It’s not often that a fight card actually lives up to the hype and expectation, but UFC 235 is one of the few that did. There were upset victories, fan favourite wins, a title change and a dominant defense. It’s safe to say there’s a lot to consider for a number of fighters, up and down the card, following Saturday night.
Johnny Walker Strikes Again
Exactly one month after his incredibly impressive knockout victory over Justin Ledet in Brazil (stopping his opponent in just 15 seconds), rising star Johnny Walker took a short notice fight with Misha Cirkunov at UFC 235. It’s a fight I, and many others, felt he would win however I did not expect him to win in such dominant fashion once again.
It took Walker double the length of time to stop Cirkunov, meaning it took just 36 seconds of the first round. If Walker continues on a warpath like this, it will not be long before he begins to face some of the top contenders in the Light Heavyweight division. I’d be interested to see him take on someone in the top 10 in his next fight… though he may need a little time to recover after dislocating his shoulder celebrating his victory… never change Johnny.
Zabit Marches On
Zabit Magomedsharipov was ranked 13th in the Featherweight division heading into his fight with Jeremy Stephens, and after an impressive victory over the 6th ranked man, I would not be surprised to see him jump into the top five. I think it’s a little too early to see him take on one of the top three (Frankie Edgar, Jose Aldo or Brian Ortega), but I think a matchup with Renato Moicano would be interesting, and would allow both Zabit and Alexander Volkanovski to build their reputations, rather than taking eachother out. They will inevitably come to blows, but the longer that waits, the better it is for the Featherweight division.
Garbrandt Loses Again
Cody Garbrandt was on top of the world two years ago, a newly minted Bantamweight champion, holding an incredibly impressive victory over Dominick Cruz. It’s all gone downhill from that moment.
Back to back losses to nemesis TJ Dillashaw, both by knockout, set Garbrandt back a long way in his career. It was expected that he would begin his comeback on Saturday night with a victory over Pedro Munhoz, however once again the stand and bang mentality proved to be his downfall, No Love was knocked out in the first round. It’s a rough road for him from here, with three back to back losses he has a lot of work to do.
Drama in Debut
Well… Ben Askren finally made his long awaited UFC debut, and it certainly didn’t go without controversy.
Despite being taken down by Lawler early and beaten on, Askren managed to finally get into the position he wanted. Taking Ruthless down and looking to secure a rear naked choke, which was transitioned into a bulldog choke during a scramble. Referee Herb Dean stepped in to end the fight after thinking Lawler’s arm had gone limp, however it was then immediately obvious to everyone that the veteran referee had made a mistake.
Dana White has stated his intention to book a rematch between the two fighers, despite Askren stating that he is not interested. It’s strange that he would want to move on so quickly… perhaps he is more weary of stepping into the cage with the former champion now that he has felt his power. The most logical move here is to book a rematch.
Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting this one. We have a new UFC Welterweight Champion, Kamaru Usman.
Not only did Usman win the title, taking it from one of the most dominant Middleweight fighters we have seen in a long time, he absolutely bossed Tyron Woodley. It was an incredibly impressive performance for someone with relatively little experience against top contenders, Usman stepped up his game to a level that we had not seen before, and shocked many hardcore fans in picking up the victory.
Where do we go from here? Does Woodley deserve an immediate rematch? No.
He was an impressive champion, but there are a number of top contenders in the division, and as much as it pains me to admit, Colby Covington should be next in line for a shot at the belt. The difficult position for the UFC is that Woodley has already beaten pretty much every contender in the top five, so who does he face next?
There is some argument for making a matchup between Woodley and Covington, with the winner earning the title shot, however I would pit the former champion against Rafael Dos Anjos.
There wasn’t a lot of surprise in the main event of UFC 235. Jon Jones dominated a very stubborn and persistent Anthony Smith, and both men came out of the fight with more respect from the fans than they had going in. Smith managed to hang in for five rounds with one of the greatest fighters of all time, and Jones continues to rebuild his reputation.
It’s always hard to pick contenders at the top of the 205 pound division, perhaps we’ll see Luke Rockhold make his debut in the weight class and potentially take on Jones at the end of the year? That could provide a much needed spark in what used to be one of the most exciting divisions in the UFC.