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UFC 235: Fight by Fight

Take a deep dive into UFC 235 with this edition of Fight by Fight


Following a third-round finish against Alexander Gustafsson in December, Jon Jones will return to defend his light heavyweight title against upstart contender Anthony Smith at UFC 235. Jones has been the most dominant 205-pound champion in UFC history, with a series of blistering performances against a long list of former champions and top contenders. Jones has already put together a resume that could arguably make him one of the greatest fighters of all-time, but he’s far from finished. To defend his belt this time, Jones will have to go through a knockout striker in Smith, who turned the light heavyweight division on its head with three straight finishes since arriving in the weight class last year. Smith ran roughshod with vicious knockouts over former champions Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Rashad Evans before pulling off a stunning submission against former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir. Smith may be a big underdog going into this fight, but the gritty Nebraska native has never paid attention to the odds and he’s not about to start now. Expect an all-action bout when Jones and Smith clash in the main event at UFC 235.

UFC 235 Embedded: Episode 1
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UFC 235 Embedded: Episode 1


Welterweight champion Tyron Woodley will put his belt up for grabs against Kamaru Usman, who comes into the fight on a long winning streak, including dominant wins over Rafael Dos Anjos and Demian Maia in his most recent fights. What Woodley does best is no secret as the former University of Missouri wrestler combines his world-class grappling with unreal knockout power on the feet. Standing with Woodley is akin to playing with dynamite because at any time he can unleash that fight-finishing power that has dropped nearly every opponent he’s faced in the UFC. Usman is obviously up for the challenge after rocketing to the top of the contender’s list with a huge winning streak, with each victory more dominant than the last. Usman is a powerful wrestler in his own right and he’s shown huge strides in his striking arsenal while working with head coach Henri Hooft. In so many ways, Woodley and Usman are mirror images of each other when it comes to their individual skill sets, which makes this welterweight title fight an unbelievably intriguing chess match between two elite 170-pound fighters.



Former champion Robbie Lawler returns from more than a year away after undergoing knee surgery and he welcomes Ben Askren to the Octagon as the undefeated welterweight and 2008 Olympian competes inside the Octagon for the first time. Askren has long been considered one of the best welterweights in the sport thanks to suffocating grappling that typically puts an opponent on the mat and they don’t get up again unless he allows it or the round just happens to end. Askren is a monster on the mats but he will be tested in this fight like never before in his career because Lawler is one of the most devastating knockout strikers in UFC history. Lawler has also traditionally fared very well against wrestlers in the past and that’s exactly why he’s going to give Askren a tougher fight than perhaps any other he’s faced in his career.


For the first time in her career, Tecia Torres will look to bounce back from two straight losses after fighting tooth and nail against former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and No. 1-ranked contender Jessica Andrade in consecutive outings. While there is no shame in losing to that level of opposition, Torres wants to climb back into the contender’s race herself and the start back up the ladder finds her facing one of the best prospects in the world at 115 pounds. Weili Zhang has looked unstoppable since first arriving in the UFC while rattling off two straight wins, including an armbar submission against Jessica Aguilar in her last outing. With an 18-1 record, Zhang has the credentials to be a real threat to the top five ranked fighters in the strawweight division, but to prove that she’s going to have to go through a veteran like Torres on Saturday night. 


Former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt didn’t get the result he wanted in his last two fights, falling to former teammate TJ Dillashaw. Following some time off to recover, Garbrandt is ready to resume his chase to become the 135-pound champion again while facing off with a noted grappler in Pedro Munhoz at UFC 235. Garbrandt is a nasty knockout striker with bricks for hands but Munhoz will test him in different areas in this fight, as the Brazilian is a slick submission specialist with solid kickboxing in his arsenal as well. This is a huge opportunity for Munhoz to prove he’s an elite bantamweight, but he’s facing the toughest test of his career against Garbrandt, who has nine knockout finishes on his resume and he’s going to be looking for No. 10 this weekend. 


