Published Saturday, March 2, 2019 | 7 p.m.
Updated Saturday, March 2, 2019 | 10:52 p.m.
Not a single round was in dispute.
The two title fights that headlined UFC 235 Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena combined to go the maximum 10 rounds. A clear winner emerged in each of those 10 rounds, as Jon Jones and Kamaru Usman demolished Anthony Smith and Tyron Woodley, respectively, to claim belts on the first local pay-per-view card of the year.
Jones retained his light heavyweight title by thoroughly outstriking Smith for a unanimous-decision win (48-46, 48-46, 48-46). Usman became the new welterweight champion, ending Woodley’s near three-year reign, by putting on a wrestling clinic and smothering the champion to win his own unanimous decision (50-45, 50-44, 50-44).
“I wanted to show can’t no one hang with me,” Usman said in the octagon after his win. “I know I’ve been telling them for a long time and I wanted this fight. I might not be the best striker, I might not be the best pure wrestler, but when it comes to mixing this (expletive) up I’m the best in the (expletive) world right now.”
The only question afterwards was which performance was more dominant.
Smith was bloodier, but Woodley probably landed even fewer strikes.
“It wasn’t my best performance,” Jones said as he walked out of the octagon, “but I got the job done.”
The only controversy came in the fight in direct support to the championship bouts. Ben Askren prevailed in his long-awaited UFC debut when referee Herb Dean ended his welterweight fight against Robbie Lawler when it appeared he had completed a bulldog choke at 3:20 of the first round.
Lawler immediately protested, however, and led many to believe that the stoppage was early.
“I’m not a referee,” Askren said to the largely-booing crowd. “But that’s what it came down to.”Askren was nearly stopped in the opening minute, when Lawler slammed him on his head in a scramble. The former champion followed up with ground-and-pound and had Askren in trouble, but couldn’t quite finish.
The only suspense in the title fights came when Jones landed an illegal knee in the fourth round when Smith was downed on the canvas. Jones could have lost via disqualification if Smith was unable to continue, but the challenger kept fighting as the champion was penalized two points.
“I wanted to win it,” Smith said. “I didn’t want to steal it. It wasn’t my night I guess.”
The other winners on the main card were bantamweight Pedro Munhoz and strawweight Weili Zhang, who defeated Cody Garbrandt and Tecia Torres, respectively.
Munhoz knocked out Garbrandt at 4:52 of the first round in a wild exchange, while Zhang claimed a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28). The women’s fight would feature the last close scoring round of the night, as there was nothing to debate by the time the main events rolled around.
“It wasn’t a different style for me but I thought it was necessary,” Jones said.
Check back later for more coverage from lasvegassun.com and scroll to the bottom of the page for full results from the preliminary card.
The last several UFC events in Las Vegas have mostly centered on one massive bout.
UFC 235’s pay-per-view, which begins momentarily at T-Mobile Arena, breaks from that theme. The first major local event of 2019 feels more like a throwback in that it’s intrigue runs up and down the main card.
There are two title fights — Jon Jones defending his light heavyweight strap against Anthony Smith, and Tyron Woodley taking on welterweight challenger Kamaru Usman —but they’re arguably not even the biggest draws, depending on who is asked.
Two former champions are also in action, with one of them the opponent for a highly anticipated debut. Robbie Lawler, whom lost his welterweight title when Woodley defeated him in 2016, welcomes undefeated Ben Askren to the octagon in a direct-support bout to the two headliners.
Lawler is the ultimate brawler, while Askren is one of the most decorated wrestlers to ever appear in the UFC. An intriguing clash of styles awaits.
Another hard-swinging fighter to have recently fell from the championship ranks, Cody Garbrandt, opens the card in a near pick’em fight against Pedro Munhoz. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt has lost three times in the UFC, but the last two have come via split decision.
The winner immediately vaults into title contention.
Afterwards, Weili Zhang will have a similar opportunity in a women’s strawweight bout against Tecia Torres.
Put it all together and there should be plenty to tide fans over before Jones and Woodley look to extend their reigns. Woodley is beginning to argue he deserves a spot in the conversation of best welterweights of all-time and a sixth straight title defense — against an opponent as well-rounded as Usman, no less — would make it hard to deny.
Jones’ status as the best light heavyweight is already secure, but he’s vowed to stay active after missing much of the last two years for disputed positive tests for performance-enhancing-drug. Smith is as high as a 6-to-1 underdog and not many are confident about his chances, but in a card as competitive at UFC 235, upsets are bound to happen.
The only question is which fighter(s) can manage them.
Stay tuned to lasvegassun.com for round-by-round coverage of the main card, and read below for full preliminary results.
In a Fight of the Night candidate, Zabit Magomedsharipov defeated Jeremy Stephens via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) in their featherweight showdown. Stephens came on late to clock Magomedharipov with a few shots in the third round, but couldn't complete the comeback.
Highly-touted light heavyweight prospect Johnny Walker notched his third straight first-round knockout, and second straight in less than a minute. Walker dispatched Misha Cirkunov in 36 seconds via flying knee.
Cody Stamman defeated Alejandro Perez by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) in a bantamweight bout the crowd appeared to think should have gone the other way. Boos rained down when Stamman was announced the winner, as he may have been the slightly more active fighter, but Perez seemed to land the bigger shots.
The preliminary card belonged to Diego Sanchez, as the 14-year UFC veteran lightweight pulled off a big upset over Mickey Gall. Sanchez defeated Gall via TKO at 4:13 of the second round, using a downpour of elbows to earn the stoppage.
It took only 38 seconds for Edmen Shahbazyan to stay undefeated and improve his record to 9-0. Shahbazyan knocked out Charles Byrd with elbows less than a minute into the first round of their middleweight bout.
Macy Chiasson maintained her ascent and stayed perfect following winning “The Ultimate Fighter: Heavy Hitters” with a first-round knockout win in her women’s bantamweight debut. Local Gina Mazany was the victim, dropping to a Chiasson right hand and succumbing to follow-up ground-and-pound at 1:41 of the first round.
Hannah Cifers held off Polyana Viana to win a split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29) in a women’s strawweight bout. Cifers scored a knockdown in the first round, but Viana recovered and nearly pulled off a comeback win.