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Ben Askren is playing a bit of a blinder on fight week isnt he? the guy is everywhere. 

 

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What’s this? We’ve made it to a Jon Jones fight day and everything’s run smoothly, no controversy and everyone is on weight? Is this real life? 

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Jon Jones vs Anthony Smith is a mismatch but one that I expect will be exciting to watch however long it lasts because Smith is the type who I think will rather just go for it and go out on his shield than freeze up out there. He seems genuinely confident that he’s winning tonight and that’s probably half the battle when you’re going in there with Jones. I would absolutely love to see Smith pull this off because 1) Jones is a wanker, 2) Smith seems a great guy and 3) it’d be an amazing underdog story. Maybe the biggest upset in MMA history for me. Bigger than Serra vs GSP 1 and definitely bigger than Bisping vs Rockhold 2. 

Jones by submission though. In the end, it comes down to a puncher’s chance for Smith and with how Jones fights he doesn’t make many mistakes or get hit clean all that often. It could happen but I think anyone calling that is just hedging their bets so they look like a genius after the fact. Nobody believes Anthony Smith is the man to stop Jon Jones. We were all writing off Cormier and Gustafsson against Jones, so I’m not buying that anyone legit fancies Smith to do it. It’d be incredible if he did though. Just see Jones going straight through him like butter. I think he’ll come in looking to send a message to the doubters and critics about the whole picogram thing, he’ll get off to a strong start and overwhelm Smith on the ground. Subbing him towards the end of the first or early in the second. Guillotine or kimura, I’ll say. 

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Tyron Woodley vs Kamaru Usman is an interesting one because of the questions on how their wrestling will match up. I’ve had Woodley winning this since the fight was announced. I just think he’s got more tools, he can match or better Usman in the wrestling, is the better striker, more athletic, more experienced in big fight situations, has faced more top opposition and beaten different style opponents etc. Usman is tricky though. His striking looks to be improving but it’s obviously his grappling that makes him so formidable. And looking at them in the face-off, he looked to have more of a size advantage over Woodley than I expected. Could be a factor if it becomes a gruelling wrestling battle.  

Woodley by decision for me. I just think Usman is going to struggle to get his game going against Woodley. He’s looked dominant in the wrestling but that was mostly against guys who are weaker in that area. I think it might be a case of the old wrestler vs wrestler thing where they cancel each other out in that aspect and it becomes a striking match. And Woodley wins that all day for me. Maybe a KO/TKO in the championship rounds, but I see Usman surviving but being beat up on the feet for a lot of it. 

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Robbie Lawler vs Ben Askren is probably the hardest fight to call on the entire card. There are two clear ways you can see it going - Lawler by KO or Askren wrestling his way to a decision - and both are very realistic scenarios that you can picture playing out. Lawler has solid defensive grappling but has struggled with elite grapplers at times in his career. And Askren is almost purely a wrestler and has never really faced someone who can end you on the feet like Lawler, who can also stop a takedown and is a former UFC champion. It’s a fascinating styles clash and I’ve been back and forth on it. There’s also the x-factor of Askren coming out of retirement for this, he hasn’t fought since late 2017 and Lawler is a step up from anyone he’s faced previously. And Lawler’s been out a while also. It’s a weird one as I’m not sure either are 100% as sharp as they might be under different circumstances but we don’t know who’s in better form currently. 

I’ll go Askren by decision. I keep changing my mind and I certainly wouldn’t be shocked if Lawler waffles him. But I keep coming back to Askren’s awkward wrestling style and struggling to see Lawler stopping it consistently enough to really get his game going in the standup. There’s also the factor that Askren trains daily with Woodley and, especially for this one with them on the same card, they’ll have been peaking at the same time so they probably had some really great prep for this. Askren being on the mats every day with Woodley throwing hands at him is about as good preparation for Lawler as you can get. 

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Tecia Torres vs Weili Zhang is a bit of a shot in the dark for me as I haven’t seen enough of Zhang. She sounds like a real prospect though. 18-1, on a 18 fight win streak, 16 finishes and submitted veteran Jessica Aguilar in a round last time out. Torres will be her toughest test yet, she’s a decent all-rounder, not spectacular at any one thing but she’s solid at everything and physically strong. 

