UFC 235

UFC 235: Live Stream Fight Card: Schedule, Odds, Predictions for Jon Jones vs. Anthony Smith UFC 235 is set to go down Saturday, with two title fights anchoring the card in Las Vegas. Jon Jones will defend his strap against Anthony Smith, while Tyron Woodley will aim to keep Kamaru Usman from taking his belt in the co-main event.

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For Jones, it’s the first time he’ll be defending his title since officially regaining it in a December 29 bout with Alexander Gustafsson. He’ll look to make up for lost time by making the quick turnaround and kick off what might be a busy 2019.  Woodley faces a little stiffer competition in Usman, according to the oddsmakers. The Nigerian Nightmare is only a slight underdog at plus-145 ($100 bet pays $145), per OddsShark.

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It isn’t very often that a UFC title fight feels like a squash match, but it’s hard to escape the feeling here. Jones is a transcendent talent in the cage. Smith is a fighter with 13 losses on his record. That may be a bit reductive, but those are the facts.  One could make a case that Smith’s size, heart and aggression make him a live dog, but it just feels disingenuous. Jones has fought and beaten countless former champions and future Hall of Famers. Daniel Cormier, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida and Shogun Rua have given him their best shots and crumbled.

It’s a major reason that Alexander K. Lee of MMA Fighting is picking Jones inside the distance: “Beyond the reach advantage he has over Smith, Jones’s instincts are just so sharp and I doubt Smith can execute anything that Jones hasn’t seen before. It might take a round or two to figure Smith out, but Jones should be able to take his time, drop Smith with a flurry or a takedown, and finish with ground-and-pound before the championship frames.”

That seems like the most realistic way this fight goes down. Jones is simply too much for Smith. Athleticism, fight IQ and technique. He holds all the advantages, and that will shine through as long as this one lasts.  Kamaru Usman is unlike the other challengers Tyron Woodley has seen vie for his belt. Stephen Thompson was the unorthodox striker. Demian Maia was the submission wizard. Darren Till was supposed to be the busier version of Thompson.

Now, Woodley will take on a fellow wrestling threat in Usman. The Nigerian Nightmare brings much more pressure than Woodley’s previous title-fight opponents, and it creates an intriguing dynamic in the co-main event.  As is sometimes the case in a battle between two vaunted wrestlers, it might be the stand-up that determines this fight. With both respecting the ground games of their opponent, it wouldn’t be surprising to see this settled on the feet.

Given Woodley’s success against excellent strikers already, that’s an advantage for him. It’s a big reason why Anton Tabuena of Bloody Elbow is taking Woodley by TKO: “I think most of this bout will be contested on the feet, where I believe Woodley has better boxing and more power. Perhaps more importantly since they have similar traits, the more experienced fighter in Woodley has also shown to have higher fight IQ and the better ability to adjust or implement a sound game plan.”

This could go the distance, but Woodley’s one-punch power could alter the fight at any time.  Kicking off the pay-per-view card is an important fight in the bantamweight division. When former champion Cody Garbrandt takes on Pedro Munhoz, the stakes will be pretty high. Garbrandt is making his return after back-to-back losses in title fights against TJ Dillashaw. Munhoz’s stock, on the other hand, is soaring after six wins in seven fights—and the only loss was a controversial split decision to John Dodson.  A win over Garbrandt would launch him into the elite of the division.

That’ll be a tall order, though. Despite the losses to Dillashaw being the only ones of his career, this feels like a do-or-die spot for the hard-swinging 27-year-old. He needs a big win to get back into the title picture, and Munhoz happens to be the man standing in the way.  Fortunately for “No Love,” he holds major advantages in power and athleticism. While Garbrandt has to show some evolution from the fighter who lost the title, he won’t need to do it against Munhoz, as Bleacher Report’s Scott Harris notes:

“We all know what Garbrandt’s about in this fight. Munhoz’s jiu-jitsu-predicated game is better here if he can apply it, but I think Garbrandt brings all that Garbrandtness into the cage and lands the highlight-reel knockout we all know he’s dying to get.” The former champion’s hand speed and power should be enough to get him out of this bout pain-free.

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