UFC 235 takes place this coming Saturday night in Las Vegas and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Jon Jones vs Anthony Smith
It’s fun to see someone like Anthony Smith fighting for the light-heavyweight title, although it does point to how weakened that particular weight class is these days.
As an all-offense fight finisher, Smith is very entertaining to watch and he’ll certainly do his best to take the fight to the champion, but it is worth noting that most of his big name victories have come over veterans well past their best, while he himself also has lost 13 fights over the course of his career, eight by T/KO, including one against Thiago Santos just a year ago.
Smith will do his best to take the fight to Jones and put him under sustained pressure, but Jones has an eight inch reach advantage over him and uses that to the fullest, so it’s going to be difficult for him to get up close and personal with arguably the best fighter ever to set foot in the Octagon.
Even if Smith does have some success on the feet, he typically puts opponents away with sustained attacks rather than just a single blow, and Jones can always fall back on his wrestling, which is somewhat of a weakpoint for ‘Lionheart.’
Overall Smith, aside from his propensity for violence I just don’t think Smith has enough in his locker to really trouble Jones, who I see finishing him with strikes inside of two rounds.
Jon Jones wins by TKO in Rd2.
Tyron Woodley vs Kamaru Usman
Usman’s had plenty to say for himself leading up to this fight, and while Woodley believes that just means he’s scared, ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ is definitely a tough opponent.
Usman is a very strong wrestler and an excellent athlete, so if he can bring this fight to the mat then it’s quite possible he could control the action from there and keep it going for the full five rounds.
However, that’s going to be easier said than done as Woodley has excellent takedown defense, maintains distance well and has the kind of knockout power that makes opponent’s wary about closing in on him.
Crucially, he’s also exceptionally patient and doesn’t take risks that could potentially leave openings for someone like Usman to exploit.
And if Usman can’t find a way to ground him then it’s going to be very problematic for him as he’s simple outgunned on the feet. My guess is that Woodley bides his time, frustrates Usman in his takedown attempts and then lights him up in the third round when he starts to get more desperate in the third round.
Tyron Woodley wins by TKO in Rd3.
Ben Askren vs Robbie Lawler
It’s been a long time coming, but former Bellator and ONE FC champion Ben Askren will finally make his UFC debut on Saturday night and we’ll find out if he can back up his boasts by taking out a former UFC champion in Lawler.
To do so he’ll need to navigate past Lawler’s deadly striking. That’ll be a real concern for Askren as he’s always been underwhelming as far as the stand-up aspect of the sport goes and he’s going up against a ‘Ruthless’ striker who potentially might need just one big punch or kick to end his night.
Having said that, Askren generally doesn’t have to worry too much about hanging on the feet, because once he gets his hands on his opponent’s he tends to be in complete control thanks to his elite level wrestling.
Lawler is far from immune to being taken down, not to mention the fact that he’s also now 36 and coming off a 14-month layoff due to a knee injury, so he’s unlikely to be at his sharpest here and while he absolutely could find a finish on the feet, I think it’s more likely that Askren just stifles him on the mat for 15 minutes to earn a decision victory.
Ben Askren wins by decision.
Tecia Torres vs Zhang Weili
Torres is coming off back-to-back losses heading into this fight, but they were against top-flight competition, so it would be wrong to read too much into that. On the other hand, Zhang has won 18-fights in a row, but hasn’t come up against anyone as tough a Torres so far.
Zhang is fun to watch though, throwing relentless offensive barrages, whether it’s piston-like left and right hands on the feet or raining down elbows on the mat, while she’s also a submission threat.
Torres is the opposite as she’s never been a finisher and instead makes up for being a little undersized for the division by utilizing movement, speed and angles, while she’s also a strong wrestler.
I think this one could go either way. Weili’s high output and tempo could play well with the judges, but I think Torres will frustrate her by presenting a constantly moving target and will also utilize wrestling to steal rounds and earn a win on the scorecards.
Tecia Torres wins by decision.
Cody Garbrandt vs Pedro Munhoz
Garbrandt has come off second-best against his rival TJ Dillashaw twice now, but he still remains a formidable threat in the bantamweight division.
In Munhoz he’ll be facing an in-form contender who will look to apply lots of pressure on the feet with strikes, but really will be hoping to distract him enough to find a way to bring him down and work for a submission.
Munhoz’s defense is suspect though and that could cost him dearly against a lightning quick counter-puncher wielding the kind of power that Garbrandt has to offer.
And with that in mind I expect that Garbrandt will get back into the win column in either the first or second round here.
Cody Garbrandt wins by TKO in Rd2.
Prelims: (Predicted winners in bold)
Zabit Magomedsharipov vs Jeremy Stephens
Johnny Walker vs Misha Cirkunov
Diego Sanchez vs Mickey Gall
Alejandro Perez vs Cody Stamann
Edmen Shahbazyan vs Charles Byrd
Gina Mazany vs Macy Chiasson
Polyana Viana vs Hannah Cifers