UFC 235

UFC 235: Live Stream 2019 Previewing the Biggest and Best Fights Set for Las Vegas The UFC returns to T-Mobile Arena, we hope, on March 2 with another Jon Jones-led event. UFC 235 brings a deep card full of action, with two title fights leading the charge.

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With those two championship fights, interesting debuts, exciting veterans and a lot of the unknown, this card should have a little something for everyone. It could end up being a contender for Card of the Year given its variety and high-stakes action.

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Here, we take a look at the biggest and best fights coming to the fight capital of the world in less than a month at UFC 235. The King is back. Jon Jones returned and reclaimed his UFC light heavyweight crown in December at UFC 232, and he is already set to get back in the cage to prove he’s the greatest fighter on the planet.

After a failure to gain a Nevada license for that UFC 232 fight, Jones was granted permission to fight in Las Vegas after agreeing to terms with the Nevada State Athletic Commission (h/t AP’s Danny Webster). With most of the bureaucratic stuff now behind him, Jones can get back to focusing solely on his work inside the Octagon.

The first test for the 31-year-old is fast-rising Anthony Smith. Smith was a solid middleweight but never a true contender. He moved up to light heavyweight at UFC 225, and leaving the weight cutting behind turned him into a scary knockout threat at his new weight class.

His first two fights at 205 pounds were swift knockouts over former UFC champions Rashad Evans and Mauricio Rua. He submitted Volkan Oezdemir for his third-straight win in a bout that got him this title opportunity. The 30-year-old is not expected to win this fight. On the surface, this is another bout where Jones should cruise. But perhaps that is one of the most intriguing things about it.

In a sport where anything can happen, Smith has already defied the odds to reach this point. He has well-rounded skills and fight-altering power in his strikes. There is the chance he could stun the world and shake up the entire light heavyweight division with just one punch. The UFC has to be thrilled to get Jones back as a champion. He is one of their most bankable stars.

On paper, this is a one-sided affair and a showcase for Jones’ talents, but Smith will pose danger which makes the main event an interesting fight that will almost assuredly reach a violent end. While the main event may turn into a showcase for Jones’ skills, the co-main event to UFC 235 is a stellar meeting between the two top welterweights in the world.

Heavy-handed grapplers Tyron Woodley, the champion, and Kamaru Usman, the challenger, will step into the cage to assert their dominance. The fight will mark Woodley’s sixth UFC title fight and fifth title defense inside the Octagon. Many expected a long-awaited showdown between Woodley and Colby Covington, but in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, UFC President Dana White confirmed the latter is no longer the interim champion after turning down a fight.

Make no mistake, this contest is not second-rate. In fact, Woodley vs. Usman could well be the best welterweight fight to make in this talent-rich division. Usman is on a 13-fight win streak and is undefeated in the UFC. Perhaps more impressive is that he has not really been threatened in his tenure. He has largely dominated his opposition. The champion will push him to be his best.

The American has a better wrestling pedigree, but few have adapted their skills better into MMA than Usman. Woodley has better one-shot power, but the Nigerian has developed perhaps a deeper striking game overall. This fight will feel like a powder keg ready to explode. Neither fighter rushes out to the center and starts throwing haymakers. But there will be a tension to this fight as they look for opportunities. The anticipation should have fight fans on the edge of their seat.

The tentativeness of each fighter could make portions of this bout a bore, but it will only take a spark to ignite the action. Woodley vs. Usman could be a fight we look back on by year’s end as an example of what a true elite contest looks like. Few fighters have been as heralded as No. 14-ranked contender Zabit Magomedsharipov, but few fighters have backed up that talk with incredible performances. Now is the time to see how good he really is as he battles No. 6-ranked contender Jeremy Stephens.

This fight was chosen as the featured ESPN preliminary contest for a reason. Before heading off to pay-per-view, on ESPN’s massive platform, the UFC is giving fans arguably the Fight of the Night for free.

Stephens is coming off a crushing body-shot KO loss to Jose Aldo, but losing to the former champ hardly takes the shine off of his recent run up the ranks. His berserker style makes him incredibly fun to watch, and he has put on fan-pleasing brawls throughout his UFC career.

Magomedsharipov will force him to be more tactical, though, and is 4-0 in the UFC with three submission victories. If he continues that streak against a talented star like Stephens, he could be looking at a run toward the title by year’s end. The UFC is giving the Russian a chance to grab the attention in this spot.

And don’t think this is the UFC relegating Stephens to gatekeeper status. No, they are giving him a chance to rebound in the best way possible. The only thing guaranteed in this fight is that fans won’t be disappointed. Both Stephens and Magomedsharipov will bring the heat.

Jon Jones may be the best fighter on the card, and Woodley vs. Usman may be the best high-level bout on the bill, but this is the single fight any fan simply cannot miss. It’s pure action. He’s finally here. Ben Askren is a UFC fighter. Robbie Lawler is your welcoming committee.

The UFC is wasting no time in putting Askren in a primetime position. He is on the undercard of the welterweight title tilt against a former champion. A win over Lawler would almost assure him a title shot later in 2019, and Lawler is unquestionably the best fighter he has ever fought.

Lawler took all of 2018 off after his loss to Rafael dos Anjos, and this fight may offer him the chance to make another run toward the title. He was one of the UFC’s most exciting champions, and he will bring that mindset into this fight where he must stay upright and let his hands go. With Askren in the UFC, we are finally going to find out how good he is. That is stupidly exciting.

The world hasn’t seen Cody Garbrandt since his second consecutive loss to T.J. Dillashaw last August. Returning to face-off against Pedro Munhoz will let fans and the UFC know how those losses have affected him as a fighter.

Munhoz is one of the toughest outs in the bantamweight division. If Garbrandt comes out flat, he will lose. He is forced into being at the top of his game. If the American comes out and takes care of business with a vintage performance, he will immediately thrust himself back into the title picture.

The UFC had invested a lot into Garbrandt being the potential face of the division. Here is a chance for him to recapture some of that shine against one of the more underrated fighters on the UFC roster. Yes, it is odd to have a TBD fight listed in the “Best of the Rest” category, but there are two key reasons why it finds itself here.

The first is that with Misha Cirkunov involved, fans are in store for an action-packed and meaningful fight. He is the No. 14-ranked contender in the light heavyweight division, and no matter who he faces, this fight will have implications in the division.

The second is who may come in to salvage the fight. It could well be Johnny Walker. The incredible sensation took to Twitter during UFC 234 to pitch his involvement in the card. His coming in to face Cirkunov is perfect for the UFC and a great way to keep this fight’s significance intact. But should the UFC shun the perfect opportunity to put Walker back on a card, this fight is still going to be a must-watch.

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.