UFC 235 Preview + Odds: A Card For The Ages
February 25, 2019
We have not just one legendary champion defending their belt, but two. Jon Jones and Tyron Woodley both find themselves on the UFC 235 card, with both fighters looking to cement their status’s in their divisions as the true GOATS. Oh, we also have the undefeated Ben Askren taking on Robbie Lawler – is this the best UFC card of all time?
There are so many different factors and debatable predictions to cover in this UFC 235 preview, but I’m willing to give it a go. On March 2nd, at the T-Mobile Arena, fans are spoilt for choice and it will either be a night where existing legacies prevail, or new victors emerge. I’ve previewed the three main fights taking place, alongside taking a look at some of the latest UFC 235 odds.
The favourites are clear for all to see and each of the different underdogs hold massive value. Take a read of my UFC 235 preview and see which bets I’m predicting to take place inside the Octagon. Here are the bookmakers offering the best UFC odds and betting markets.
2019 – The Year Of Jon Jones?
Jon is back again. And no, we’re not talking about that fella from Game of Thrones. Although having said that, both men are known for their historic comebacks and just like the lord of Winterfell himself, Jones looks here to stay. (we hope so anyway)
He is a man known for many things and being the greatest Light Heavyweight champion of all time is one of them. Heading into 2019, many fans want to see a new Jones, who makes his headlines inside the Octagon, as opposed to the actions taking place outside of it. Even writing those words brings back a sense of ‘Déjà vu’, as how many times have we been in this predicament before?
However, having been cleared by the Nevada State Athletic Commission to fight, ‘Bones’ leads the UFC 235 betting odds by a huge distance and he has been made the clear outright favourite against Anthony Smith. After dispatching the no.2 ranked Alexander Gustafsson with ease last December, the American claimed back his title and grabbed hold of the reigns over the division once again. Unsurprisingly, the betting markets reflect this, and Jones will be keen to start off his 2019 campaign with an undisputed victory.
It looks like the champion is set for an active calendar year – this is the first time he has fought twice in the space of three months in eight years. Jones should now be fuelled with the motivation of extending his legacy, plus that sweet PPV incentive, to make this year his own.
Does Smith Have Any Chance Of An Upset?
On paper, and going off the UFC 235 betting odds, this predicted victory looks destined to be a relatively routine night for the champ. Priced at 8/1 by some bookmakers, does Anthony Smith have any realistic hope of defeating Jones? Some would say only a ‘picogram’.
Since moving to the Light Heavyweight division, Smith boasts three straight victories, including a win over Volkan Oezdemir last October. Also known as ‘Lionheart’, the American’s nickname is certainly justified and his best hope lies with turning this bout into a ‘dog fight’. Possessing a brutal mentality, Smith’s last three triumphs have all come via stoppage. Recognised as more of a striker, the American will have to patient with his approach and close the distance on Jones, who possesses the overwhelming reach of 84 ½” to Lionheart’s 76”.
Against Gustafsson, Bones put on a masterful display, picking off the Swede patiently and maintaining the distance with his repeated side-kicks and the threat of the left jab. After wearing the Viking down, the takedown eventually came and Jones asserted his dominance with a smoothly executed ground and pound. From the off against Smith, I’d expect a similar sort of routine to play out. Although always prepared to go the distance, Bones will be confident in finishing the bout early and his fans will enter the T-Mobile Arena with the same expectation.
Smith has done well since his UFC debut, losing only one out of his six fights, which was to the explosive Thiago Santos. Although many spectators will be tuning in with the hope of a gigantic upset, the reality is that Smith has not faced anybody on the same level as Jones. A lack of speed from the challenger should be his downfall, and I’m predicting a bumper-less ride to victory for the reigning champion. Bones will work the angles with the left jab efficiently and he should be able to stop Smith with relative ease.
Official prediction: Jones victory via TKO in round three – 14.68/1 with Unibet
Woodley Wants The GOAT Status
After emphatically putting away Darren Till in round two at UFC 228, Tyron Woodley recorded his fourth title defence and stood tall in Texas in becoming one of the greatest welterweights to ever do it. Till entered the cage undefeated and was tipped by many to cause on an upset on the night. However, just like many fighters that walk into the Octagon to face T-Wood, he left the arena with a loss to his name.
