Saturday UFC 235 event is in the books, and now that the dust has settled in Las Vegas, it’s time to go to the scorecard to see who the big winners were at T-Mobile Arena.
1 – Kamaru Usman
Kamaru Usman said it best after his UFC 235 co-main event, noting that he may not be the top striker or wrestler in the welterweight division, but when it comes to mixing it all, he’s the king of the 170-pounders. And that’s why he’s champion today. I wouldn’t say Usman was written off as a threat to Tyron Woodley, but he was an underdog, and even if you were picking him to win, did you really think he would put on a master class like he did? Usman did what every athlete hopes to do – deliver his best performance when the pressure is at its highest. Usman left no questions about his title-worthiness. Now it’s time to see how he deals with being the guy with the target on his back.
2 – Pedro Munhoz
When a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt gets into a firefight with one of the biggest punchers in the game and wins it, that’s more than a win. And if you didn’t know about Pedro Munhoz before he halted Cody Garbrandt in UFC 235’s Fight of the Night, you know him today. Bantamweight is clearly THE division to watch in 2019, and Munhoz is a major player because with his skill on the feet and the mat and his willingness to scrap, he’s a threat to everyone at 135 pounds.
3 – Johnny Walker
Oh, Johnny Walker. When a fighter is his own most dangerous opponent when it comes to taking damage, that kid is good. And while we haven’t gotten an extended look at the Brazilian in the Octagon, how can you doubt his three quick wins over Khalil Rountree Jr., Justin Ledet and now, Misha Cirkunov? Add in his charismatic personality, and if he doesn’t hurt himself in post-fight celebrations, we may be looking at the 2019 version of Israel Adesanya, this time at 205 pounds.
4 – Ben Askren
Controversy about the finish aside, give Ben Askren all the credit in the world for his win over Robbie Lawler, because “Funky” was one or two shots away from a one-sided loss and an eternity of being called overrated. But with true grit and an ability to adjust on the fly, the bloodied and battered Askren rebounded from that rough start and finished one of the toughest outs in the sport in former champion Lawler. More importantly, we’ll get to see what’s next for one of the more intriguing characters on the roster.
5 – Weili Zhang
You look at the 19-fight winning streak and may wonder why some are surprised at Weili Zhang’s win over perennial strawweight contender Tecia Torres, but let’s face it, that’s a big deal for someone’s third UFC fight. But Zhang clearly has the skill and will to get the job done, and if she’s in a title bout by the end of 2019, that’s not just a major accomplishment for Zhang personally, but it may just be the most significant moment in Chinese MMA history. Now that’s a really big deal.