UFC 235 Predictions: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Picks

Scott Harris@ScottHarrisMMAMMA Lead WriterFebruary 28, 2019

UFC 235 Predictions: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Picks

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    Jon Jones
    Jon JonesJohn Locher/Associated Press

    If Jon Jones is the only thing on your mind, you're missing out.

    Yes, he's the informal but undeniable king of today's MMA landscape. And yes, he's defending his light heavyweight title Saturday at UFC 235 against a serious if likable underdog in Anthony Smith. Does that fight deserve the absolute attention of any MMA fan worth their salt? Yes, it does.

    There's more to this card, though. A lot more. In an age when many UFC cards are hopelessly diluted, here's an event that is decidedly muscular.

    Not familiarized? Then you're lucky we're here to break down the five-fight main card and offer some betting picks, all of which are definitely ironclad. Our panel consists of Nathan McCarter, Jonathan Snowden and Scott Harris. Let's get it on.

Cody Garbrandt vs. Pedro Munhoz

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    Cody Garbrandt
    Cody GarbrandtJoe Scarnici/Getty Images

    Nathan McCarter

    This is a great pay-per-view opener, but it should also be a surefire way to get Cody Garbrandt back in the win column.

    Pedro Munhoz has great tools to make it a tough fight, but he has never beaten a top contender. Garbrandt's significant athletic advantage will show through as he controls the tempo of the fight. He'll be able to get a late-round stoppage via ground-and-pound.

    Garbrandt, TKO, Rd. 3

             

    Jonathan Snowden

    If you ignore a bad decision by the judges in his 2018 split-decision "loss" to John Dodson, Munhoz has won seven in a row inside the UFC Octagon. That's a pretty impressive accomplishment for anyone. 

    That unofficial winning streak will likely come to an end at UFC 235. Garbrandt is just on a different level athletically. After two consecutive losses to T.J. Dillashaw, he will feel he has something to prove. That's bad news for Munhoz, but good news for fans.

    Garbrandt, TKO, Rd. 1

            

    Scott Harris

    We all know what Garbrandt's about in this fight. Munhoz's jiu-jitsu-predicated game is better here if he can apply it, but I think Garbrandt brings all that Garbrandtness into the cage and lands the highlight-reel knockout we all know he's dying to get. 

    Garbrandt, TKO, Rd. 2

Tecia Torres vs. Weili Zhang

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    Tecia Torres
    Tecia TorresJose Juarez/Associated Press

    McCarter

    Weili Zhang surprised a lot of people with her swift submission win over former world No. 1 Jessica Aguilar, but I am not buying in just yet because Aguilar is a shell of her former self. "The Tiny Tornado" will touch up Zhang for 15 minutes and breeze to a forgettable decision nod.

    Torres, unanimous decision

             

    Snowden

    "The Tiny Tornado" can promise two things—a lot of movement with little payoff and an eventual trip to the judges' scorecards. In 16 career fights, she's gone to decision 15 times. This one shouldn't be any different. 

    Torres, unanimous decision

             

    Harris

    Zhang is in a bit of a smoke-and-mirrors situation at this point, as is Aguilar, the opponent she beat to get here. Torres has lost two straight, but they were both elite fighters. She'll use her power wrestling to end the hype train.

    Torres, unanimous decision

Robbie Lawler vs. Ben Askren

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    Robbie Lawler
    Robbie LawlerJeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    McCarter

    Poor Robbie Lawler. He gets fed to a grappling beast who will not let him do what he does best. This was great matchmaking to establish Ben Askren as a contender.

    Lawler won't be able to truly test Askren as he constantly ends up on his back for the full three rounds.

    Askren, unanimous decision

           

    Snowden

    Full disclosure: I don't like Ben Askren. I don't like his fighting style. I don't like his politics. I don't like his Twitter account. I don't even like his hair.

    Will Lawler win? I can't say for certain, but I sure hope so.

    Lawler, KO, Rd. 1

            

    Harris

    The heart says Lawler on this, but the head says Askren. If Lawler touches Askren's chin? Well, that will be interesting.

    Barring that, I'm not sure the 36-year-old former champ can prevent Askren from taking him down and holding him there, as Askren is wont to do.

    Askren, unanimous decision

Tyron Woodley vs. Kamaru Usman

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    Kamaru Usman
    Kamaru UsmanChris Unger/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    McCarter

    On paper, this is a fantastic matchup: the two top welterweights in the world.

    However, if you have watched both men fight, then you know there is a very real chance this is an incredibly lackluster title fight. I'm guessing this will end up being a tactical battle as they both try to utilize their wrestling which will lead to some very slow action.

    I'll go with Usman. I've said he's a future champion before, and now he has his shot. I'll stick by the statement.

    Usman, unanimous decision

            

    Snowden

    It's been almost a decade since Tyron Woodley headlined his first television card for the gone-but-not-forgotten Strikeforce promotion. That's a long time in the trenches. 

    Kamaru Usman is a younger, sharper version of the champion. In a bout this evenly matched, that can prove the difference.

    I've told people since I first saw him train that Usman was a future world champion. On Saturday night, I'll finally know what it feels like to be right.

    Usman, unanimous decision

             

    Harris

    Outstanding fight. I have no idea who to pick, if I'm being honest. In a coin flip, I'll go with Woodley for his experience and the greater likelihood that he'll avoid a fluky knockout shot.

    Woodley, unanimous decision

Jon Jones vs. Anthony Smith

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    Jon Jones (left) and Anthony Smith
    Jon Jones (left) and Anthony SmithJeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    McCarter

    Jon Jones is an 18-wheeler and Anthony Smith is an unsuspecting deer standing in the middle of the road.

    Smith's run at light heavyweight has been fun to watch, but he is not on the same level as Jones. He's not even in the same galaxy.

    The good? Jones should escape without injury or even breaking a sweat, which allows him to return soon—hopefully against a more well-matched opponent.

    Jones, KO, Rd. 1

             

    Snowden

    I'm trying to imagine a way for Anthony Smith to win this fight. Normally I'm pretty good at this kind of thing. Not this time. 

    Jones is on a different level than everyone else in the division. For fighters like Smith, just earning the opportunity to face him is their world championship victory. They may not actually win—but they can proudly tell their grandkids about facing the greatest fighter of all time.   

    Jones, KO, Rd. 3

               

    Harris

    I don't see a credible contrarian argument on this. Smith can't brawl with him, as Jones would win that. The standup phase is Smith's best hope. Could he shock the world? Sure. A brawl is certainly a better bet than the ground.

    Jones, submission, Rd. 1

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