What’s Next for the Winners at UFC 235?
By Ben Jessop
The UFC once again returned to the T-Mobile arena in Paradise, Las Vegas. This time, with one of the best and most anticipated UFC cards in recent memory. With two title fights, a long-awaited debut for Ben Askren, and some real contenders proving their worth in the top leagues, the fight night really lived up to the hype. I’m going to look at who could potentially be the next opponents for the winners of the evening, I could start back at the early pre-lims but for now I’ll start with the two biggest fights on the prelims.
Johnny Walker defeats Misha Cirkunov via 1st Round KO
Johnny Walker is arguably the most exciting new fighter within the UFC, he’s been lighting up the light heavyweight for the last five months with three first round KO’s on his record he is now in no doubt gunning for the top spot. This latest bout ended after thirty-eight seconds with a flying knee, Walker now finds himself ranked #15 and basically has the pick of the bunch.
He’s become a fan favourite, and a real killer in the octagon. Despite dislocating his shoulder in his celebration, Walker, for me at least, deserves a shot at the top ten.
Depending on how you look at it, a great fight for Walker would be Jimi Manuwa, who’s currently on a three fight loss streak with his latest loss coming from now title contender Thiago Santos but that is a difficult fight for Manuwa who will be desperate for a much-needed win. You could argue that Walker could face Ilir Latifi who is currently ranked #9 and is coming off of a loss to Corey Anderson back in December 2018. I would like to see him face Manuwa personally, but all I’m really happy for is Walker lighting up the often stagnant light heavyweight division. It’ll be interesting to see how the UFC propel Walker into the spotlight.
Zabit Magomedsharipov defeats Jeremy Stephens via decision
Magomedsharipov won his most important victory this weekend, taking out highly ranked featherweight Jeremy Stephens. This win shoots Magomedsharipov to the top, into contender conversations at least. This is his fifth win in a row and he’s currently undefeated, this opens the door to massive opportunities. I personally would like to see Magomedsharipov shoot right into the top five, to face Renato Moicano, who is coming off a loss to the potential GOAT Jose Aldo, who no doubt will be next for the title shot when Holloway moves up to lightweight. This will be a real test, and if Magomedsharipov pulls it off, he’s really in with a chance of facing the likes of Frankie Edgar before inevitably getting his title shot. The featherweight division’s top five is in for a shock.
Pedro Munhoz defeats Cody Garbrandt via 1st Round KO
Munhoz took on the former bantamweight champion Garbrandt this weekend and managed to secure a first round KO in the closing seconds. The means the third loss in a row for Garbrandt after losing twice in a row to TJ Dillashaw. Though on the other hand, this gives Munhoz his third victory in a row having defeated Brett Johns and Bryan Caraway previously. The top ten bantamweight division is a difficult group to break down, with Petr Yan currently on a route of domination to the top of the division, John Lineker is lined up with Cory Sandhagen realistically Munhoz isn’t going to get a top five shot just yet. Perhaps the UFC could match Munhoz with Jimmie Rivera who is coming off a loss in February 2019 against Aljamain Sterling. That would be a good fight, and an opportunity for Munhoz to make a name for himself within the division.
Weili Zhang defeats Tecia Torres via decision
Newcomer Weili Zhang took a strong decision over the favourite Tecia Torres. Unbelievably, Zhang is now on an eighteen fight win streak. She’s now #15 in the official rankings but it wouldn’t surprise me if she was given a fight within the top ten after this performance. I would like to see Zhang face off against Cynthia Calvillo who is currently ranked #10. It’d be a big jump for Zhang but at the moment she seems almost unstoppable, despite Torres being ranked #7, Zhang is going to have to prove her worth within the top ten before really tackling the top five. Cynthia Calvillo comes off two wins along with a victory against Cortney Casey in February,
Ben Askren defeats Robbie Lawler via 1st Round Submission
In the biggest controversy of the night, Ben Askren made his much-anticipated UFC debut against MMA legend Robbie Lawler. With a ridiculously violent start by Robbie Lawler it all looked to be over within thirty seconds but somehow Askren was able to survive the onslaught. Askren utilised his superior wrestling and managed to get a strong choke hold on Lawler, after which the referee Herb Dean called an end to the fight but many, including myself, felt it was an early stoppage.
The second Askren released Lawler he jumped up instantly, which is not how someone who just got choked out would react. Dana White also noted that he believed it was an early stoppage but Robbie Lawler made no excuses, despite it being out of his control. Ben Askren had his sights set on the winner of Till vs Masvidal this month but Dana White ruled this out straightaway and said he’d be looking to set up a quick rematch between Askren and Lawler. I’m not entirely sure that’s what the fans, nor Askren would be after but it’s right for a UFC legend such as Lawler to be given a chance to fight again in less controversial circumstances.
Kamaru Usman defeats Tyron Woodley via decision
In the first title championship fight of the night, challenger Usman took on one of the best UFC champions in Tyron Woodley. The fight was Usman’s from the first round, he was dominant throughout and it almost seemed as though Woodley hadn’t shown up for the fight and couldn’t seem to find a groove. It was a shocking result, people expected Usman to put up a fight and take the fight to Woodley but no one expected the complete domination that Usman showed.
The fans won’t be expecting an instant rematch after this fight, there were no uncertain terms or early stoppages, Usman won fair and square. It appears that Usman will be facing the controversial ex interim champ Colby Covington despite his attack on Dana White and the UFC this weekend. We’ll see if Usman can put in the same performance and become as dominant of a champion as Tyron Woodley was.
Jon Jones defeats Anthony Smith via decision
The light heavyweight champ Jon Jones defended his belt once again, this time against Anthony Smith who was awarded this title shot after a list of dominant victories against the likes of Rashad Evans and Mauricio Rua, despite one loss recently against Thiago Santos, Anthony Smith has a long running record of 31 wins and 14 losses. Jon Jones now sits at #2 in the official UFC pound-for-pound rankings and is widely renowned as being one of the best of all times despite his controversial picograms and littered history, both professional and personal. He’s bringing a jolt of life to the UFC, for good or for bad is for you to decide. It’s hard to argue that it’s Thiago Santos that deserves the next shot against Jones. He’s currently on a four fight win streak after a dominant performance over Jan Blachowicz in February.
UFC 235 has lined up some astonishing fights, looks like 2019 is going to be quite the year.