Fuck it, Zhang on points for me. Not basing it on much but I like the little I’ve seen of her and Torres can be hot and cold. Zhang seems pretty consistent and comes in with real momentum. 

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Cody Garbrandt vs Pedro Munhoz is a good fight nobody is talking about. Interesting to see how Cody looks here, coming off those two knockout losses to TJ Dillashaw. Is his confidence shook, is his chin gone? And Munhoz is no joke. He’s not the type of fighter you want as a rebound to build yourself back up really. He’s a tough opponent and a really skilled fighter that’s gone under the radar a bit IMO, probably because he doesn’t talk shit or do anything particularly flashy in the cage. 

I like Munhoz on points actually. Can see Cody either getting too aggressive, chasing that big KO win to rehabilitate his image, and either getting tagged and stopped himself or just countered coming in and outpointed all night. Or he’ll be hesitant to pull the trigger and Munhoz will run away with it. 

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Jeremy Stephens vs Zabit Magomedsharipov is going to be fucking awesome. Stephens only really has one way to win this but the way he throws with 100% of his power always makes for an edge of the seat feeling in his fights. And having a nutter like Zabit in the opposite corner is a recipe for mayhem. I watched Zabit’s 3 UFC fights again last night and I really think he might be something special. He can do it all. 

I’m having Zabit by submission. I think this might be the proper coming out party for him. He’s finally getting a biggish name on a big card and I really think, unless he gets caught with a bomb (which could happen), he beats Stephens everywhere. I can see it being a war on the feet with Zabit landing more and with more eye-catching stuff, but Stephens keeping it interesting landing a sledgehammer in there every now and then. But ultimately I think Zabit gets it to the ground and ties Stephens up in knots. This is the obvious pick for FOTN. 

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Misha Cirkunov vs Johnny Walker has everyone’s attention. Walker only debuted in the UFC in November and has already gone 2-0 and marked himself out as must-see TV. He’s fucking brilliant. Just such a fun fighter and character to have around. Exactly the kind of guy the 205 division was missing. But this is a tough one. Cirkunov probably has a harder style for Walker to look good against and it’s also a late notice thing with Walker jumping in to replace OSP. 

Ah sod it, Walker by highlight reel KO all the way. Cirkunov is good but he’s not elite and has a few losses himself. I think Walker’s wacky style could definitely work on him and throw him off. I’m not massively confident but I really hope Walker can keep this little streak going. He’s an absolute breath of fresh air at light heavy. 

Undercard also has Diego Sanchez vs Mickey Gall and unbeaten, Ronda Rousey protégé Edmen Shahbazyan. Real depth on this card. 

 

Full predictions...

Jon Jones by Submission.

Tyron Woodley by Decision. 

Ben Askren by Decision. 

Weili Zhang by Decision. 

Pedro Munhoz by Decision. 

Zabit Magomedsharipov by Submission. 

Johnny Walker by KO/TKO. 

Cody Stamann by Decision.

Mickey Gall by KO/TKO. 

Edmen Shahbazyan by Submission. 

Macy Chiasson by Decision. 

Polyana Viana by Decision. 

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i have a feeling the bubble bursts for Johnny Walker tonight, i love that he's bounced right back in there and his confidence is sky high but i think he might have taken 1 risk too many...i hope im wrong.

Im actually quite fascinated that despite the main event being a mismatch on paper and by the bookings odds, im not seeing anyone complain about it. I think people are just happy to see Jon Jones back.

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I think part of that might also be that there really isn’t another more deserving outright challenger than Smith. If this fight had been made in favour of a tougher/more worthy challenger it’d probably be shat all over. But I think people have accepted that Jones really has rinsed the division and this is the way it has to be for a while. You look at the next few guys in line and you’ve got Anthony Smith tonight then who? Thiago Santos, Corey Anderson or they rush Johnny Walker in there if he wins tonight, or Dominick Reyes if he beats Volkan next week. Good fighters but not the established names that most of Jones’ previous defences were against. And that’s nobody’s fault, it’s just the way the division sits currently. Jones can only face who’s there. Outside of the third go with Cormier (which really isn’t warranted to me at 205) the next few challengers are all going to be ‘Anthony Smith types’. I don’t have a problem with it myself. I think the most important thing for Jones right now is just to stay busy and active. That will help him twofold in that 1) he’ll keep earning. Maybe not massive paydays against the Smiths, Santos’ and Andersons etc, but it’s still clawing back some of that money he could’ve been making all that time he was inactive. And 2) it’ll keep him sharp in the cage, and if he keeps his nose clean (figuratively and literally) then maybe it’ll also wash away some of the negative feeling towards him. 

