The Real Winners and Losers from UFC 235
UFC 235 gave fans two very different title fights amid a long night of action filling out the card.
Jon Jones retained his UFC light heavyweight title by thoroughly dominating Anthony Smith. The challenger held his own early, but the fight started to get extremely one-sided by the time it hit the championship rounds. "Lionheart" is an apt nickname for Smith, but the talent discrepancy was simply too much.
In the co-main event, challenger Kamaru Usman dethroned Tyron Woodley with a lopsided decision victory. Usman controlled where the fight took place and dictated the action both on the feet and on the mat. "The Nigerian Nightmare" took over the division and completed a long run up the ladder to claim UFC gold.
Those were just the title performances. There were 10 other bouts, including the wild UFC debut of Ben Askren.
After all the fighting ended, there were officially 12 winners and 12 losers, but we all know that doesn't make you a real winner or a real loser.
UFC 235 provided a fun PPV for fight enthusiasts, and these are the real winners and losers coming out of Las Vegas.
Winners: Jon Jones, Anthony Smith and the UFC
Everyone gets a W following the main event for UFC 235. Let's start with the challenger.
Anthony Smith was largely counted out, and though he came up short, he did show he could hold his own. He stopped several takedowns, landed a few shots and didn't suffer a crushing early KO that would have ended hopes of a rebuild. He performed admirably against the greatest light heavyweight ever.
That's a win.
Jones and the UFC win together.
Jones' victory means one of the UFC's biggest stars remains a titleholder. He is seen as the best in the business, and he earned another dominant victory. That will keep him atop fight cards moving forward. The UFC needs marquee names, and Jones provides them just that.
Perhaps even more importantly, Jones didn't appear to suffer any major injuries. That means he can return when he is ready for another main event.
Will Jones simply stay active at 205 against the next challenger? Does he move up to heavyweight for a superfight? Who knows? But regardless of which it will be, it is a major win for all parties that Jones won't be on the shelf for an extended period of time.
The UFC got exactly what it needed with both challenger and champion coming through with a solid showing. And it can book the next Jon Jones fight and keep him active, which is a welcome sight for fight fans around the world who had long been deprived of one of the most special talents we have ever seen.
Winner: Kamaru Usman
New UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman did not have a meteoric rise. It was a slow and steady ascent up the 170-pound mountain, an ascent that had many noting he looked like a champion.
He confirmed those thoughts with a dominant five-round decision victory over Tyron Woodley.
It wasn't simply that he was the better fighter. No, it was that Usman made it look easy. Super easy.
Usman walked through Woodley like he was an unranked opponent. Usman controlled him on the mat and did damage on the feet. No matter where the fight was taking place, he was in command of what was going on. He never gave Woodley space to mount an offense.
The scorecards read 50-44, 50-44 and 50-45, but truly, the fight was even more lopsided than that.
Beating Usman seems like a tall task considering how he has handled his UFC career. He rarely drops a round and dominates elite competition as if they were anything but. Usman is a true champion and the undisputed best welterweight in the world.
Loser: Tyron Woodley
The now-former champion doesn't land here merely because he lost his belt to Kamaru Usman; he ends up a loser because he was dominated.
On paper, this was a well-matched fight that should have been competitive. It was not.
Woodley was looking for one big punch or a guillotine, and that never came. He never offered up much else in the fight. Usman controlled the tempo and where the fight took place. Woodley lacked combinations or forward movement, and he folded under the bright lights.
When Woodley returns, we'll get a good sense of what happened at UFC 235. Did something go wrong? Did he somehow get shellshocked by the moment even after being a longtime champion? Or is Usman just the better fighter by a significant margin?
Those answers come later, and no matter what they are, they will not change the fact he leaves Las Vegas as a huge loser.
Loser: Herb Dean
Robbie Lawler put it to Ben Askren in the opening minute of their clash, and it arguably could have been stopped. But referee Herb Dean let the action continue, and rightfully so.
Askren survived and rebounded. He got a bulldog choke on Lawler, and Dean stopped the fight.
The problem? Lawler never tapped, nor did he go out.
As former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz noted on the broadcast, the choke was on the chin. It may have hurt, but it was not a blood choke that would have put him out. Lawler's arm may have appeared to go limp for a moment, but that's not when Dean stopped the action. Lawler was clearly alert when Dean did step in.
Fans were robbed of an amazing fight. Askren and Lawler were having a sensational round, but no one got to see where it went from Askren's submission attempt.
Askren picks up a win, officially, but it is unsatisfying and gives us little to move forward in the division, all because of a referee's mistake.
Loser: Cody Garbrandt
Fight IQ is an important part of the game, and it's something that Garbrandt lacks at times. It cost him at UFC 235.
Pedro Munhoz has a noggin on him, folks. If you want to just stand and bang without movement, then Munhoz is going to end up getting the better of the exchange, and that's exactly what happened to Garbrandt on Saturday.
