Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight finishers Jon Jones and Anthony Smith will clash TONIGHT (March 2, 2019) at UFC 235 from inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Throughout all of Jones’ career ups-and-downs, he has never truly tasted defeat and managed to clear out the division a few times over. The actual bright side of his most recent drug suspension was that the division was able to build itself up a bit, resulting in some new and deserving contenders. Whether they’ll fair any better than past challengers remains to be seen, but Jones is looking to dominate a new crop of foes starting with “Lionheart.” Smith’s rise at 205 pounds has been genuinely surprising and fun to watch. It’s not quite a Robbie Lawler-level career turnaround, but Smith successfully transitioned from Middleweight journeyman (though his success rate was increasing) to Light Heavyweight contender within one year.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Record: 23-1 (1)
Key Wins: Daniel Cormier (UFC 182), Alexander Gustafsson (UFC 232, UFC 165), Lyoto Machida (UFC 140), Rashad Evans (UFC 145)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: An exceptionally gifted athlete who has maximized his physical tools, Jones dominates opponents at range with long kicks, in the clinch with shoulder cranks and elbows, and on the mat with slick submissions and more crushing elbows. Making Jones even more difficult to defeat is his ability to follow a gameplan perfectly, as Jones adjusts tremendously to the individual opponent.
In his last fight with Alexander Gustafsson, Jones was unexpectedly dogged in his pursuit of the takedown — “Bones” is generally more willing to let the fight flow and wait for his moment. When he did finally land a takedown in the third, however, it all made sense. Almost immediately, Jones passed into a dominant position in a sequence that he had clearly been practicing and finished the fight.
Therein lies the problem for Smith’s chance at an upset: Gustafsson is a much, much better defensive wrestler than Anthony Smith. If Jones drops down into an early single-leg and works his transitional wrestling with the intent on scoring the takedown, he’s going to land the shot.
Once in top position, Jones is a killer, and there’s no chance of a big power shot from Smith slipping through his defenses.
Key Wins: Volkan Oezdemir (UFC Fight Night 138), Mauricio Rua (UFC Fight Night 134), Rashad Evans (UFC 225), Hector Lombard (UFC Fight Night 116), Andrew Sanchez (UFC on FOX 24)
Key Losses: Thiago Santos (UFC Fight Night 125), Cezar Ferreira (TUF 23 Finale)
Keys to Victory: Smith is a violent man. His entire game focuses on offense, which is the reason his fights — win or lose — rarely see the judges’ scorecards. On his feet, Smith makes use of his own length with crushing strikes from the eight limbs of Muay Thai and has underrated grappling as well.
It is no secret that Smith is an underdog in this bout and thought by most to be outmatched. At the same time, Smith does have a couple things going for him. For one, his ability to nearly match Jones’ size is very helpful. Secondly, Smith does have knockout power and an extremely high finishing percentage.
Above all else, Smith has to throw power shots to win this fight. Looking back at Jones’ rematch with Gustafsson, it was incredibly frustrating to watch “The Mauler” try to be trickier than Jones. It simply wasn’t going to happen, and Gustafsson threw away his chance of landing a fight-changing shot by spending so much time looking for openings.
Smith needs to create openings by throwing power strikes. It’s likely that many of his combinations will miss or be countered initially; that’s fine. That’s the nature of being a massive underdog. Smith needs to stay the course and keep his offense going, as that’s his best chance at landing something significant and building from there.
Bottom Line: Jones wins in the usual ultra impressive fashion, or we have a new contender on our hands for biggest upset in mixed martial arts (MMA) history.
After Jones recaptured his crown to end 2018, he made a few things clear. Unless it was another chance to punch Daniel Cormier — “Bones” really does not like that man — the champion wanted new challengers and an active year of defending his crown. More recently, Jones stated a plan to win four fights in 2019. All those goals begin here with Anthony Smith, building upon his excellent record with a hopefully consistent, drama-free year of violence.
Alternatively, this is the be-all, end-all fight for “Lionheart.” If he wins this fight, he immediately elevates his name to legend. Does it matter that Matt Serra never defended his title nor won the rematch? Not particularly, he’s still forever known as the man who unexpectedly toppled “GSP.” Smith has the opportunity to gain that status in this fight, but the difference is Smith would still have a chance to win the inevitable rematch, too.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 235 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC 235: “Jones vs. Smith” fight card and rumors click here.
At UFC 235, Jon Jones and Anthony Smith will battle in the main event. Which man will leave the cage as champion?