Lot of ifs with Jones though. 

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Mighty Mouse was knocking off deserving challengers though and no one gave a toss and moaned about it.

I think its mainly just people being happy that Jones is back full time and people love to see him fight (alot hopefully want to see him lose), also to the uneducated you could think Smith was a borderline journeyman with his record, when was the last time a UFC title challenger had 13 losses?

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My predictions for the top 3 fights mirror Wand's. I also think Woodley is a bad match-up for Usman. I am quite confident in an Askren victory though. I watched Luke Thomas's breakdown of Askren's game earlier in the week. He's indirectly convinced me that Askren will be able to oppose him game on Lawler and cruise to a points victory. Askren has a good chin and doesn't make many errors. 

We'll see tonight. I can't wait. 

 

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This is great. It’s nothing to do with UFC 235 but I didn’t really know where else to put it and Askren is in it so...

Chael Sonnen and Ben Askren relive some of combat sports most memorable trash talking moments;

 

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just got done with the Embedded series, good stuff and it really made me believe that Usman may be in with a shot against Woodley, some intense focus on that bloke. 

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Some predictions before I head off for my power nap:

Jon Jones to dominate in the main event. I really expect this to be a massive showcase for him, given as he's been able to come into the fight without any of the surrounding controversies that we've seen in the build up against Cormier and Gusty and the like. I like Smith, but I think asking him to beat Jon at this stage is a bridge too far. He's not going to be unbeaten forever, but after how he handled Gustafsson so capably, I don't see Smith being the guy that breaks the streak. There isn't an aspect of Smith's MMA game where he betters Jones, and for that reason I'll predict a second round submission.

Woodley/Usman is a really fascinating one. Obviously, Woodley has shown in basically all of his title defences how good he is at shutting down the specialism of his opponent, but I don't think he's ever faced a wrestler who pressures with as much intent as Usman does. If they end up nullifying each others attempts to wrestle, Woodley takes it in the striking battle, because he's got more variation and has that one-shot stopping power that we've not seen yet from Usman. Saying that, even though he looked great against RDA, I still feel like Usman's a bit of an unknown quantity. He's managed to step up comfortably each time he's taken on someone higher in the rankings, like we saw against RDA, and I've got the feeling he may well do the same tonight against Woodley. That said, if I'm choosing a winner I'll take Woodley, simply because he's got striking capabilities and power that Usman hasn't quite got yet should that be how the fight transpires.

Aksren and Lawler is another unpredictable toss-up. Both guys have clear methods of victory, and both guys are unfamiliar with fighting a guy with the strengths of the other. It's a great piece of matchmaking, because in Lawler you've got a guy who is capable at stuffing a takedown, and even if you do manage to get him grounded, you'll have a hard time keeping him down there. It's a genuine 50/50, but I'm going to plump with Lawler. He's been doing it at a far higher level, for a longer period of time, and similarly to Woodley, has the ability to turn your shit off, quick. Coin toss really this one.

I don't know anything about the two women fighting on the main card so I'll go ahead and say Zhang because she's on the better run of form.

Garbrandt to get a finish as well. He's a knob, but he's come off alright after the two Dillashaw losses, which must have been shit for him to deal with. I just think Dillashaw is his kryptonite, but I fancy him to get a win here. He's been saying all the right things and seems in a really good place with his wife and son on everything I've seen/read/watched coming into this. I can see a stoppage in the 3rd round after a pretty close fight.

Zabit to get a win too. Stephens is great to watch, but as a fighter he's fairly one-dimensional, and by this point he's been in there so many times that there's a clear gameplan to beat him. Can see this one being dragged out for the full 15 minutes because Stephens is a tough bastard.