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The featherweight showdown between Jeremy Stephens and Zabit Magomedsharipov might be one of the most intriguing fights on the entire card. Stephens has pulled off more than a few jaw-dropping knockouts during his career and he’s laid waste to a lot of top fighters since arriving in the featherweight division. This time around, Stephens will be head hunting for one of the best prospects the 145-pound weight class has ever known. Magomedsharipov was a highly-touted addition to the featherweight division and he’s rolled through his first few fights inside the Octagon. A dangerous mix of flashy striking with world-class grappling makes Magomedsharipov the complete package, but he’s never faced an opponent with the one-shot power that Stephens possesses. There will be a very bright spotlight on this matchup that could end up being a show stealer by the time the night is over. 


It wasn’t that long ago that Misha Cirkunov was being hailed as the future of the light heavyweight division, but after suffering two losses in a row some of that luster started to fade. Cirkunov took the defeats on the chin and then came back with a huge win in his last fight against Patrick Cummins and now he gets the chance to stop the rise of another 205-pounder being praised as the next big thing. Johnny Walker burst onto the scene last year with a staggering knockout of Khalil Rountree Jr. and then followed that up with a 15-second finish against Justin Ledet in early February. Now the Brazilian has a chance to prove those two fights were no flukes when he takes on a legit top 15 opponent in Cirkunov. 


Former Ultimate Fighter Latin America winner Alejandro Perez has quietly become one of the best bantamweights in the sport. Perez has gone 6-0-1 in his past seven fights, including four wins in a row. If Perez hopes to continue his meteoric climb up the rankings he’s going to have to go through Cody Stamman, who accepted this fight on short notice with the hopes of rebounding after suffering a submission loss in his last outing. Prior to that setback, Stamman had defeated his first three opponents in the UFC and he would like nothing more than to return to the win column while knocking off an elite bantamweight like Perez.


Former Ultimate Fighter season one winner Diego Sanchez has never slowed down since first debuting in the UFC back in 2005 and there are no signs that he’ll be stopping any time soon. Sanchez is coming off a dominant win over Craig White in his last performance, but the veteran welterweight faces a very interesting test this weekend as he takes on Mickey Gall at UFC 235. Gall crashed the UFC party by taking out former WWE superstar CM Punk in 2016 but since that time he proved that he could be a future contender at welterweight. Gall is coming off a quick submission over George Sullivan in his last fight and the New Jersey native would love to be the first person in history to force Sanchez to tap out on the ground.



Undefeated prospect Edmen Shahbazyan will look to keep his perfect record intact while facing Charles Byrd, who was also discovered on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. Shahbazyan, who trains at the same gym where former champion Ronda Rousey called home, has shown real potential early in his career, but he’s facing a noted finisher in Byrd, who has knocked out or submitted opponents in his last five wins. 


Recent Ultimate Fighter winner Macy Chiasson moves down to the bantamweight division where she faces Gina Mazany on the preliminary card. Chiasson is still very young in her career, but she’s shown real potential with a nasty striking arsenal and an underrated ground game to back it up. Following her win on the reality show, Chiasson could be a prospect to watch in 2019, but she is drawing a tough test in Mazany, who is a veteran looking to get some momentum on her side following a 1-2 start to her UFC career.


Marlon Vera has proven time and again that he’s one of the best finishers in the bantamweight division after knocking out or submitting five of the six opponents he’s faced in the UFC. Vera is coming off back-to-back wins, including a submission victory against Guido Cannetti in his last outing. Now Vera faces off with hard-nosed wrestler Frankie Saenz, who is riding his own two-fight win streak coming into Saturday night. Saenz has always been regarded as a tough out at 135 pounds, so this will truly be a test of wills when he meets Vera inside the Octagon.


Brazilian strawweight Polyana Viana went viral a couple months ago after she used her fighting skills to stop a mugger who attempted to rob her. Now Viana will look to put those weapons to the test inside the Octagon when she takes on Hannah Cifers. Viana has been a solid addition to the 115-pound division, but after suffering a loss in her last fight, she undoubtedly wants to get a win in this contest. As for Cifers, she faced a tough test in her UFC debut, falling to top prospect Maycee Barber, but she had rattled off five straight wins before that setback. Now Cifers will look to get her first UFC win while going up against Viana on the early prelims.