askren. Prior to his loss to Dos Anjos, Lawler won six out of his last seven fights with his only loss during that period a knockout at the hands of the current champion Tyron Woodley.
Lawler is 5-11 with a reach of 74 inches and fights out of the orthodox stance. Ruthless has a record of 28-12 with 20 knockouts and 1 submission. Lawler averages 3.56 significant strikes landed per minute with a striking accuracy of 44%. He lands oly 0.72 takedowns per 15 minutes but does so with 65% completion rate. Lawler has a takedown defense of 69% and a striking defense of 60%/
Odds from betonline.ag as of 2/27/19
The Ben Askren has finally arrived in the UFC. Often considered the greatest welterweight fighter outside the UFC, Askren finally got on the UFC roster when he was part of the first ever fighter trade between the UFC and One Championships. The deal sent former longtime flyweight king Demetrious Johnson to Asia while Askren, the ONE welterweight champion, was sent to the UFC in exchange for Mighty Mouse.
Askren is 5-11 and has a reach of 73 inches. Since this is his maiden fight in the UFC, Fightmetric doesn’t have his stats. What everyone knows though is that he is an excellent grappler with elite wrestling pedigree. Askren wrestled at the 2008 Olympics where he finished 6th in his bracket. Askren is one of the best control wrestlers in MMA and his wrestling is often compared to GSP’s. He is unbeaten in 18 fights and has six wins by knockout and five by submission.
This one’s a classic striker vs grappler matchup and if Funky Ben can’t take Ruthless down to the ground, he could be in trouble because despite his age, Lawler still packs a mean punch. On the other hand, if Lawler can’t avoid getting taken down by Askren, it could be a long night for the former welterweight champion of the world. Now which comes first is something we’re going to find out on fight night.
The knack on Askren is his level of competition which pales when compared to Lawler’s. But regardless of who was put in front of him, Askren always forced his game on his opponent. Meanwhile, Lawler is coming off an ACL injury so we’re not sure what kind of Ruthless we will be getting on Saturday night. Meanwhile, Askren is rumored to be throwing Tyron Woodley around in practice. Whether that’s true or not isn’t important. Between Askren’s doubtful resume and Lawler coming off a major injury, I am more concerned about the latter. That said, I’m going with Ben Askren here.
Prediction: Ben Askren by decision