After stopping rival Alexander Gustafsson is his return to the octagon, Jon Jones takes on Anthony Smith in the first title defense of his new reign atop the division. Jones previously held the belt from 2011-2015 before being stripped of his title. Jones would later go on to secure the belt again in 2016 and 2017 but had the title stripped away on both occasions.
Also featured on the stacked card is a Welterweight title fight between reigning champ Tyron Woodley and undefeated prospect Kamaru Usman. Ben Askren makes his UFC debut against former champion Robbie Lawler, Tecia Torres takes on surging Strawweight prospect Weili Zhang, and former Bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt looks to get back on track against the up and coming Pedro Munhoz.
UFC 235 Updated Odds & Predictions
(All Lines Courtesy of Oddsshark.com)
Cody Garbrandt (-155) vs Pedro Munhoz (+125) Prediction
This line looks to be an absolute steal. On the heels of back to back losses to rival T.J. Dillashaw, Garbrandt’s stock is at an all-time low. Having only fought twice over the past two years (both to Dillashaw), Garbrandt was slowed down by injuries and didn’t look like the fighter who ripped through the Bantamweight division and took the belt on the back of an undefeated record. Now rested and healthy, Garbrandt looks to kickstart his quest to regain his belt.
Pedro Munhoz is no slouch in his own right. Despite trying (and failing) to step up in competition on three separate occassions, Munhoz possesses a slick ground game to go alongside some recently improved striking. With three performance of the night bonuses to his name, Munhoz has yet to be stopped and shows a willingness to engage given the trust he has in his chin.
Despite the durability of Munhoz, Garbrandt is an elite MMA fighter who has had some bad breaks the past few years. Look for Garbrandt to get himself back on track and try to force his name back into the Bantamweight title picture with a resounding win over Munhoz.
Pick: Cody Garbrandt (-155)
Weili Zhang (-130) vs Tecia Torres (EVEN) Prediction
Weili Zhang is one of the most well-rounded prospects that the women’s Strawweight division has ever seen. With a slick ground game to go with a crisp standup game, Zhang has shown the ability to control the fight wherever it leads. However, Zhang faces her toughest test to date in the battle-tested Tecia Torres.
Torres’ career arc is fairly similar to that of Cody Garbrandt. Despite not holding the belt, Torres put together a very solid resume prior to facing off with Jessica Andrade and Joanna Jędrzejczyk in consecutive matchups. Andrade and Jędrzejczyk are two of the best female fighters on the planet and Torres was able to take them both to a decision.
Coming off consecutive losses, Torres is simply too strong of a fighter to pass up at even odds. Although Zhang has a promising resume, Torres has considerably more UFC experience and the UFC veteran should prove to be too much for the young fighter out of China.
Pick: Tecia Torres (EVEN)
Ben Askren (-285) vs Robbie Lawler (+225) Prediction
After much fanfare, Ben Askren finally makes his long-awaited UFC debut. One of MMA’s most exciting prospects, MMA fans around the world have long wondered how Askren would fare against the UFC’s better pool of talent. With a smothering ground game, Askren has been able to overpower any fighter put in front of him and is one of the best fighters in the world at establishing a dominant position and controlling the pace of the fight.
Long-time UFC veteran Robbie Lawler gets the call to introduce Askren and poses an incredibly interesting matchup for the undefeated UFC rookie. A former Welterweight champion, Lawler has fought a who’s who of the Welterweight division since his debut all the way back at UFC 37. Lawler is by no means the fighter he was in his prime years of 2014-2016, but Lawler is still arguably the toughest fighter the UFC has on their roster. An adept wrestler who uses his skillset mostly to defend takedowns and keep the fight standing, Lawler loves nothing more than to lure his opponent into a phonebook and trade haymakers.
The key to this matchup will be how Lawler is able to use his wrestling chops to keep the fight on the feet. Should Askren be unable to put Lawler on the ground, Robbie should be able to open him up with his notoriously heavy hands. Given the odds and Lawlers wrestling pedigree, I’ll be going with Lawler all day.
Pick: Robbie Lawler (+225)
Tyron Woodley (-160) vs Kamaru Usman (+130) Prediction
Tyron Woodley actually happens to be the man that took the Welterweight belt from Robbie Lawler. Using a smothering ground game to mostly take fights to a decision, Woodley actually has some underrated power in his hands and gets a bit of an unfair reputation for being too grapple-heavy. Woodley is a supreme athlete that does an incredible job of not deviating from his game-plan and imposing his will across fights.
While Woodley faced and beat a prime Robbie Lawler as well as the man with the most dangerous Jiu-Jistu in MMA (Demian Maia), he hasn’t faced a fighter who truly is able to go toe to toe with his combination of wrestling and athleticism. Kamaru Usman provides that exact skill set to go with an undefeated resume including some big names.
Despite posing an interesting stylistic matchup for Woodley, Tyron is one of the most cerebral fighters in the game and does a fantastic job of making adjustments mid-fight. Usman has been mostly able to overpower his opponents and hasn’t faced a top prospect with wrestling chops that match his own. Give me the more experienced and cerebral wrestler in what should be on the more interesting matchups to watch from a stylistic standpoint.
Pick: Tyronn Woodley (-160)
Jon Jones (-900) vs Anthony Smith (+550) Prediction
Our final matchup of the night should by far be the least competitive fight of the evening. Simply put, Jon Jones is the most talented MMA fighter to ever step foot in the octagon. Possessing MMA’s longest reach to go alongside his deceptive unrivaled strength, from a physical standpoint Jones is a daunting matchup for any style of fighter. When you pair that with his collegiate wrestling background and unorthodox (but elite) standup game, you have the pieces for the perfect fighter. The only thing that has slowed Jones down has been himself and Smith shouldn’t be changing that anytime soon.
This isn’t to knock Anthony Smith, who has put together a somewhat impressive run at Lightheavyweight in his own right. With consecutive wins over Mauricio Rua and Rashad Evans, Smith’s resume would look a lot more impressive if the year was 2010 but still shouldn’t be discounted. Smith has heavy hands and loves to turn the fight into an all-out brawl. Adept at finishing an injured fighter with strikes or by submission, Smith has a more well-rounded game than he typically gets credit for.
All in all, Jones is simply too good of a fighter and will most likely pick apart Smith before finishing him relatively early on. There is no value at all in Jones at -900, so instead, we’re going to look at Jones winning by KO, TKO, or DQ in order to chase a slightly better payout.
Pick: Jon Jones by KO, TKO, or DQ (-140)