I know it’s only March, but UFC 235 has the potential to be one of the best cards we will see in 2019. This card is absolutely stacked from top to bottom, with fights that both casual and hardcore MMA fans will love. Two title fights, the debut of Ben Askren, the return of Robbie Lawler, rising prospect Zabit Magomedsharipov taking on veteran Jeremy Stephens, it’s going to be one hell of a card.
Bantamweight: Marlon Vera (12-5-1) vs Frankie Saenz (13-5-0)
Prediction: Frankie Saenz
Women’s Strawweight: Polyana Viana (12-2-0) vs Hannah Cifers (8-3-0)
Prediction: Polyana Viana
Women’s Bantamweight: Gina Mazany (5-2-0) vs Macy Chiasson (3-0-0)
Prediction: Gina Mazany
Middleweight: Edmen Shahbazyan (8-0-0) vs Charles Byrd (10-5-0)
Prediction: Edmen Shahbazyan
Welterweight: Diego Sanchez (28-11-0) vs Mickey Gall (5-1-0)
Prediction: Mickey Gall
Bantamweight: Cody Stamann (17-2-0) vs Alejandro Perez (21-6-1)
Prediction: Alejandro Perez
Light Heavyweight: Misha Cirkunov (14-4-0) vs Johnny Walker (16-3-0)
Prediction: Johnny Walker
Featherweight: Jeremy Stephens (28-15-0) vs Zabit Magomedsharipov (16-1-0)
Prediction: Zabit Magomedsharipov
Bantamweight: Cody Garbrandt (11-2-0) vs Pedro Munhoz (17-3-0, 1 NC)
Cody Garbrandt is looking to bounce back from two consecutive losses, both coming to TJ Dillashaw. It’s going to take a lot of hard work for Garbrandt to get back into title contention, and a win over Munhoz would be a good start to his comeback. Though he was torched by Dillashaw in both fights, let us not forget the skill that No Love displayed in his title fight against Dominick Cruz.
Munhoz is a consistent contender, and has been hanging around at the top of the Bantamweight division for a while now, but has never been able to crack into the top tier, always coming up short against the top guys. A fight against Garbrandt gives him a chance to change that, and make a push into title contention.
Prediction: Cody Garbrandt
Women’s Strawweight: Tecia Torres (10-3-0) vs Weili Zhang (18-1-0)
Tecia Torres comes into this fight on the back of two tough losses, dropping fights against top contender Jessica Andrade and former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. It’s the first time she has fought in almost a year, so it will be interesting to see what improvements and adjustments she has made in her time away from the Octagon.
Zhang is on an 18 fight winning streak, including both of her first two fights in the UFC. She has a background in both submission and KO victories, and I’d be very surprised not to see her pick up the win this weekend.
Prediction: Weili Zhang
Welterweight: Robbie Lawler (28-12-0, 1 NC) vs Ben Askren (18-0-0, 1 NC)
Is the long standing feud between Dana White and Ben Askren finally over? For years the two have publically battled, but with Askren finally making his UFC debut this Saturday, it feels like the two may have finally moved on… though it could be argued that White is trying to set Askren up for failure, giving him Robbie Lawler as his first opponent.
The former UFC Welterweight champion is one of the toughest matchups in the division for the undefeated Askren. Ruthless possesses a lethal stand up game, and a lot of people seem to overlook his impressive grappling and takedown defence. However Askren will likely be the best grappler that Lawler has faced inside the Octagon, it will be interesting to see if he can hold him at bay.
If Askren can come out of the fight with a victory on Saturday night, it will be interesting to see what is next for him in the division. Perhaps a fight against Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson if he comes out of his fight against Anthony Pettis victorious? It feels like Askren needs at least one more fight in the UFC under his belt before taking on the champion, especially if that champion is still Tyron Woodley.
This one is very tough to call. Askren has faced some tough fighters in his career, but Lawler may be one of the best. However Lawler has been struggling ever since his loss to Woodley, and hasn’t really looked the same fighter he was during his time as champion…
Prediction: … Ben Askren… maybe?
Welterweight: (C) Tyron Woodley (19-3-1) vs Kamaru Usman (14-1-0)
Tyron Woodley may be one of the most undervalued champions in the history of the UFC, when it comes to his skillset. There is no denying that since he claimed the Welterweight title, his fights have become much less compelling, this is because he has changed his style in a way that many champions cannot. He knows that the challenger is the one that has to take the title away, and therefore works on neutralising their game. Woodley dominated Stephen Thompson by taking away his kicking, staying in close and moving out quickly… twice. He then put on one of the most impressive wrestling displays I’ve seen in a long time against Demian Maia, stuffing all 24 of his opponents takedown attempts.
Woodley adapts his game to his opponent, and takes out their most deadly weapons, which opens up opportunities for him to pick them apart. I’ll be intrigued to see how he approaches the fight with Usman on Saturday, once again, it is not an easy fight for the champion.
Usman is coming into the fight on a 13 fight winning streak, including victories over Rafael Dos Anjos and Demian Maia. It’s an impressive record, though stepping into the cage with Woodley will be a big step up in competition from both of the men he has beaten in his last two fights.
Prediction: #AndStill – Tyron Woodley
Light Heavyweight: (C) Jon Jones (23-1-0, 1 NC) vs Anthony Smith (31-13-0)
Just a couple of months removed from (another) triumphant return to the Light Heavyweight division, Jon Jones will defend his title against the veteran Anthony Smith, who has spent his entire career working for this opportunity. It’s a fight that Jones could have potentially struggled with back during his original run with the belt, the complacency that sunk in towards the end of his time as champion may have led to a shock KO. However I can’t see Jones doing anything other than taking this fight seriously.
Anything other than a Jones victory would be a massive surprise, if the fight ended in a decision, I still think Lionheart will be able to walk out of the Octagon with his head held high. Despite the shallow state the division currently finds itself in, Smith has reeled off three very impressive victories since debuting at 205 pounds.
Prediction: #AndStill – Jon Jones