UFC 235 is almost upon us.
The UFC has managed to put together one of the most stacked mixed martial arts cards in recent memory, and let’s just hope that it all stays together in the final days.
In the main event slot, we’ve got Jon Jones returning to action already. He’ll be facing rising challenger, Anthony Smith.
And then there’s a second title fight between Tyron Woodley and Kamaru Usman at welterweight. We’ve also got the UFC debut of Ben Askren, who’ll be facing Robbie Lawler, in addition to former champion Cody Garbrandt making his return.
If you’re just joining us now for the first time in 2019, you’ve unfortunately missed out on the 8.37 units of profit we’ve cashed in from the bookmakers so far. We’ve now come out on top from all five of the UFC events to have taken place in 2019, and plan to keep the ball rolling here at UFC 235.
Let’s get started.
Jon Jones vs. Anthony Smith
Time passes quickly in the world of mixed martial arts.
Jon Jones competed just under two months ago, capturing the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship in a bout with Alexander Gustafsson. If that seems surprising, you have every right to be puzzled, because the last time Jones made this quick was a turnaround was back in 2011 when he stopped Ryan Bader and Mauricio Rua in a span of only 42 days. Consistent appearances and Jon Jones have probably never been used in the same sentence before now.
And then there’s Anthony Smith, who until only recently had never been regarded as a contender in any UFC division, let alone being considered as the top contender. Smith has stayed hungry throughout his 44-fight career and despite 13 defeats to his name, has never let go of his dreams. All it took for Smith to finally approach the summit was a move to the light heavyweight division, where he has won three consecutive fights. As a middleweight, Smith won four and lost two of his bouts in the UFC and no one would have ever imagined him standing across from one of the greatest mixed martial artists in the history of the sport in his career. But through the combination of raw determination and power, Smith finds himself in the biggest matchup of his career by a wide margin.
Jon Jones vs. Anthony Smith Odds
At these odds, Anthony Smith would go down as having recorded one of the greatest upsets in UFC history if he wins this weekend.
Jon Jones steps into this main event after easily defeating Gustafsson, the man who once gave him the greatest challenge of his career. We confidently backed Jones to win at UFC 232 and predicted the major reasons why that would be the case: his work to the lead leg of Gustafsson, and also his improved boxing ability.
Jones’ oblique kick to the lead thigh/knee will be a particularly devastating weapon in this fight with Anthony Smith, as well. Jones uses this kick to smash into the front leg of his opponent, disrupting their forward momentum and damaging their ligaments in the process. It’s a controversial technique that always raises eyebrows, but it’s certainly legal and highly effective.
The fight with Gustafsson showcased one scary possibility about Jones’ abilities – his boxing was the weakest link in his game, but it’s no longer a cause of concern. Jones admitted to not respecting the art of boxing earlier in his career, and that’s one reason why he struggled against the Swede in their first bout. Since then, however, Jones has put the work in and now has a variety of techniques that can help him not only attack with his hands but also evade and defend incoming punches, as well.
If it wasn’t for this critical improvement, Smith may have had a greater chance of defeating Jones inside the close-to-mid ranges of the fight. He’s now left without an overwhelmingly clear pathway to victory. Sure, he needs a fast finish, but what’s the road there?
Smith has repeatedly stated that he is the “better fighter” in this matchup, whereas Jones is the better “martial artist.”
If the challenger is looking at the number of times he’s had to overcome adversity in full-blown wars with his opponents, that’s certainly not something that’s an advantage coming into this one. Where Smith fights adversity by becoming more aggressive and biting down on his mouthguard, Jones instead will take a step back and analyze the fight in real-time before making crucial adjustments to his strategy and tactics.
That’s why Jon Jones is such a hard man to beat. It’s as much about his mind as it is about his body and techniques.
Expect Smith to storm out at the beginning of the first round and pressure Jones from the opening seconds. He’s going to need to. His best chance of a stoppage is in those opening minutes, because the longer that this fight goes, the more time it allows Jones to gather information and upgrade his strategy.
Smith has a chance – like anyone in mixed martial arts – but these odds would need to be even higher to justify taking a shot on Smith to defeat Jones.
Jones has too many pathways to victory, and one of them being an early takedown and brutal ground and pound.
Right now, the odds for Jones to win in round one are far too high at Bet365, so we’ll be running with this and hoping Jones can finish Smith inside the first five minutes.
Bet on Jon Jones to win in round one: +260 at Bet365
Tyron Woodley vs. Kamaru Usman
If Jon Jones vs. Anthony Smith isn’t enough reason to tune in this weekend, maybe the first of these two title fights will.
Just before Jones and Smith go head-to-head, Tyron Woodley will attempt to defend his title from Kamaru Usman in the co-main event.
Woodley’s in a place of his own in the UFC right now, being one of the very few champions (if not the only one) who has consistently defended his throne from a seemingly never-ending run of top contenders.
After winning the title from Robbie Lawler in July 2016, Woodley has gone on to successfully defend his title four times – including a majority draw with Stephen Thompson. Woodley would later defeat Thompson, the top contender, before then dominating Demian Maia and Darren Till. Woodley is continually underrated going into fights, and notably entered his bout with 25-year-old Darren Till as the betting underdog before submitting him without even taking a punch at UFC 228.
Kamaru Usman is the man challenging the champion, and he’s on a bit of a roll himself right now. Stepping into UFC 235 with a 15-win streak behind him – including two exhibition wins on The Ultimate Fighter Season 21 – Usman has labeled himself a “problem” for the welterweight division ever since his arrival. In recent bouts, he’s lived up to that expectation, easily dismantling Demian Maia and Rafael Dos Anjos, two top contenders in the division.
Tyron Woodley vs. Kamaru Usman
This is a brilliant matchup for many reasons, but none more so than Usman’s pace, pressure, and endurance will provide an unusually tough challenge for the current champion.
All of Woodley’s most recent opponents have succumbed to the threat of his powerful right-hand counterpunch, often sitting back out of range and not engaging. The threat of the takedown, mixed in with his powerful hands, is enough to keep elite-level strikes from employing their typically aggressive strategies. Usman is the first competitor in quite some time to enter a fight with Woodley with comparable wrestling abilities. The challenger won’t need to fear the takedown, because he’ll be confident in his ability to defend one if it comes.
This will allow Usman to be more aggressive on the feet than what we have seen from Woodley’s recent opponents. One of those, Darren Till, rose to a title shot after easily destroying the likes of Donald Cerrone and others who stood in his way. Till failed to land a significant strike on Woodley in over seven minutes of fighting, mostly because he was too hesitant.
With respect for Woodley’s power, if it lands flush against Usman, it’s probably lights out and game over. There’s also not enough evidence to show that Usman can defend this strike with ease, suggesting that he may get tagged at times.
But tape study does show that Usman brings a relentless pace to the Octagon every time and will be constantly moving forward and working Woodley over. Expect Usman to work in behind his jab, close the distance and then engage with Woodley against the cage, where he might land a couple more strikes than Woodley in every exchange. Woodley is a relatively inactive fighter who is more focused on drawing his opponent into his big right hand. If he can’t land it, there’s a good chance that Usman runs away with a decision due to his high volume of strikes and constant pressure.
This fight is a little closer than the odds suggest, and in this case, we’re definitely leaning toward Usman being the better value bet at +150 with Sportsbook. If you can find Usman anywhere above +135, take a shot at the challenger in this one.
Bet on Kamaru Usman to win: +150 at Sportsbook
Best Bets for UFC 235
- Jon Jones to win in round one: +260 at Bet365
- Kamaru Usman to win: +150 at Sportsbook