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Here’s everything that happened at UFC 235 ‘Jones vs Smith’ last night in Las Vegas

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) made its presence known to Las Vegas, Nevada, last night (Sat., March 2, 2019) for UFC 235. Unlike some of the recent pay-per-view (PPV) events, UFC did not hold back a bit. Two title fights — neither of them interim! — headlined the bout, pitting a pair of dominant champions against aggressive contenders. It was not top heavy though, as there was some top talent shown throughout the “Prelims” undercard as well. It was a great event, so let’s take a look at the best techniques and performances of the night!

The Usual Brilliance

Last night, Jon Jones did what he frequently does. Against an opponent excited at the opportunity to throw hands in his general direction, Jones completely shut down his foe with a brutal series of kicks. After 10 minutes in the cage with Jones, Anthony Smith’s legs and midsection were severely beaten down.

From that point forward, Jones was in complete control (watch highlights here).

Jones also continued to prove his reputation as the meanest man in mixed martial arts (MMA). Landing knees to the shin, smothering Smith was a free hand at every opportunity, and throwing illegal strikes at a downed opponent were completely unnecessary given Jones’ complete domination. It’s part of what makes him great: “Bones” is really trying to hurt his opponents in any way possible.

All the same, it wasn’t a pretty win. It was not a win that elevates his status. The final 10 minutes seemed completely unnecessary, and I’m rather convinced that he could’ve secured a finish at any point by throwing the hooks in from back control like he did to Alexander Gustafsson.

Patient Pressure

Kamaru Usman executed a perfect gameplan to utterly dominate Tyron Woodley for five straight rounds (watch highlights here). Ahead of this fight, it was my belief that Woodley had approximately seven minutes to knockout Usman. Otherwise, Usman’s ceaseless pressure and endless gas tank would wear him down to the point that Woodley was no longer dangerous.

I wasn’t entirely correct.

Usman rendered Woodley inert almost immediately. There were few early power shots absorbed. Working behind a long jab and keeping his head away from Woodley’s right, Usman successfully closed distance into a single leg almost immediately. “T-Wood” actually made Usman’s job easier by immediately jumping for a guillotine, beginning the drain on his gas tank while granting Usman top position.

Usman just built from there and never stopped. He landed hard shots on the break of the clinch, including a massive elbow in the second that opened up a takedown into mount moments later. Woodley’s takedown defense is truly exceptional, but that didn’t stop Usman from pinning him to fence and wailing away at his mid-section. It wasn’t always dramatic, but Usman was landing strikes at every single opportunity.

Patient pressure has long been Woodley’s Kryptonite. Rory MacDonald completely controlled him along the fence with the jab alone. Jake Shields won a close decision by doing nothing but pushing Woodley into the fence and clinching him. Usman accomplished both strategies and built further upon them. Against a foe applying consistent, patient pressure, Woodley historically falls apart.

Woodley’s performance may have been especially flat, but worse was Marc Goddard’s incompetent refereeing. He routinely took strong positions away from Usman — giving Woodley his only chances to get back into the fight! — while “Nigerian Nightmare” was actively hammering away. Again, Usman was not landing devastating blows frequently, but he was always working, damaging, and fighting. To say otherwise like Goddard did at one point is embarrassing.

Anyway, Usman vs. Colby Covington is going to be an awesome fight that breaks records for strikes thrown and takedowns attempted.

A Short Word on Lawler-Askren

In Robbie Lawler’s opening slam and flurrying on Ben Askren, the Olympian went limp. The man was not awake, and the fight justifiably could have been stopped. He woke back up between elbows, and Askren fought back admirably. He was still getting hammered when he finally landed a takedown, as Askren’s body was somewhat broken by the heavy hands of Lawler.

Askren’s ability to catch that bulldog choke as Lawler was 99 percent free was brilliant, though. Did it choke him out? Not fully. Lawler was still awake, if woozy. He was certainly more conscious than Askren had been just minutes early after eating a series of left hands.

Yet Askren wins and Lawler is defeated. MMA is crazy, and referee Herb Dean was handed a pair of difficult situations very quickly. Still, some criticism is very deserved: an extra couple seconds of being choked is relatively harmless, especially when compared to additional Robbie Lawler punches.

The Techniques of Zabit Magomedsharipov

Perhaps the most dangerous combination of skills is a wrestler who can kick well. In the main event, Jon Jones proved the best example, but Magomedsharipov put his own name forward as another success story by handling Jeremy Stephens.

The major key to defeating “Lil Heathen” is footwork. Magomedsharipov showed a ton of skill on that front, drawing Stephens forward into counter punches and switching directions just as Stephens moved to land. In this bout, Magomedsharipov opted to fight largely as a Southpaw, which opened up a number of strong counter left hands and round kicks to the belly (alongside a variety of straight and spinning kicks). Just as useful were the defensive benefits, as his Southpaw stance also forced Stephens to cover more distance with his right. Even better, it largely removed Stephens’ powerful right low kick from the equation.

