Well, UFC 235 is over, and it ended in underwhelming fashion. Jon Jones easily defended his light heavyweight title by beating a tough but overmatched Anthony Smith by unanimous decision. Jones of course made things interesting with a possibly illegal kick to Smith’s head while he was downed, and then upped the ante by actually getting docked two points because of an illegal knee to Smith’s head as Smith had his hand down. Remember, Nevada has the old rules, hence the foul. That probably gave us the first ever 8-8 round, because round four was a total beatdown, and we got a unanimous trio of 48-44 scorecards.
Jones certainly had much praise for Smith, putting him over in ways I don’t think I’ve ever seen him do so with previous foes. Smith could’ve taken the “cheap” way out and tried to go for the DQ, but he didn’t, and he made it the distance... he was just completely outgunned. It was not particularly compelling viewing, Jones didn’t look to be at his best and he still won without much difficulty. I guess we just move on and see if he faces Thiago Santos next or moves up to heavyweight at long last.
And as for the co-main event, Kamaru Usman is a freaking beast. He whooped Tyron Woodley’s ass in ways we’ve not seen from any other fighter, including Rory MacDonald’s domination of Tyron back in 2014. Usman took him down multiple times over, hurt him on the feet, battered his body, controlled him on the ground, Woodley was functionally ineffective for almost the entire contest.
The scorecards of 50-44 x2 and 50-45 (indefensible judging) do not accurately depict what a blowout this was. We have a new UFC welterweight champion. That was unbelievably dominant and it looked so easy. Woodley’s historic tendency to fight off the backfoot and counterstrike was easily nullified by Usman’s pressure, relentlessness, and outstanding wrestling. Well done to Africa’s first UFC champ, and I assume his first defense will be against one of Colby Covington. I’m not looking forward to those press conferences.
Woodley was as classy as can be in defeat, but he’s not getting a rematch out of that. And I’m sure Dana White is thrilled Woodley is no longer champion given their combative history. He might be itching to release him for all we know.
More thoughts on this event:
- Joe Rogan’s calling of Woodley as “arguably the greatest welterweight of all-time” was absurd pre-fight and looked even more absurd after Usman beat him. I don’t even know how you could even remotely debate him as #1 compared to Georges St-Pierre. One of the greats? Sure. The greatest? No. And Rogan peddled it in the interview too, which baffled me.
- Ben Askren’s UFC debut went from disastrous to controversially victorious. He got violently dumped on the mat by Robbie Lawler and nearly destroyed in about 30 seconds, but he survived, eventually took Lawler down later in the round... and things got weird. Askren went for a bulldog choke, Herb Dean saw Lawler’s arm go limp, but Lawler wasn’t out. It might have looked like the right call in real-time, but Lawler’s immediate protestation and subsequent replays showed it was the wrong call. You can only hope they run this fight back, because it looked like Lawler got jobbed, and the fans got robbed of a potentially great bout. Kudos to Askren for rallying from that hellacious beating in the early going, but that ending certainly soured things... at least for me, it did.
- Chinese MMA has itself a UFC contender. Strawweight Weili Zhang took the unanimous decision over Tecia Torres in a fight that was close until a crucial takedown in the final round, and she just proved to be too strong for Torres in the end. Who knows what this means for Torres, as she’s lost three in a row, but Zhang has established herself as a fighter on the rise.
- Cody Garbrandt can’t and possibly won’t learn. The former UFC bantamweight king was closing round one against Pedro Munhoz fairly well (having lost most of it). Then it became a firefight, and he got clobbered with a right hand and knocked out again. Garbrandt’s decision-making is ridiculously awful. At least Melvin Guillard found a billion different ways to lose fights, Cody has basically lost the same way three straight times. As for Munhoz, he’s awesome and granite-chinned, and I badly want to see him fight Petr Yan. I know that Petr agrees.
- In a fight as fun as advertised, featherweight contender Zabit Magomedsharipov took a clear-cut unanimous decision over a game Jeremy Stephens. The crowd didn’t like the decision for some reason, and of course anyone who watched the broadcast endured Dominick Cruz’s one-sided commentary analyzing his teammate, but no one can argue that Zabit didn’t deserve the W. One thing to watch down the line is he slowed down in round three, just as he did against Kyle Bochniak. Either way, Magomedsharipov is now a top-10 fighter in his division.
- Johnny Walker is ferocious. This man just KO’d Justin Ledet a month ago and he casually strolls in to destroy Misha Cirkunov with a flying knee, getting the finish in 36 seconds. Afterward, he dislocated his left shoulder doing “The Worm” celebration, which is probably the most damage he’s taken in his entire UFC career. He’s a danger to everyone, including himself, and the light heavyweight division is very much on notice.
- Cody Stamann won a unanimous decision over Alejandro Perez, snapping Perez’s seven-fight unbeaten streak. No it wasn’t a good fight, and I really don’t feel like talking about it further.
- Welterweight prospect Mickey Gall looked like a light heavyweight against Diego Sanchez, and had the cardio of a sub-.500 heavyweight. Gall’s gas tank emptied quickly, and Sanchez beat him up in round two for his first stoppage win in over a decade, and now he’s on his first winning streak since 2011. Diego at least showed he’s still more than formidable against guys who are neither good strikers nor good wrestlers, whereas Gall hopefully learns a lot of lessons from this performance, because he looked awful in there.
- On the Fight Pass prelims, Hannah Cifers edged out fellow strawweight Polyana Viana by split decision to get her first UFC win, TUF women’s featherweight winner Macy Chiasson bulldozed Gina Mazany with big power shots for the first-round TKO in her bantamweight debut, and Edmond Tarverdyan-trained middleweight Edmen Shabazyan demolished Charles Byrd with nasty elbows for a 38-second KO. Those were brutal.