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UNKNOWN MMA STAFF PICKS: UFC 235

UFC 235 is one of the most stacked cards the Ultimate Fighting Championship has produced, from the pay-per-view main card to the Fight Pass prelims, it’s shaping up to be an unbelievable night of fights from Vegas. I would love to break down the whole card, but alas, time is of the essence. So, let’s dive a little more into Saturday night’s main card. -Johann Castro

JOHANN CASTRO

Jon Jones vs. Anthony Smith: Jones, 2nd Round SUB Anthony Smith starts with a little momentum early, but the talent of Jon Jones will quickly overcome. All in all, it’ll be a quick and relatively painless night for Jones.

Tyron Woodley vs. Kamaru Usman: Woodley, 5th Round KO What’ll start as a slow chess match will evolve into a sprawl and brawl battle, with Woodley’s superior defensive grappling being the X-factor. A late finish for Woodley in what will be a surprisingly thrilling fight.

Robbie Lawler vs. Ben Askren: Askren, Decision This is a total toss up in my opinion. Lawler has experience, power, and is the far superior athlete. But, when Ben Askren takes guys down, they tend to not get up, and Lawler has struggled with wrestlers in the past. Askren grinds him out Khabib Nurmagomedov style to a dominant decision.

Tecia Torres vs. Weili ZhangZhang: Decision A classic gatekeeper vs. prospect fight at strawweight. Tecia is always a dangerous opponent, holding a win over current champ Rose Namajunas and having gone to decion with both Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Jessica Andrade. Weili Zhang represents the future at strawweight, and while this will be her biggest test by far, her skillset will be enough for her to overcome the veteran Torres.

Cody Garbrandt vs. Pedro Munhoz: Garbrandt, Decision This has the makings of a possible changing of the guard at bantamweight. Cody Garbrandt is the best pure boxer at 135, and Pedro Munhoz is an elite grappler with an underrated striking game. This is an unheralded fight of the night contender that Garbrandt takes via a razor thin decision.

Johann’s undercard picks: Magomedsharipov, Walker, Stanmann, Gall, Shahbazyan, Chiasson, Vera, Viana

RORY ROBINSON

Jon Jones vs Anthony Smith. – Jones Round 2 via TKO.

After strong calculations of speed and distance in a not so action-packed round 1, Jones will rock Smith, secure a takedown and ground and pound his way to an easy victory.

Tyron Woodley vs Kamaru Usman. – Woodley via KO in round 1.

“Marty” won’t be able to adjust to the speed and IQ of Woodley. In a desperate attempt to secure a takedown, Usman will get blasted with a hard right hand, furthermore cementing Woodley as one of the best Welterweights of all time.

Robbie Lawler vs Ben Askren. – Askren in round 3 via DEC.

Lawler will be a game opponent and plan on making things ugly with Ben. I can see the crowd booing a lot in this one. Askren will get caught a few times entering for takedown attempts that lead to chain wrestling. Askren will land multiple takedown attempts and control the pace of the fight cruising to a boring but dominate majority decision victory.

Tecia Torres vs Weili Zhang: Zhang Round 3 via SPLIT DEC.

This will be a close one. Torres may land a few takedowns but Zhang will neutralize most of the attempts forcing a boxing match. Both ladies will land many sig strikes, leading to a controversial decision for Zhang.

Cody Garbrandt vs.Pedro Munhoz Garbrandt in round 1 via KO.

Cody gets back into the win column after losing twice in a row to the same man. A relaxed Cody will display technical hand and footwork, using his jab that propels him to land a devastating strike that reminds fans of the power Cody possesses in his hands.

WHITNEY SHARMA

Jon Jones/Anthony Smith: Jones via TKO round 4

Anthony Smith starts out hot and Jones eats some big shots during the first 3 rounds. Jones is patient and by round 4, Smith is gassed and Jones takes advantage by landing the signature Jackson Wink head kick knocking Smith out. Jones retains his light heavyweight title.

Tyron Woodley/Kamaru Usman: Woodley via unanimous decision

Kamaru Usman attempts to take the fight to the ground throughout all five rounds but Woodley’s signature takedown defense earns him a unanimous decision.

Ben Askren/Robbie Lawler: Askren via RNC round 2

Askren takes a few huge shots from Lawler but recovers and takes the fight to the ground. During round two, he earns his first win in the UFC via rear naked choke.

Tecia Torres/Weili Zhang: Zhang via arm bar round 3

Torres definitely has something to prove during this fight. She is coming off of two straight losses and I think she will be mentally tested because Zhang is an extremely dangerous striker. Torres will eat a few big shots during round 3 and will get knocked down. On the ground, Zhang will get the win via arm bar.

Cody Garbrandt/Pedro Munhoz: Munhoz via TKO round 2

Garbrandt starts the fight hot and fast and takes round 1. After round 1, he gains false confidence and gets KO’d in round 2

