UFC 235: Jones vs Smith

Image Credit [Yahoo! Sports]

Jones retained his Light Heavyweight title against Anthony Smith, despite an illegal strike almost leading to the champion’s own DQ.

Jon Jones produced a dominant display to defeat Anthony Smith via unanimous decision at UFC 235, retaining his light-heavyweight title.

In a punishing five-round contest, Jones outgrappled and outstruck the 30-year-old Smith, using a wide array of kicks to control distance, which prevented Smith from entering the pocket to utilise his close-range striking skills. Jones came into the fight as the overwhelming favourite and whilst this was not the type of vintage display that many fans have become accustomed to, all three judges scored the contest 48-44. 

However, the night could have ended very differently. During the fourth round, Jones landed an illegal knee to Smith’s head causing referee Herb Dean to call a timeout. Dean then consulted Smith who agreed to continue much to the relief of Jones. Had Smith said that he was unable to continue, Dean would have awarded him a win by disqualification and consequently, the light-heavyweight title. Instead, Jones was only deducted two points. 

When Joe Rogan brought up the incident in the post-fight interview, Smith said, “I know as well as anyone, I could have sat there and taken the DQ win, but, man, I wanna win and I don’t wanna steal it.”

In the co-main event, Nigerian Kamaru Usman stunned the world to claim a dominant unanimous decision (50-44, 50-44 and 50-45) victory over long-time champion, Tyron Woodley. Over five rounds, Usman wore down arguably the greatest welterweight of all time, outgrappling Woodley whilst hitting him with a constant flow of body shots. Usman extended his winning streak to 14 fights and maintained his unbeaten UFC record, whilst also becoming the first African-born UFC champion.

34-year-old ‘Funky’ Ben Askren also made his long-awaited UFC debut. Ever since the UFC announced his signing, Askren has not shied away from calling out other fighters, with his trash-talking quickly making him a fan favourite. 

However, in the first minute of his octagon debut, it seemed he had already met his match in the form of former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler. Lawler slammed Askren to the canvas head first in spectacular fashion before unloading a barrage of strikes, which opened up a significant cut on the side of the newcomer’s face. With the fight close to being stopped, a visibly dazed Askren managed to get to his feet, reverting to his famed grappling skills to regain his composure. 

Minutes later, Askren secured a bulldog choke and Lawler’s right arm went limp. Dean thus stopped the contest assuming Lawler had passed out. However, Lawler leapt to his feet immediately after Askren released him. Lawler initially protested the stoppage, but in a display of respect for the sport and Dean, he accepted the result before congratulating Askren. Given the controversial stoppage, Askren’s post fight interview was arguably cocky with him crowing to Dana White “is that the best you’ve got?”

In the night’s other fights, former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt’s bid to work his way back into title contention was dealt a major blow as he was knocked out in the first round by Brazilian Pedro Munhoz. Meanwhile, rising Dagestani star Zabit Magomedsharipov secured a close-fought unanimous decision victory over veteran Jeremy Stephens. 26-year-old Brazilian light-heavyweight Johnny Walker secured a spectacular flying knee knockout over Canadian Misha Cirkunov after just 36 seconds. However, in celebration, he attempted the ‘worm’, but dislocated his shoulder in the process, much to his own amusement. “If I can survive myself, I can survive anyone else”, Walker joked whilst being propped up by his trainer.