Big test for Walker, but one that I'm expecting him to get through. Cirkunov isn't anything special, but he's tough and he's durable so it's unlikely we'll get another quick finish like he grabbed against Ledet. It's going to be a decent test for him, because he's going to have to show he can perform against someone with a great chin on them. Still fancy him to get the job done, barring Cirkunov being able to land clean.

I'm looking forward to Gall vs Sanchez. Hopefully we get some nice grappling battles, as they've both got the credentials. Can see Gall picking up a win here. He's a smart guy with his call outs, he knows Sanchez is heading (rapidly) toward the end of his career, yet still carries a bit of name value. 

 

 

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What a night of fights that are on the horizon tonight. There are a tonne of match-ups on the card that are all important at the upper end of their relative divisions, and a lot of rising stars making their step up to their biggest test yet. It could be a real coming out party for Zabit, Zhang, and Walker as well as a night where we'll find out what's left of Robbie Lawler, how good Ben Askren really is, and is the real Cody Garbrandt the man who schooled Dominick Cruz or is it the guy who got flattened twice by TJ Dillashaw? 

Predictions:

Jones by Submission

Woodley by KO/TKO (This one is hard to envision, and will be pretty fascinating to see how it plays out)

Askren by decision (I see Lawler hurting him on the feet early, and possibly at the start of each round, but Ben being able to clinch, and control Robbie for two thirds of the round after he's felt the heat). 

Zhang by decision. 

Garbrandt by decision. 

Zabit by Submission. 

Walker by KO/TKO.

SANCHEZ BY KO. Fuck it. Diego's a bloody warrior. A wounded one at that, but he's going to put pressure on Gall that Mickey might not cope with, especially on the feet. We all know Sanchez's chin is shot, but I'll pick with the heart rather than head here and say Diego gets the W. 

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Shocking stuff from Gall, really. Gassed himself out within minutes against a fighter known for his durability with his sloppy striking, looked flustered as soon as he was put on his back and got battered around on the ground until the stoppage. Really poor stuff from him. Pleased for Diego though, he's always vulnerable to getting hit, and if he was against a better striker he'd probably have taken a defeat, but a nice moment for him. Wouldn't be too surprised to see him call it a day, which is what commentary were alluding to during his walk out.

Perez/Stamman was an okay fight, never particularly got going. Agreed with Stamman getting the nod, though I was tempted to give it to Perez for his takedown in the third alone. Quite enjoyed Stamman's corner having to remind themselves mid-fight how to correctly read a clock.

Johnny Walker, oh my life. What a star in the making he is. You could give him the award for "Biggest Breakout" tomorrow without a shadow of a doubt. Christ alive. Cleans Cirkunov out within 30 seconds and dislocates his shoulder in the celebration. I wouldn't blink twice at giving him the next crack at the title, strike whilst the iron is hot. The mad, lovable bastard.

Zabit looked really good. Essentially the perfect gameplan. Fought very calmly, which isn't easy to do when somebody who hits like Stephens is walking you down. Let him load up in the first, frustrating him with footwork and movement, take him down in the second and beat him up there a little, and then loosen up in the third to test his skills a bit. Did exactly what he needed to do against a guy with the power and pressure fighting approach of Stephens. Fucking Rogan though, man. In the space of literally 30 seconds in the final round he goes from "Zabit is a Dagestani monster! He isn't even breaking a sweat! to "He's looking up at the clock, he's blowing up, he's knackered!". Good fight, I'd like to see them try and redo Zabit/Yair over five rounds. I wouldn't be booking him against the likes of Aldo/Ortega just yet.

Ah, Cody. Mad to think about how incredibly calm and composed he was when he took Cruz apart, and then only a couple of years later he's dropping three defeats on the bounce because he gets too emotional and loses his head and gameplan. I understand that it's easy for me to say sat watching at home, whereas he's there swinging his fists into someone else's head, but he's not getting anywhere near a title shot at the moment unless his approach changes ASAP. Maybe he felt like he needed to make a big statement with a finish after the TJ losses, but it's obviously gone tits up for him. There's at least 4/5 guys ahead of him now in the rankings. Not to take anything away from Munhoz, because he's done a great job to survive that flurry and land his shots, but Cody couldn't have made that fight any easier for him.

