Jon Jones (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

UFC 235: Final Thoughts

On Saturday night, fans were treated to the return of Jon Jones, the debut of Ben Askren and a welterweight title clash. There’s quite a bit to unpack from what went down in Las Vegas, too. The main card wasn’t all highlight-reel finishes, but it featured plenty of revealing moments for its participants. Let’s take a quick look back at what we can take away from UFC 235.

The New, Not-So-Flashy Jon Jones

The UFC’s light heavyweight champion was expected to dominate challenger Anthony Smith in the evening’s main event. He definitely came away with the clear victory, but it wasn’t a signature “Bones” Jones performance. Let’s just say this one was far closer to his showing against Ovince St. Preux than it was his recent destruction of Alexander Gustafsson.

Smith has to be commended for hanging in there with one of the best fighters in the world, but Jones took far fewer risks than usual while cruising to the decision nod. Was the 31-year-old just not inspired, or is there more to it? It’s tough to suggest he’s slowing down after how he won the title at the turn of the year against Gustafsson, but Jones should have been able to put on a flashier performance here.


Tyron Woodley, Predictable

If there’s one thing fight fans can count on, it’s that Woodley will always meet a tough fight with a conservative game plan. Forget those big knockouts. Forget his solid wrestling pedigree. Forget those slick submissions he used to pull out back in his Strikeforce days. When Woodley is met with a true challenge, he lowers his stance and… does nothing.

Kamaru Usman put on a rather one-sided display against Woodley in the pair’s welterweight title tilt. The same Woodley who submitted Darren Till, embarrassed Demian Maia and knocked out Robbie Lawler was nowhere to be found. Instead, we witnessed the defended champion get outwrestled while failing to ever fire off any real offensive bursts. If Woodley had more confidence in his athleticism and well-rounded skill set, then he could have given Usman a much tougher fight.

Don’t Want to Lose? Don’t Go Limp.

Robbie Lawler got in a bad spot against Ben Askren, but it was partially his own fault that the fight was stopped. Once Askren locked in a bulldog choke, Lawler’s arm appeared to go limp. It was enough to cause referee Herb Dean to call the fight.

The thing is, Lawler wasn’t out. Replays proved as much. Those same replays also made clear that Dean did check Lawler’s arm, and Lawler was not as limp as the original televised camera angle made it appear. So, Dean isn’t off the hook here. Lawler may have appeared to be out, but Dean is a veteran referee who should have spotted what the original camera angle failed to show us.

Lawler deserves a chance to avenge this loss.

Tecia Torres vs. the Brick Wall

It seems as if Torres just can’t bust through the wall and join the strawweight division’s elite. The “Tiny Tornado” couldn’t get anything going against Weili Zhang, an impressive upstart from China, and ultimately suffered a loss on the scorecards.

This is now three losses in a row for Torres. The Invicta veteran doesn’t deserve a pink slip from the UFC by any means, but it’s evident that she’s struggling against the division’s best. Her skid coincides with a step up in competition from the likes of Juliana Lima and Michelle Waterson to Jessica Andrade, Joanna Jędrzejczyk and Zhang. It’s easy to forget that this is the same woman who once beat current strawweight titleholder Rose Namajunas.

Johnny Walker, His Own Worst Enemy

The Brazilian light heavyweight impressed with a flying knee that floored Misha Cirkunov and announced Walker’s arrival as a force in the 205-pound ranks. Then, Walker dislocated his shoulder while celebrating. He had a good sense of humor about the incident, at least, but it was embarrassing for the up-and-coming contender.

Walker, if he continues to find success, would be a very intriguing challenger to the aforementioned champion Jones. Walker is actually an inch or two taller than Jones, and his reach is just one inch shorter. He has been wrecking opponents with his dynamic striking attack, which could turn out to be the perfect weapon in a future showdown with “Bones.” Walker just has to make sure he doesn’t derail himself with unnecessary injuries.