JASON WADE

Jones vs Smith: Jones, Round 3 via TKO A back and forth battle between who can do the same style the best. There will be an array of jabs, crosses, high kicks and close range elbows that will drag on for all three rounds. The difference maker will be leg kicks from Jones eventually wearing down Smith and opening up for a combination that might have an uppercut somewhere in it. Woodley vs Usman: Woodley, Round 4 via submission. The first round will be slow with both fighters taking caution with each other’s power. For the most part, the second, third and fourth will consist of a lot of back and forth takedown attempts and hard punches. The main difference will be the submission game. Usman will attempt a takedown to be caught in a guillotine, anaconda, Peruvian necktie or get his back taken for an RNC or an armbar. Askren vs Lawler: Lawler, Round 3 via TKO . Askren will dominate the first round with a takedown and try to use ground-and-pound. In the second and third rounds, Lawler will work harder to prevent takedowns and throw as many power punches as possible to while standing. Eventually, Askren will not be able to take more damage and the referee will stop the match. Torres vs Zhang: Zhang vía split decision. It’s going to be a back and forth battle between two very strong and athletic competitors. Torres is very good with combining different kicks but Zhang has also shown the same ability to use kicks that many fighters, male and female, don’t know how to use. Torres might also land takedowns and incite some fun grappling exchanges. By the end, people will know who Weili Zhang is. Possible “Fight of the Night” candidate. Garbrandt vs Munhoz: Garbrandt, Round 2 via KO. Both fighters will feel each other out in the first minute or so in the first round. Eventually, Garbrandt is going to use his superior boxing to make Munhoz miss attacks alongside very little luck with takedowns. By round 2, Garbrandt will start exposing holes in Munhoz’s guard while making sure to check any leg kicks. (Side note: if Munhoz learns to set up his head kicks, I might choose the other way.)

BRANDON DIMAS

Jones v. Smith: Smith R1 via KO

Throwing caution to the wind I think ANTHONY SMITH SHOCKS THE WORLD. Believe Jon doesn’t respect Smiths stand up. Smith will get the fight in the clinch and land a short elbow causing Jon to stumble against the cage. Smith will get him in the clinch against the cage where he will throw a knee landing right in Jon’s face. Jon still on wobbly legs will fall and Smiths will finish him off. Winner- Smith in round 1 by TKO.

Woodley v. Usman: Woodley, R2 – Sub

Woodley will prove to be a little too technical for Usman. Usman will be over zealous and attempt to intimidate Woodley early BUT T-Wood will counter with a strike that Knocks Usman down and eventually get to his back where he will force Usman to tap via rear naked choke. Winner- Woodley round 2 by submission

Lawler v. Askren: Askren – UD

I do believe this fight will get off to a slow start because even Askren has been waiting for this moment I believe it’ll take a full round for him to settle in. I see Robbie landing a flush strike near the end of the 1st round causing Askren to fall to his back but ultimately survives the round but goes down in the scorecard. He will then come back in the 2nd round and take lawler down, controlling lawler and landing solid ground in pound for most of the round. The 3rd round will be much of the same leading to a judge’s decision. Winner- Askren with a unanimous decision victory 29-28

Torres v. Zhang: Torres – UD

Zhang’s biggest win was her most recent against Aguilar. However, Aguilar hasn’t been what many thought she would be so I believe this is the case of too much too soon for Zhang. I believe she is as tough as nails but I think Torres is just in another class and in another level as a striker. I see this fight going the distance but ultimately Torres gets the needed “W”. Winner- Torres by unanimous decision 30-27

Garbrandt v. Munhoz: Garbrandt via KO R.1

I think a 3 round fight favors Cody. He can put out more energy- earlier knowing that the fight is only 3 rounds. I see Cody coming out as the aggressor from the start and firing a hard hook that puts Munhoz’ lights out late in round 1. Winner – Garbrandt via KO round 1

Beto Acevedo

Jon Jones vs Anthony Smith: Jones KO Rd 2

Jones is an overwhelming favorite, however Smith has a lot of momentum coming into this fight winning his last 3 fights in impressive fashion at light heavyweight. Jones will look to manage his distance in the beginning with front kicks to the knees of Smith. This will prevent Smith from pressuring as he likes. As the first round ends Jones will look to apply pressure and mask his patent elbows with range finder straights. The barrage of strikes will be too much for the undersized Smith getting knocked down and Jones will finish the fight with vicious ground and proud.

Tyron Woodley vs Kamaru Usman: Woodley, KO Rd 1

This fight features two elite wrestlers with similar fight styles. However, the quick twitch hand advantage will aid Woodley in his fifth title defense. Usman will come forward jabbing his way in while shooting for takedowns. Woodley will stuff those shots and timely counter with his patent overhand right coming out victorious once again.

Robbie Lawler vs Ben Askren: Askren, Submission Rd 3

A potential Fight of the Night candidate featuring a former UFC welterweight champion and the debut of the undefeated ex-ONE welterweight champion. Both are coming off year long layoffs. Askren will look to take advantage of his wrestling pedigree while avoiding Lawler’s barrage of punches. Askren will wear Lawler down in the ladder part of the fight taking him down and transitioning to his back for the rear naked choke.

Tecia Torres vs. Weili Zhang – Zhang, TKO Rd 2

The rising star Zhang looks to take down her most difficult opponent yet in the Strawweight Division. Although Torres is coming off two losses she is still one of the top females in the division. Her power and pressure have helped her challenge the best in the division. Zhang will bully the Tornado with her MMA arsenal of side kicks to the stomach, overhand rights and lefts, and vicious ground and pound. Eventually the ref will stop the fight in Rd 2 TKO.

Cody Garbrandt vs Pedro Munoz -Garbrandt, KO Rd 1

Garbrandt looks to rebound from his two losses versus T.J. Dillshaw in his return to the octagon. Munoz recently entered the top 15 of the bantamweight division after defeating Bryan Calloway and looks to continue his rise up the rankings. Garbrandt Golden Gloves background has been his bread and butter in MMA. His quick climb to the championship was highlighted by spectacular KO’s. Munhoz will come forward and take some shots to get his in. He tends to be a plotter and fight flat footed. Speed kills and Garbrandt will catch Munoz with an overhand right and left hook to finish Munoz in round 1 by KO.

JASON MARLOWE

Jones v. Smith: Jones via submission

Woodley v. Usman: Woodley via KO/TKO

Lawler v. Askren: Askren via decision

Torres v. Zhang: Zhang via decision

Garbrandt v. Munhoz: Garbrandt via KO/TKO

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