We go in search of more profit from a huge card in Las Vegas.
Following a successful UFC Prague, we now look onwards to what will surely be one of the premier UFC cards of 2019!
UFC 235 boasts two title bouts, each with their respective belt holders (Tyron Woodley & Jon Jones) vying to enforce their name into divisional ‘GOAT’ status. Further down the card we can expect some blockbuster bouts, well worthy of headlining their own fight cards, if not for the UFC wanting to make this card into the spectacle it’s shaping up to be.
Co-Main Event: Tyron “The Chosen One” Woodley (19-3-1) vs. #2 Kamaru “Nigerian Nightmare” Usman (14-1-0)
In the co-main event, we see Tyron Woodley attempting to make his 5th consecutive Welterweight Title defence. Tyron has been matched up with an array of ‘specialists’ in each of those bouts. The first two came against; Stephen Thompson, arguably the most calculated karate point-fighter in the UFC, Damian Maia, by far and away the most clinical submission expert in the WW division, and lastly Darren Till, the tall English southpaw muay-thai phenom, who was unbeaten until Woodley levelled him with a heavy overhand-right and subbed him on the floor in the 2nd.
The “Nigerian Nightmare” is on an impressive run of his own, he comes in off winning 13-straight, with his last two coming in decisive 5-rounders against the previously discussed Maia, and Rafael dos Anjos – perennial UFC title contender. Usman uses a very wrestling-heavy style of offense, similar to that of Woodley’s. He grinds his opponents up against the cage and seeks to take the fight to the mat and land unrelenting ground’n’pound in search for a drawn-out beat-down decision victory, or the referee to stop the fight in mercy of his opponent.
I can see Woodley being on the back-foot from the off, his right hand cocked and ready for anything Usman might try to attempt. It’s always a danger, especially with Woodley holding what appears to be the striking advantage. It’s an intriguing fight, both fighters stylistically so similar, the question for me is – will Tyron knockout a man out who’s never been finished by strikes? Or will the younger fighter in Usman wear down the now 35-year-old Woodley and get the win? This one is close to call, but there is also no mistaking that Usman is the value side of the line as he currently sits at 6/4. It’s tough to pick against Woodley, but I’m going with Usman, either by a late stoppage or points victory.
Main Event: Jon “Bones” Jones (23-1-0) vs. #3 Anthony “Lionheart” Smith (31-13-0)
Love him or hate him, Jonny “Bones” Jones is back! Jones has made quite the name for himself over the years, both in and out of the cage, but thankfully I’m here to discuss the happenings inside of it. Jones is known for the manner in which he tore through the UFC’s list of future Hall of Famers like a knife through butter and after doing so, he then became the youngest UFC champion in history. All of that was a long time ago now, but he still looks as good as ever in his last victory against Sweden’s Alexander Gustafsson (for the Vacant UFC Light Heavyweight belt) in December of last year. He now looks to add to his long list of successful title defences (that were only heeded by his out of Octagon activities).
Anthony Smith has a very different story, he spent most of his career at Middleweight fighting on the regional scene and for smaller promotions before being brought into the UFC in February of 2016. After going 4-2 in the promotion as a MW, he decided to move up to LHW in order to fill out his large frame and take on some of the heavier hitters. Since the step-up, he has experienced quite the resurgence, now with TKO/KO stoppage wins over two former LHW title holders; Rashad Evans and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, as well as former title challenger, Volkan Oezdemir. Although this is no easy feat, his wins over Evans and Rua have undoubtedly come at the back end of their careers, not quite at the heights at which they were when Jones took Shoguns’ title and extinguished Evans’ title hopes.
There is no mistaking that Jones is rightfully the huge favourite in this one. We can expect Anthony Smith to start patient and look to come in hard either if Jones gives him an opening, or more likely, he wants to try and make one for himself. Jones as ever will seek to use his length and height to work Smith until he’s ready to step in and go to work with his clinical striking. I can see a good period of time in the 1st being slow and calculated from both guys, before Jones figures Smith out and starts to turn up the heat. At some point in probably the first two rounds I think he’s going to clip Smith and then go in for a grappling exchange to see him off on the floor. Once Smith finds himself in Jon’s world on the mat, Jones will be able to pick and choose whether he wants the sub or TKO victory. I think Smith will be patient and tough enough to get this to the 2nd round, but not any further. My pick is Jones to win in round 2 at 7/2 and I see value on Jones via Submission at 2/1.
Main Card/Prelim Double
Charles Byrd (10-5-0) vs. Edmen Shahbazyan (8-0-0) is the card’s headliner for the early prelims. Both have a mutual opponent in England’s Darren Stewart, with Byrd being finished by Stewart and Shahbazyan winning a split decision. Despite their different appearing records, this should in-theory be a close fight. That being said, I think Shahbazyan should take this, he has more ways to win and he holds a sizeable 4-inch height advantage in his favour.
Tecia Torres (10-3-0) finds herself on her 4th straight main card appearance. She’s lost her last two out against top competition and unfortunately I don’t see this one going much better for her. Weili Zhang (18-1-0) should be the quicker of the two and the exchanges should see her land first and with greater frequency. I think Zhang has the strength advantage too and this should see her stopping Torres’ takedown attempts. Torres’ toughness is not to be overlooked, this one appears to be set for a decision, I’m picking Weili to take it based off of her fast-paced output.