Despite the Liverpudlian being recognised as a top-class striker, he was outboxed by Woodley, whose explosive performance brought back flashbacks to his 2016 title win over Robbie Lawler. It has been a legacy building journey since that night in Atlanta for the champ, overcoming the likes of Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia to cement his name into the welterweight history books. Despite once stating that he would have to defeat Georges St-Pierre to be regarded as the greatest ever, Woodley has since retracted this statement. Back in September, the American stated:
“I told myself that I had to beat him to be the greatest, but I don’t. It’s always appealed to me, but I’m not gonna keep calling out a guy that’s already had nine title defences, ran over the division.”
Although a title bout between Woodley and GSP is clearly everybody’s dream fight, we must accept that times change and that eras differ. Similarities between the two will always creep up into conversation, but T-Wood has to focus on the new challengers in the sport. And boy does he face an upcoming challenge in Kamaru Usman. Despite initially looking like he was going to fight Colby Covington at UFC 233, injuries and disputes caused the card to be cancelled. Now, Woodley faces an undefeated UFC challenger in Usman.
The Closer Title Bout Of The Night
Inevitably, the Jon Jones fight is the main event leading the card. However, in terms of the action taking place inside the cage, I’m expecting the two other fights in this UFC 235 preview to generate more excitement and fireworks on the night.
You have to love it when a fighter enters the Octagon with a ‘0’ on their record. Usman has the unique opportunity to leave Las Vegas with a belt over his shoulder and his undefeated record still intact after his first ever title bout. After catching the eye of Dana White through his impressive and long-fought battle with Rafael dos Anjos, the Nigerian received a title shot over Covington. In the UFC 235 odds, Usman has been granted a very strong look in, but I would say that any potential victory would need to come on points.
On their feet, T-Wood is undoubtedly the superior striker and he will look to cause damage to the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ straight from the off. We are yet to see any fighter comfortably manage the power that Woodley possesses and Usman will need to be wary of that big overhand right that the American searches for so frequently. There is rarely a need for ‘The Chosen One’ to shoot multiple takedowns on the night – Usman’s takedown defence was highlighted during his bout against Demian Maia and Woodley has the big advantage when standing.
In terms of grappling, this seems the viable option for the former NCAA Division II wrestler. Despite holding the superior reach, the Nigerian will most likely be the fighter looking to take the bout down to the floor. This is where the fight becomes interesting, as we could see a mix-up in game plans from either man. However, Woodley’s power should be too much for Usman to handle and over five rounds, the American will prevail. Going for the favourite within the UFC 235 odds again I know, but both Woodley and Jones show such little weaknesses for their opponents to exploit.
Official prediction: Woodley victory via TKO in round five – 25/1 with Betfair
Ben Askren’s Debut (finally!)
Not many UFC debutants get handed an ex-Welterweight champion as their first fight in the organisation. Then again, not many fighters enter the Octagon on their UFC debut with an undefeated record of 18-0. So, after years of speculation and Joe Rogan/Brendan Schaub advocation, the former Bellator and One Championship champion will finally fight in the UFC.
Fans of MMA will not need to be familiarised with the credentials of Askren, and they will also not be too surprised to hear that he enters the bout as the favourite amongst the UFC 235 odds. For those who aren’t up to date with the 34-year-old’s career, the American actually competed in the 2008 Olympics as a wrestler. Unsurprisingly, this is Askren’s go-to tactic when he enters the cage and without question, he is one of the greatest to ever do it.
Described with having ‘biconical hands’, when the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt gets hold of you, there is no escaping. He’ll either rapidly shoot for the ankles or simply grab your waist and slam you down with his sheer strength. However he does it, one thing is for sure – you are going down. Excelling in the ground and pound, fans of Askren have grown used to seeing the wrestler tackle his opponent to the canvas, before unleashing a flurry of punches when on top.
