About Us  |   Contact

UFC 235: Questions, answers and predictions

UFC 235

Image: MMAFighting.com

As the saying goes, March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb. We get to see the UFC equivalent of the lion Saturday with UFC 235, the organization's most potent card of the calendar year.

Featuring two good title fights, a former champion returning against a debuting undefeated Bellator champion, a former champion returning in search for redemption, and an undercard loaded up with intrigue, 235 is why fight fans are fight fans. Plus, for PPV buyers, this is as value-packed a main card as you'll ever see.

Helping me sift through the show as always are fellow MMA scribes Paul Fontaine and Ryan Frederick, who will be cageside tonight for our live coverage. Also, be sure to check out my talk with ESPN's Dann Stupp about the show and other news of the week.

The card (PPV/ESPN/Fight Pass):

  • UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones vs. Anthony Smith
  • UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley vs. Kamaru Usman
  • Robbie Lawler vs. Ben Askren
  • Tecia Torres vs. Weili Zhang
  • Cody Garbrandt vs. Pedro Munhoz
  • Jeremy Stephens vs. Zabit Magomedsharipov
  • Misha Cirkunov vs. Johnny Walker
  • Cody Stamann vs. Alejandro Pérez
  • Diego Sanchez vs. Mickey Gall
  • Edmen Shahbazyan vs. Charles Byrd
  • Gina Mazany vs. Macy Chiasson
  • Polyana Viana vs. Hannah Cifers

What are you most looking forward to?

Ryan: There is so much to look forward to as it's one of the best overall cards in a long time. My top three: Jon Jones, Ben Askren, and Zabit Magomedshapirov. Jones is still on another level despite all of the drug test shenanigans going on, and is a pleasure to watch. I hope he has taken Anthony Smith seriously, but this should be another vintage Jones performance. I’m really curious how Askren is going to fare. He is undefeated but he also hasn’t fought in a long time, and Robbie Lawler is no joke. Magomedshapriov is a special talent, and he has a tough and unique test in the form of the veteran Jeremy Stephens. Zabit hasn’t fought someone who hits as hard as Stephens, and Stephens is the type of guy you have to beat if you want to be a true contender.

Paul: Almost everything. There are several fights on the show with established names going against up and coming stars which are the fights I love. Gall vs. Sanchez, Cirkunov vs. Walker, Stephens vs. Zabit, and Lawler vs. Askren kind of all fall into that category and I’m fascinated to see how they play out. Do the veterans have a little gas left in the tank or do the rising contenders get one step closer to stardom? It makes the fights feel important. And then, of course, you’ve got the title fights on top. This show really has everything I’m looking for.

Josh: Broken record alert: it's basically the whole show. However, I will shine a light on Askren vs. Lawler because the fight could go several directions. Askren really has been something this week and with a win, there's a lot of intrigue into what he could do next. I don't know what to make of Lawler because he looked so bad his last time out...but he tore his knee to hell. I'm not a huge fan of wrestlefests, but if Askren makes this into one, it could be pretty entertaining.

Anything being slept on?

Ryan: Garbrandt vs. Munhoz is getting overshadowed. It’s easy to count Garbrandt out after seeing him get knocked out in back-to-back fights against TJ Dillashaw. It is time for him to prove that he is still a contender and that it’s just a case of Dillashaw having his number. Don’t blink watching this one as I feel Garbrandt has a huge chip on his shoulder.

Paul: There’s a fight on the Fight Pass prelims involving a 9-0 stud that’s only 21 years old and I think we could be looking at a future superstar. Edmen Shahbazyan can only get better and if early indications are anything, that could be scary. His opponent, Charles Byrd, has a middling record and this looks to be a showcase fight for young Edmen.

Josh: UFC and media have done a good job with the card overall, but I'm super intrigued with how Johnny Walker looks in his short-notice fight with a game Misha Cirkunov. Walker has been impressive in two UFC fights, but Cirkunov is tough. However, he did have back to back first round losses to hard punchers Glover Teixiera and Volkan Oezdemir before rebounding against Pat Cummins his last time out. If Walker connects flush, Cirkunov could be out quick like.

Anything not doing it for you?

Ryan: I like it all. If I’m pressed to name one fight I don’t care for, I guess it would be Mazany vs. Chiasson, only because it could be the most boring fight on the show. Most people might think that could be Woodley vs. Usman, but I find that one to be so compelling and interesting.

Paul: I feel the same as Ryan, but if I have to pick one that may not be terribly great, it would probably be the Tecia Torres vs. Weili Zhang fight on the main card. This has the potential to be one of those fifteen minute standup fights where both try to stay out of each other’s range and nothing much happens. I hope that’s not what happens but there’s a lot at stake in this one for both and hopefully they want to win more than they are afraid to lose.

Josh: Torres vs. Zhang. Hopefully, it will be entertaining but going into it, I don't really care about either fighter or their prospects for the future.

What will be people talking about most after the show is done?

Ryan: Jon Jones is still the most dominant fighter on the planet, and made it somehow look as easy as ever. There is a new force at 170 pounds in the name of Kamaru Usman, and can you please let him shut Colby Covington up. Ben Askren is ready to fight for a UFC title right now. Cody Garbrandt has bounced back in a nice way, and ohnny Walker is still the most exciting prospect to come into the UFC in a long time.

Paul: Obviously what’s next for the two champions. There are challengers in waiting for both belts although if we crown new champions, the question will be whether you go to an immediate rematch or have one of those challengers get their shot. Thiago Santos has promised to challenge the winner of the main event and after his destruction of Jan Blachowicz last week, there’s a marketable fight against either Smith (which would be a rematch) or Jones. For the welterweight bout, there’s Colby Covington, who can’t stay away from a camera for more than 10 seconds this week, or the Askren/Lawler winner. And Johnny Walker may just sneak into the 205 title picture with another highlight reel KO over Misha Cirkonov.

Josh: We'll be talking about a potential Jones vs. Thiago Santos fight for July or August, Woodley calling out Covington and forcing his way into making that fight happen, that Askren belongs in the UFC, and that that Garbrandt needs to change something up badly.

Who wins these five fights?

Jon Jones vs. Anthony Smith

- Jones: Josh, Ryan, Paul

Tyron Woodley vs. Kamaru Usman

- Woodley: Josh
- Usman: Ryan, Paul

Robbie Lawler vs. Ben Askren

- Askren: Josh, Ryan, Paul

Jeremy Stephens vs. Zabit Magomedsharipov

- Magomedsharipov: Josh, Ryan, Paul

Misha Cirkunov vs. Johnny Walker

- Walker: Ryan, Paul, Josh

Keep up with our live coverage tonight on WrestlingObserver.com.