LAS VEGAS -- Jon Jones made it look easy against Anthony Smith (31-14) in the UFC 235 main event Saturday night, but he nearly lost his light heavyweight title in the process.
“Bones” did whatever he wanted against his Nebraska-based challenger, landing punches and kicks from all angles. And whenever the defending champ got close enough, he either pressed “Lionheart” into the cage or took him down. A Jones elbow busted up Smith’s nose in the fourth, but that was also the stanza in which Jones nearly lost his title. Jones (24-1) was pouring on the attrition with Smith on the canvas, but when “Lionheart” was down on one knee, Jones landed a knee to the head. Referee Herb Dean intervened, watched the replay and swiftly took two points from the champ. With Jones avoiding a disqualification, he coasted down the stretch and won a lopsided unanimous decision.
All three judges had it 48-44 for Jones, who once again walked out of the Octagon with his 205-pound title around his shoulder.
Usman Dominates Woodley, Takes Title
The UFC and many within the MMA media were touting Tyron Woodley as the greatest welterweight the promotion ever saw. Kamaru Usman made sure that narrative ended on Saturday night as he dominated Woodley from pillar to post in the UFC 235 co-main event.
“The Nigerian Nightmare” did whatever he wanted in what was the biggest fight of his career. He controlled the pace of the bout, landed timely punches and mauled the champ on the ground. Usman (15-1) rocked Woodley badly with a flurry of punches to the head in the fifth but he couldn’t put "The Chosen One” away. Instead, Usman scored another takedown and nullified the final futile attempts from Woodley (19-4-1). When it was over, Usman was awarded a landslide unanimous decision win via tallies of 50-44 (twice) and 50-45 to snatch Woodley’s UFC welterweight championship.
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Askren Choke Nets Controversial Submission
Former Bellator MMA champion Ben Askren submitted Robbie Lawler with a bulldog choke in the first round of their featured welterweight pairing. The unbeaten Askren (19-0, 1-0 UFC) brought it to a close 3:20 into Round 1, though it was not without controversy.
Lawler (28-13, 13-7 UFC) nearly authored a quick finish, as he answered a clinch from the four-time NCAA All-American wrestler with a powerful slam, swooped into top position and cut loose with devastating punches and elbows, one of which opened a cut. Even so, Askren survived, staggered to his feet and slowly recovered. He closed the distance yet again, tripped Lawler to the canvas and advanced to the back before threatening with a rear-naked choke. Askren transitioned to the bulldog choke when “Ruthless Robbie” attempted to scramble free. Lawler’s arm appeared to go limp for a brief moment, prompting referee Herb Dean to intervene. However, the American Top Team star protested immediately once Askren released the choke.
In his first appearance since December 2017, Lawler walked away with his second consecutive defeat.
Ascending Zhang Sinks Torres
Weili Zhang pushed her winning streak to 19 fights with a unanimous decision over “The Ultimate Fighter 20” graduate Tecia Torres in a three-round feature at 115 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it for Zhang (19-1, 3-0 UFC): 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27.
Torres (10-4, 6-4 UFC) could not match the Black Tiger Fight Club star’s output. Zhang was the aggressor for a majority of the 15-minute encounter and threw out the occasional spinning attack, along with leg kicks and counter right hands. She climbed onto Torres’ back in the first round and executed a takedown in the second, but she did her best work in Round 3. There, she took down Torres from the clinch, slid to half guard and assaulted the American Top Team with a sustained burst of short elbows.
The 29-year-old Torres finds herself on a three-fight losing streak.
Munhoz Vanquishes Reeling Garbrandt
Former Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion Pedro Munhoz put away Cody Garbrandt with punches in the first round of their bantamweight showcase. Garbrandt (11-3, 6-3 UFC) bowed out 4:52 into Round 1, as he suffered his third consecutive defeat.
Munhoz (18-3, 8-3 UFC) chipped away with a series of calf kicks and assumed top position after an inadvertent head butt appeared to deck the Team Alpha Male standout. When Garbrandt returned to to his feet, he threw caution to the wind and engaged the Brazilian in a wild firefight. Munhoz leaned on a stout chin, floored the 27-year-old Ohio native with an overhand right, followed him to the mat and mopped up what was left with punches.
The 32-year-old Munhoz has won three fights in a row.
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