UFC 235 Preview: Jones vs. Smith
By: Jesse Donathan
UFC 235 is going down Saturday night, March 2, 2019 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las, Vegs Nevada live on PPV starting at 10 pm. This may be the best card mixed martial arts fan will see all year, with the main event featuring UFC light heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones (23-1) squaring off against the very experienced veteran in challenger Anthony “Lionheart” Smith (31-13). Smith was once cut from the UFC after his first loss with the promotion, but with true grit and determination soldiered on and managed to fight his way not only back to the big stage but vying for the UFC light heavyweight crown against perhaps the greatest fighter the sport has ever seen in champion Jon Jones.
Smith is on a three-fight win streak, having dispatched two former UFC LHW champions in Rashad Evans and Mauricio Rua and going on to submit former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir by rear-naked-choke. He will have his hands full against the champion, where according to a February 27, 2019 sherdog.com article titled, “Jon Jones Praises ‘Most Well Put Together Coaching Staff Ever Assembled’ Ahead of UFC 235” Jones has put together a dream team of mixed martial arts minds to maximize his chances of success against the very experienced Anthony Smith.
Jones is reported to have an 84 ½ in reach, over eight inches longer than the challenger Anthony Smith (76) despite both fighters being reported to be 6’4” though in previous faceoff’s leading up to the fight Jones appears to have a slight advantage even in that department as well. The fight will be contested at the championship weight of 205 pounds where Jon Jones is considered by most to be favorite going into the contest by a wide margin (14:1) though there is a small but growing contingency who believe an upset is in the making Saturday might.
The evenings co-main event will see UFC 170-pound welterweight champion Tyron Woodley (19-3) defend his belt against the very game #2 ranked UFC welterweight contender Kamaru Usman (14-1). On paper, these fighters appear to be nearly carbon copies of one another. Both are dominant wrestlers who rely on a sprawl heavy game plan to force outmatched opponents to stand and trade with them, though in the champions case a tendency to come well prepared with an excellent game plan and impeccable execution are increasingly becoming hallmarks of a Woodley title reign.
In the wings, waits former UFC welterweight interim champion Colby Covington who is the divisions #1 contender, having allegedly lost his chance to compete for the undisputed belt due to a previously scheduled nasal surgery, bumping the divisions #2 contender in Usman into the title contention picture.
Covington is a star in the making, a fighter who is not afraid to say whatever is on his mind which usually includes just the right things to get under both other fighters and the fans skin alike. He is a naturally charismatic, intelligent personality who the UFC created an interim title for and who UFC President Dana White even brought to the White House with him to meet President Donald Trump.
Recently, Covington and the UFC have created a narrative where Covington has been wronged out of his rightful title shot against Tyron Woodley as Covington watches one of the divisions two toughest opponents fight one another and lose, sending someone going to the back of the line and clearing the landscape that much more for an eventual Covington title run.
In the process, the perennial heel in Covington is slowly turning babyface by garnering the fan and media’s sympathies with his plight. Professional wrestling psychology 101 and an ingenious marketing strategy employed to manipulate the tools at their disposal and the future of the division.
And if these two amazing fights weren’t enough for your viewing pleasure, UFC 235 also features the fierce former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler (28-12) take on Woodley training partner and wrestling prodigy Ben Askren (18-0) in Askren’s highly anticipated UFC debut. Few champions have defended their titles the way that Robbie Lawler did, who was involved in some absolute wars and handled himself as a man would in the cage win or lose. This is the toughest fight Askren’s career to date and one where a lot of questions will be answered.
Lawler has an excellent anti-wrestling game, making him a particularly interesting test against Askren who is always the best grappler when he steps into the cage, no matter who he is facing. Robbie Lawler will bring the fight to Askren, the only fighter who will be looking for a takedown in this fight is Ben Askren and the questions really are can he consistently do so while weathering the storm in the process? Lawler is a competitor, the incredibly heralded and charismatic Askren will have his hands full until Lawler is stopped or the final bell sounds.
Fortunately for us, the great night of fights doesn’t end there. Tecia Torres (10-3) faces off against Weili Zhang (18-1), former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt (11-2) fights Pedro Munhoz (17-3), Jeremy Stephens (28-15) is slated to scrap with one of the UFC’s most exciting up and coming fighters in Zabit Magomedsharipov (16-1) and Misha Cirkunov (14-4) fights the popular Johnny Walker (16-3). This card is absolutely stacked, there are also some big names remaining on the card no previously mentioned to include Diego Sanchez, Polyana Viana, Marlon Vera and others. Tune in Saturday night, live on PPV to catch what is likely to be the best card fans will see all year.