Matches to Make for Winners and Losers from UFC 235
UFC 235 in Las Vegas saw two dominant title performances—one by a champion and another from a challenger.
UFC light heavyweight king Jon Jones breezed through another title defense over Anthony Smith. Jones continues to show why he is arguably the best to ever compete in MMA. Should he stay and defend the belt or challenge himself against the heavyweights?
In the co-main event, Kamaru Usman put together a masterful performance against Tyron Woodley to claim the UFC welterweight belt. Usman won the fight on the feet and on the mat to grab a unanimous decision. We know that Colby Covington is waiting for the title shot, but where does that leave Woodley?
It's time once again to grab our phone and dial up the UFC matchmakers to offer our sage advice. We know exactly whom all the winners and losers from UFC 235 should fight next.
So, Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard, listen up: Here are the matches to make for each winner and loser after another fantastic event.
Preliminary Fight Quick Hits
Hannah Cifers def. Polyana Viana by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Polyana Viana vs. Syuri Kondo
- Hannah Cifers vs. Ashley Yoder
Macy Chiasson def. Gina Mazany by TKO at 1:49 of the first round
- Gina Mazany vs. Sijara Eubanks
- Macy Chiasson vs. Aspen Ladd
Edmen Shahbazyan def. Charles Byrd by TKO at 0:38 of the first round
- Charles Byrd vs. Anthony Hernandez
- Edmen Shahbazyan vs. Antonio Carlos Junior
Diego Sanchez def. Mickey Gall by TKO at 4:13 of the second round
- Mickey Gall vs. Lyman Good
- Diego Sanchez vs. Abdul Razak Alhassan
Cody Stamann def. Alejandro Perez by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Alejandro Perez vs. Kyung Ho Kang
- Cody Stamann vs. Rob Font
Johnny Walker def. Misha Cirkunov by TKO at 0:36 of the first round
- Misha Cirkunov vs. Tyson Pedro
- Johnny Walker vs. Jan Blachowicz
Zabit Magomedsharipov def. Jeremy Stephens by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Jeremy Stephens vs. Darren Elkins
- Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Alex Volkanovski
Cody Garbrandt vs. Pedro Munhoz
Pedro Munhoz def. Cody Garbrandt by KO at 4:52 of the first round
Cody Garbrandt could have put himself back in position for a title shot in 2019. Instead, he stood right in front of Pedro Munhoz and swung wildly. Munhoz cracked him first and put him down.
Garbrandt needs to hit the back of the bread line, but his place in the division will still earn him a ranked opponent in his next outing. The biggest roadblock in picking an opponent is guessing how long he will be out after a knockout loss.
The best choice is probably Ricky Simon. He is currently the No. 15-ranked contender, but he hasn't really thrilled audiences. It's a big opportunity for him but also a good opponent for Garbrandt to rebound with after another loss.
Munhoz will want a title shot, but that is not going to happen.
A potential contender also needing a fight is Petr Yan. That is probably the more appropriate course of action for the UFC with the title stuck in the mud. The winner can then be put in a title eliminator toward the end of the year.
Tecia Torres vs. Weili Zhang
Weili Zhang def. Tecia Torres by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
The jury was out on Weili Zhang entering this fight, and she confirmed she is legit. The victory over Tecia Torres may be the biggest win for a Chinese mixed martial artist to date.
She is still a ways off from serious contention, but the win should earn her a notable name. Felice Herrig fits the bill. Herrig may be on a two-fight losing skid, but she remains ranked higher and a larger name in the division.
It will continue the gradual test for the Chinese contender.
Torres is in a tough spot. Her physical attributes make it difficult to truly compete among the elite at 115 pounds, but the UFC doesn't have an atomweight division and she might not be able to make the weight regardless. So, is she just a gatekeeper for the UFC? Probably.
That's why a fight with Alexandra Albu is the right move. Albu was an undefeated prospect with a lot of raw skills up until an upset loss to Emily Whitmire earlier this year. Was that just a blip, or is Albu a fraud? Torres will absolutely answer that question.
Robbie Lawler vs. Ben Askren
Ben Askren def. Robbie Lawler via technical submission (bulldog choke) at 3:20 of the first round
Ben Askren got a rude welcome to the UFC as Robbie Lawler slammed him to the mat and brutalized him in the opening minute of their fight. Referee Herb Dean let the action continue even though Lawler pasted Askren, and the former ONE Championship and Bellator champion was able to recover and sink in a choke.
Dean stopped the fight. Lawler didn't tap or go out.
Dean made a mistake.
If Askren had been dominating Lawler, there likely wouldn't be a call for a rematch. But Lawler punished him early and could have survived the choke hold. This fight needs to be redone.
Lawler and Askren should be relatively unscathed and ready to fight again soon. There is little reason not to rebook the fight and get the truth. It's a big fight in the division, and having it end like it did serves no one well.
Tyron Woodley vs. Kamaru Usman
Kamaru Usman def. Tyron Woodley by unanimous decision (50-44, 50-44, 50-45)
We know what is next for Kamaru Usman. His first title defense will come against former interim champion Colby Covington, as first reported by ESPN.com's Brett Okamoto.
The two do not like one another, and it is long past due for Covington to return to action. It's the right fight to make, and hopefully it comes sooner than later so the division can keep moving forward.
Tyron Woodley was the champion for quite a while. That typically results in an immediate rematch. Covington has the next shot, while Woodley was dominated by Usman. As such, that rematch isn't happening. He'll need to fight one more time to earn a chance to reclaim the belt.
The problem is he has already handled Stephen Thompson and Darren Till. Those fights don't make sense even if they win their next fights, which are already booked. The only contender who makes sense is Santiago Ponzinibbio, and that is the right fight to make.
Ponzinibbio has earned a shot at the top of the division after a seven-fight winning streak, and this is his chance. It may not be exactly what Woodley wants, but it's the right call for both parties.
Jon Jones vs. Anthony Smith
Jon Jones def. Anthony Smith by unanimous decision (48-44, 48-44, 48-44)
Total domination from Jon Jones at UFC 235. No one expected any different.
Anthony Smith did surprise many by offering up some quality opposition early, but it was too big of a gap to close once the fight entered the championship rounds. Still, the learning experience should net him a lot of positives should he work himself back into the title picture.
Ilir Latifi would be a great choice for Smith's return to the cage. It's a quality test against a tough opponent who is also ranked in the top 10. Other options could include some of the younger prospects, but that would be damaging as the UFC tries to revamp the division. Give Latifi the fight.
Jones could go up to heavyweight and test himself. That would provide the most intriguing competition for sure. Is it likely to happen? Probably not.
At 205 pounds, Thiago Santos is the next challenger waiting. It is not that enticing. Much like Smith, Santos is a middleweight who has made an unexpected run toward the top. Does he provide anything Jones hasn't seen before from better fighters? No. But he will bring the fight, which should make it fun, so that's something.
Ideally, Jones would make the jump to heavyweight and fight someone like Stipe Miocic, but there's a very small chance that will happen. Bank on it being another light heavyweight title defense that ends without a surprise. Jones is the class of the division by a wide margin.