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UFC 235 fight card primer: Jon Jones vs. Anthony Smith

Jon Jones once again steps into the cage at UFC 235 as he defends his title against Anthony Smith.

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UFC 235 is headlined by a Light Heavyweight world title fight as champion Jon Jones (23-1(1) MMA; 17-1(1) UFC) defends against Anthony Smith (31-13 MMA; 7-3 UFC). The UFC rankings have Smith as the division’s #3 contender with the champ at #2 on the pound for pound list behind, who else?, Daniel Cormier. UFC 235: Jones vs. Smith airs live from Las Vegas this Saturday night, March 2. The main card airs on PPV with a fight time of 10:00 p.m. ET / 7:00 p.m. PT, with the prelims starting at 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN and 6:30 p.m. ET on Fight Pass.

This is, in some ways, a kind of surprising fight. It came about after Jon Jones returned in December. Anthony Smith was on analysis for that show, and in the aftermath, he called out the champ. Jones accepted and, well, here we are with a somewhat unlikely challenger getting his shot.

How do these two stack up?

Jones: 31 years old | 6’4” | 84.5” reach
Smith: 30 years old | 6’4” | 76” reach

What have these two done recently?

Jones: W - Alexander Gustafsson (TKO) | NC - Daniel Cormier | W - Ovince St. Preux (UD)
Smith: W - Volkan Oezdemir (Sub) | W - Shogun Rua (KO) | W - Rashad Evans (KO)

How did these two get here?

Jon Jones made a successful return to the UFC at UFC 232 in December, impressively defeating Alexander Gustafsson to reclaim the Light Heavyweight title that he never lost in the ring. For all intents, Jones is undefeated - his lone loss a weird DQ. But of course, the massive asterisk of his multiple drug test failures hangs over all his wins. This is his second fight in two months, which is note-worthy - the last time he fought that quickly was when he first won the title from Shogun Rua all the way back in 2011. From a skill level, it’s hard to argue Jones is not one of the top 2 or 3 greatest of all time, as what he can do in the cage is, and always has been, remarkable. With a massive asterisk.

Anthony Smith may be an unlikely Jones opponent, but he certainly has some impressive recent wins. It’s fair to point out that both Shogun and Rashad were considerably past their primes when Smith beat them, but in the shallow Light Heavyweight division, that is enough. Prior to these three good wins, Smith was coming off a Middleweight loss to Thiago Santos (who is 4-1 since himself and likely on the path to his own shot). Smith is only 30 but it’s a shopworn 30 with 44 pro fights in 11 years. He’s fought all over the US - Strikeforce, Bellator, regional shows, one random UFC fight way back in the Fuel TV era. This is almost surely his one and only shot at the gold.

Why should you care?

Because for a full decade now Jon Jones has been the sport’s most must-watch fighter. Unless you don’t want to watch on moral grounds, which is your call.

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