After some decent striking and movement, Garbrandt decided to turn it into a slugfest—a slugfest where he simply stood right in front of Munhoz with no movement and telegraphing his haymakers. Munhoz beat him to the punch and landed cleanly. With a stronger chin and shorter punch, Munhoz claimed the biggest victory of his career.
This was supposed to put Garbrandt on the path back to greatness. Instead, it stunted him as a fighter. Another knockout on a big stage ruins most of his goodwill in the eyes of fans as a championship-level fighter. He will need a long run, with finishes, to reclaim his spot among the elite. Bantamweight is packed at the top, and Garbrandt is no longer there.
Winner: Johnny Walker
Johnny Walker exploded onto the scene back in November with a swift KO over Khalil Rountree. He returned in February with another spectacular KO, a spinning backfist knockout of Justin Ledet. Just one month later, Walker came in as a short-notice replacement for Ovince Saint Preux against Misha Cirkunov.
This was supposed to be a true test for Walker. Short notice against the 14th-ranked light heavyweight contender? This was the fight to gauge what Walker was made of.
And he obliterated Cirkunov in 36 seconds.
Walker is the flavor of the month, and for good reason. But how far will this push him up the light heavyweight ladder? Anthony Smith got his shot at Jon Jones and the title at UFC 235 by coming to light heavyweight and having big showings with finishes. Walker is arguably doing even better.
He is still going to be at least one fight away from title contention, but it truly may just be one more fight. His size offers up an interesting issue for Jones, and without being pushed in a fight yet, we don't know how good Walker truly is. Those factors make for an enticing matchup against the champion.
Walker keeps dominating in the cage and winning over more fans. His reputation is growing, and the UFC could be looking at a viable star in a division that sorely needs it.
Loser: Mickey Gall
If you're going to call out a UFC legend to make a name for yourself, you may want to show up and at least offer some resistance. Instead, Mickey Gall was dominated by Diego Sanchez.
Sanchez has long been considered shopworn. And maybe that's why Gall called him out. An aging vet who hasn't had back-to-back wins since 2011 and hasn't had a finish since 2008 seems like easy pickins for a prospect, but that was not the case.
Gall came out strong, but Sanchez covered up well until he could find his way into range of the youngster. Once he did close that distance, it was over. Gall had no answer for Sanchez's grappling and grinding. Really, it was shocking how few answers he had.
Sanchez tired him out and then pounded him out for a TKO in the second round.
Gall first appeared on the radar as the fighter who beat CM Punk in the latter's UFC debut. Gall's raw skill set showed a lot of promise, but now he has fallen flat on his face twice inside the Octagon. Being unable to offer up any more than he did at UFC 235 is a bad sign.
His stock drops significantly after this performance, and there may not be many, if any at all, buying him as a long-term prospect for the UFC's welterweight division.
Winner: Undefeated Newcomers
If you missed the UFC Fight Pass prelims, you missed two hot up-and-coming prospects who are trying to make waves in their respective divisions.
At bantamweight, Macy Chiasson entered as a 3-0 pro and The Ultimate Fighter Season 28 champion. On the show, she had a TKO win in the quarterfinals and a KO victory in the semifinal. Though neither of those are officially on her record, the finale submission win over Pannie Kianzad is.
Chiasson moved her record to 4-0 with a TKO in just 1:49. She is a towering bantamweight who can instantly be seen as a title contender. The division is not deep, and it needs potential fighters for Amanda Nunes. After that big first-round finish, Chiasson is not far off from a title opportunity.
In the final Fight Pass prelim, Edmen Shahbazyan took care of Charles Byrd with vicious elbows in just 38 seconds.
Shahbazyan has everything going for him, including his manager: Ronda Rousey.
Rousey wouldn't attach her name to just anyone, and after getting his second UFC victory in impressive fashion, everyone will certainly take notice of the prospect as one of the UFC's favorite new projects. The middleweight division will be on notice.
This is what the UFC needed out of the early prelims: new faces shining brightly for the fans to see. Chiasson and Shahbazyan will see their stock rise after the first-round stoppages and be set up nicely for big opportunities later in the year.
UFC 235 Full Card Results
UFC 235 Main Card
- Jon Jones def. Anthony Smith by unanimous decision (48-44, 48-44, 48-44)
- Kamaru Usman def. Tyron Woodley by unanimous decision (50-44, 50-44, 50-45)
- Ben Askren def. Robbie Lawler via technical submission (bulldog choke) at 3:20 of the first round
- Weili Zhang def. Tecia Torres by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
- Pedro Munhoz def. Cody Garbrandt by KO at 4:52 of the first round
ESPN Preliminary Card
- Zabit Magomedsharipov def. Jeremy Stephens by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Johnny Walker def. Misha Cirkunov by TKO at 0:36 of the first round
- Cody Stamann def. Alejandro Perez by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Diego Sanchez def. Mickey Gall by TKO at 4:13 of the second round
UFC Fight Pass Prelims
- Edmen Shahbazyan def. Charles Byrd by TKO at 0:38 of the first round
- Macy Chiasson def. Gina Mazany by KO at 1:49 of the first round
- Hannah Cifers def. Polyana Viana by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)