First time seeing Zhang, and left impressed. Good striking, flowed well, knew she needed to see out the fight in the third with her smothering approach whilst staying active enough on the ground to prevent being stood up. She could be a big asset for the company with the planned Chinese expansion. Can't help but be drawn to her likeable demeanour. Torres could do with a bit of a break though. Andrade, JJ and Zhang in her last three fights. Ooft.

Robbie Lawler, man. A bad, bad man. Feel sorry for him, and feel sorry for Herb. Can see both arguments to be honest. I thought he was out when his arm dropped, he's doing nothing to defend/contest the choke and he's probably not getting out from that position. I'd rather see a premature stoppage than a late stoppage every day of the week, and Herb is protecting Lawler by calling a stop to the fight when he was presumably out cold. Lawler is all class though. Can you imagine it it was that little fuckwad Dillashaw in there? Christ alive. Liked the subtle heel work from Askren, he strikes me as someone naturally a bit unlikable as opposed to having to put on an entire new persona. Have to credit him for hanging in there in the opening minute, I thought he was fucked when Robbie started smashing away.

Usman, my word. What a stunning performance. Talk about rising to the occasion or what? I said in my predictions I still didn't think we'd seen the best of Kamaru, and we saw that tonight. That performance, mixed with that promo after the fight, that's an absolute star. He absolutely shut Woodley down in every aspect. Completely brushed off his wrestling ability, took no notice of his striking capabilities, just took the fight to him before Woodley even got the chance to get going. Just a ridiculously well-rounded performance. Hopefully he'll be given the chance to run through Colby next, I don't see the Woodley rematch coming straight away.

Main event just felt academic. Not dominant in the same vein as Usman, but Jon never got out of second gear, and for 99% of the fight he didn't need to. Full credit to Smith for not taking the DQ win, which would've been the far easier result. I'm still never going to buy into the "good guy" shtick Jones keeps preaching in his post-fight interviews mind. Still hope Johnny Walker knees his face off.

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Yeah, that Askren finish is kind of perfect for all concerned.

Dana gets to keep on keeping on: Robbie still looks a murderer: Askren gets to lean into it as a bit of a heel and we still don’t really know how he stacks up.

That said... yes, it was an early call IN RETROSPECT - but at the time it definitely looked like Robbie had gone out, and I think in such weird circumstances you have to side with the ref and say ‘wrong call, but it came from the right place’.

I know the argument is that Lawler could have rode out the bulldog choke, that it wasn’t fully across his neck and Askren would have tired: i’m not sure, that’s an Olympic level wrestler. I think he gets the finish eventually.

I hope they book Usman/Askren and just keep Colby in the cold.

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i always like MMA shows when you get talking points and potential avenues to go down coming out of them...a spot of controversy is always nice too. 235 had these things, cracking night.

I'll chime in some more thoughts in abit.

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well...

* Jon Jones literally toyed with Anthony Smith like a cat playing with mouse. Utterly dominant but at the same time frustrating, felt Jones needed to make more of an emphatic statement here and say "bring on the next", he just cruised through it. Smith was game but a tad disappointing, he claimed he'd take the fight to Jones but he was just rendered offenseless like all the others. Jones skillset and size make him near impossible to fight against. Johnny Walker or Thiago Silva next excite me though.

* What a performance by Usman. He really won me over leading up and post-fight too. That said, Woodley just looked like he didnt want to be there, even in the week i felt he just looked unmotivated, such a flat performance but Usman looked a beast. Marty vs. Aksren next.

* The finish is the talking point obviouslt but how the hell did Askren survive that opening salvage, that was grim, the guys got that zombie thing going on where he'll just keep coming till he gets you. The actual finish was justifiable, Lawlers arm 100% went limp so you could see why Herb stopped it. Stoppage or not though, Lawler wasn't getting out of thwt bulldog was he?

* Johnny fucking Walker! what a numpty. 

* Brilliant to see Diego get another win but cant help but feel its gonna end badly at 170 for him. Mickey Gall's bubble has burst though, he needs to drop out of the UFC and pick up some wins, too much too soon.

* Garbrandt/Munhoz was mental. Garbrandt's temperament is his biggest vice, he just sees red and swings. Great for us, sucks for him. Imagine if he did end up fighting Lineker though like people wanted? that would be the end of Cody Garbrandt.

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