Last weekwe have information that UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones was cleared by the Nevada State Athletic Commission to fight Anthony Smith. The UFC created that fight official over the weekend, along with the March 2 event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada is currently a go with all the GOAT seeking to defend his name in the primary event.
Besides the affirmation of Jones vs. Smith, a couple other fights for UFC 235 were revealed over the weekend, and I will give my first thoughts on these brand new matchups in the current MMA odds and ends.
Frankie Saenz vs. Marlon Vera, UFC 235 Because of an injury to Thomas Almeida, veteran Frankie Saenz is stepping up on short notice to fight the surging Marlon Vera at a bantamweight bout at UFC 235. Ariel Helwani of ESPN broke the information. Saenz (13-5) is 5-2 overall in the UFC and is coming from back-to-back choice wins over Henry Briones and Merab Dvalishvili. At one stage it seemed like he can get cut from the UFC after enduring a three-fight losing skid, but he has bounced back nicely since then. At age 38, this is the last opportunity he’s got to make a title run.
Vera (12-5-1) is just 6-4-1 in the UFC but he’s fought a high level of competition inside the Octagon and also his album 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 starting to really come into his own as a fighter. No doubt Vera will be seeking to keep this fight with Saenz around the toes while Saenz will be looking for the takedown. Though Saenz is a tricky veteran and will probably make this battle more competitive than the line will imply, it is hard to go against the younger Vera and I expect him to be a big favorite to get the win.
Charles Byrd vs. Edmen Shahbazyan, UFC 235
Middleweights Charles Byrd and Edmen Shahbazyan are set to clash at UFC 235 as well. This fight is official according to the UFC. Byrd (10-5) had an excellent UFC debut last spring when he submitted John Phillips in the first round at UFC Fight Night 127. He was a gambling favorite for his next battle against Darren Stewart in UFC 228, but after a solid first round that he faded badly and has been brutally knocked out. At age 35, Byrd looks to be a gatekeeper as opposed to a late-blooming contender that some thought he might be after his successful stint on the Contender Series.
Shahbazyan (8-0) was undefeated heading into his UFC debut with all his wins coming by first-round knockout, but struggled in a split decision win on the aforementioned Stewart. He did get the nod and at age 21 should learn a lot from that struggle, but he showed a great deal of holes from Stewart a veteran like Byrd may exploit. I would still have to prefer Shahbazyan somewhat just due to the age gap and the knockout power, but I’ve a feeling this fight will be more aggressive than many want to believe.
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