In the first round, Magomedsharipov’s movement, kicks, and counters allowed him to easily out-land Stephens. As Stephens began getting closer in the second, however, Magomedsharipov dropped down into a takedown and dragged Stephens to the mat in the turtle position. From there, his techniques were the same as Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov: primarily the dual threat of the two-on-one wrist ride and leg triangle.

Stephens did a ton of things correctly in this fight. He may have committed too heavily to the right hand, but Stephens also targeted the body and legs whenever possible. Any future opponent of Magomedsharipov will be forced to copy that approach, which led to a successful third round for the veteran. Building on that, Magomedsharipov cuts a lot of weight and did slow down in the third, which is perhaps his biggest weakness as he quickly moves toward five-round fights.

Deja Vu

Didn’t I just write about a Johnny Walker sub-minute knockout like one month ago?

In fact, I did, because the Brazilian knockout artist is incredibly talented. The previous two men he faced were not contenders but nor were they pushovers. Walker treated them as such, landing brutal knockouts in a combined two minutes. Misha Cirkunov though? That guy’s top ten in the world. That guy is a skilled kickboxer and quality wrestler with an excellent top game. He’s not some prospect either, he’s been in there with the best in the world.

Walker knocked him out in 36 seconds (watch highlights here).

Walker is not just a man with special athletic gifts. In a very short time, Walker moved around the cage, feinted well, and figured out where Cirkunov was placing his head. To clarify, Cirkunov knew that Walker has been killing foes with power shots, and he made it a priority to duck his head off the center line when moving forward. Unfortunately for him, Walker figured out where that ducked posture left his head immediately, and he exploded into a flying knee directly into that position.

Three knockouts in less than three minutes — it’s time to believe in this talented Brazilian.

Additional Thoughts

  • Weili Zhang defeats Tecia Torres via decision (recap): Zhang still has some work to do in fully translating her martial arts background to the cage — the over-reliance on the headlock throw is a problem, as was her habit of missing on side kicks — but the Chinese athlete is very talented. She kept an absurd pace, never allowing her foe to get comfortable. Whenever Torres did land a good counter shot, Zhang swarmed right back with a dozen punches and a clinch throw attempt. Torres fought smart, but that level of activity and athleticism is a problem for just about anyone at 115 pounds.
  • Pedro Munhoz defeats Cody Garbrandt via first-round knockout (HIGHLIGHTS): A lot happened here in a short fight. Early, Garbrandt moved well and landed first, but the calf kicks of Munhoz were also beginning to land. As they began to take effect, Munhoz landed power shot that stunned Garbrandt. Suddenly on his back, Garbrandt reacted with a great deal of composure, defending himself from shots and standing back up without exposing his neck to Munhoz’s infamous guillotine. Once back on his feet, however, Garbrandt went completely on the offensive, swinging wild shots and jump knees. Enough landed that Munhoz was stung too, but Munhoz planted his feet and fired right back. Garbrandt’s aggression backfired, as a massive overhand landed clean after a series of wild exchanges, ending the fight in Munhoz’s favor.
  • Diego Sanchez defeats Mickey Gall via second-round TKO (HIGHLIGHTS): Many people recognized that Sanchez had the style to defeat Gall, but the problem came in durability. Sanchez has been fighting for a remarkably long time, and his chin has suffered as a result. Could he withstand a hard shot? Luckily, he didn’t really have to. Sanchez kept a high guard early that blocked most of Gall’s offense, and once able to close the distance, it was clear which man was the superior wrestler. From top position, Sanchez did beautiful work in flowing around different positions, dropping elbows all the while. Gall was a badly fatigued man in the second, and another takedown allowed Sanchez to began settling down in dominant positions and doing even more damage. The result? “The Nightmare’s” first stoppage victory in 11 years!
  • Edmen Shahbazyan defeats Charles Byrd via round-one knockout (HIGHLIGHTS): Edmond Tarverdyan may be something of a well-deserved punch line in mixed martial arts (MMA), but his 21-year-old protege certainly has talent. In Shahbazyan’s debut, he was forced to dig deep and wrestle hard for 15 minutes against a tough opponent — that’s not easy for anyone and is especially impressive for a larger prospect (who are especially prone to gassing out). Things were much easier this time around, as Byrd dove in on a takedown early. Shahbazyan got his hips back, balanced against the fence, and blasted the side of Byrd’s head with elbows until the fight was called.
  • Macy Chiasson defeats Gina Mazany via round-one knockout: Chiasson may have just five professional fights to her name, but The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) champion very much looks like the real deal. Opposite a shorter Southpaw, Chiasson committed heavy to the right kick, slamming it into Mazany’s open side almost at will in the early goings of the fight. Mazany adjusted nicely by attacking with her cross, prompting Chiasson to jam her into the fence on the clinch. It was on the break of the clinch where Chiasson’s physicality and aggression ended the bout, as she charged forward with a combination that put her opponent to sleep.

For complete UFC 235: “Jones vs. Smith” results and play-by-play, click HERE!

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