As a lively character too, ‘Funky’ can be seen as a great signing for the UFC, as he is expected to create some interesting bouts during his time with the organisation. Fans saw a glimpse of the sort of trash-talking that the American brings at the UFC 235 press-conference, to which he had the crowd in stitches with his comments. With a potential Khabib Nurmagomedov fight in the distance, Askren will come across a few obstacles before getting his title shot, and he will undoubtedly provide us with some entertainment along the way.
Askren vs Lawler Prediction
Inevitably, Askren has generated large volumes of interest from fans, who are speculating various names as to who they’d love to see him fight in the future. For now though, he has to overcome one of the toughest out there – Robbie Lawler.
You say his full name and instantly, images of a crazed, possessed fighter enter your mind. Recognised as a ferocious fighter, Lawler has become a hall of famer during his time in MMA, from the days of Strikeforce up until his 2013 debut in the UFC. Since losing to Anjos in December 2017, there is the question as to where his career now goes, as a push for another title fight isn’t exactly likely. His recent layoff will hopefully have been beneficial though and fans are intrigued to see how much gas the Brawler has left in his tank.
In terms of the matchup between the two fighters, it’s arguably the most interesting of the night. It certainly isn’t an easy introduction into life in the UFC for Askren, as Lawler is known for being a decent wrestler, but more specifically, his striking ability holds the potential to cause Funky some problems. When standing, it’s almost impossible to imagine Askren outboxing the former Welterweight champion – we all know that, instead, he’s going to try shoot the shot and take the fight to the ground.
This is where the fight becomes the most fascinating, as we have one man trying to keep the fight on their feet and the other going straight for the floor. Many have stated that Lawler is a ‘stepping stone’ for Askren to move onto the higher ranked fighters, but who has the nerve to completely rule out the Ruthless One? White has definitely handpicked Lawler as an ‘awkward’ matchup for Askren, as he has past success against wrestlers and he gives his fellow American something to think about when the two are standing.
Picking a winner is clearly not an easy task. Askren has never fought anybody at the level of Lawler. Then again, this is not the Brawler of 2014/2015. Can you see my predicament? With everything taken into perspective though, I’d predict Funky to run out triumphant. Although we are yet to see the 34-year-old compete at this level, his wrestling skills look second to none. Over five rounds, he should wear Lawler down and get hold of him successfully. A points victory wouldn’t be that much of a surprise, but I’ll opt for a submission victory this time.
It is, however, worth mentioning that Lawler holds good value in the UFC 235 betting odds. Coming in at 2/1 with Betfred, he is certainly worth a punt in spoiling Askren’s big day.
Official prediction: Askren victory via submission in round three
A Night For The Ages
Three huge fights with so much on the line, but the main card doesn’t stop there. Also fighting are Tecia Torress and Weili Zhang, with a Bantamweight clash between Cody Garbrandt and Pedro Munhoz also taking place.
No Love is in search of redemption after his two losses against T.J Dillashaw, which undoubtedly would have been a bitter pill to swallow. Garbrandt will have his work cut out though, as a Munhoz victory would surely set up a championship fight. Despite a Henry Cejudo and Dillashaw rematch looking likely, the Young Punisher is surely not far away from challenging for the title.
On the preliminary card, Zabit Magomedsharipov is definitely worth a watch. The 27-year-old is regarded as one of the sport’s most promising stars and he has run out victorious in his last four UFC events. If you are trying to get any neutral fans interested in MMA, show them this guy, as the Russian possesses such dynamic and creative fighting skills. He’s like a real-life character out of Taken! Alongside Munhoz and Torres, I’m including Zabit to run out victorious to round off this UFC 235 preview.
It really is shaping up to be an unforgettable night. Clearly, I’m tipping the majority of the favourites amongst the UFC 235 odds to be victors on March 2nd, but as we know, when it comes to MMA, anything can happen. Make sure to come back for our UFC 236 preview – I’m hoping for a Max Holloway fight!
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As an experienced sports writer, Josh has been published across various different platforms, writing about his beloved club Manchester United and other footballing topics. He also covers a range of other sports, specialising in UFC and Formula One.