Last weekwe got information that UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones was cleared by the Nevada State Athletic Commission to fight Anthony Smith. The UFC made that fight official on the weekend, and the March 2 event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada is currently a go with all the GOAT looking to defend his title in the primary event.
Besides the confirmation of Jones vs. Smith, a couple other fights for UFC 235 were revealed over the weekend, and I will give my first thoughts on those new matchups in today’s MMA odds and ends.
UFC 235 vs. Marlon Vera, frankie Saenz Because of an injury to Thomas Almeida, veteran Frankie Saenz is stepping up on short notice to fight the slumping Marlon Vera at a bantamweight bout at UFC 235. Ariel Helwani of ESPN broke the information. Saenz (13-5) is 5-2 overall from the UFC and is coming off of back-to-back choice wins over Henry Briones and Merab Dvalishvili. At one point it looked like he may get cut from the UFC after enduring a three-fight losing skid, but he has bounced back well since then. At age 38, this is the last opportunity he has to make a title run.
Vera (12-5-1) is only 6-4-1 in the UFC but he’s fought a high level of competition within the Octagon and his record doesn’t do justice to the type of fighter he is. Vera is coming off of back-to-back stoppage wins over Guido Cannetti and Wuliji Buren and at age 26 is beginning to really come into his own as a fighter. No doubt Vera will be looking to keep this fight with Saenz around the toes while Saenz will be looking for the takedown. Although Saenz is a crafty veteran and will likely make this fight more competitive than the line will imply, it’s difficult to go against the younger Vera and I expect him to be a big preferred to get the win.
Charles Byrd vs. Edmen Shahbazyan, UFC 235
Middleweights Charles Byrd and Edmen Shahbazyan are set to battle at UFC 235 as well. This fight is official as per the UFC. Byrd (10-5) had an excellent UFC debut last spring when he filed John Phillips at the first round at UFC Fight Night 127. He was a betting favorite for his next fight against Darren Stewart in UFC 228, however after a solid first round that he faded badly and has been brutally knocked out. At age 35, Byrd seems to be a gatekeeper as opposed to a late-blooming contender that some thought he might be following his successful stint on the Contender Series.
Shahbazyan (8-0) was undefeated heading to his UFC debut with all of his wins coming from first-round knockout, but struggled in a split decision win on the above Stewart. He did get the nod and at age 21 must find out a lot from that fight, but he showed a great deal of holes from Stewart that a veteran like Byrd may exploit. I would still need to favor Shahbazyan somewhat just because of the age gap and the knockout energy, but I’ve a feeling this fight will be more competitive than most want to think.
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