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 created that struggle official on the weekend, and the March 2 event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada is now a go with all the GOAT looking to defend his name in the primary event.
Besides the affirmation of Jones vs. Smith, a few other struggles for UFC 235 were also revealed over the weekend, and I will give my first thoughts on these brand new matchups in today’s MMA odds and ends.
UFC 235 vs. Marlon Vera, frankie Saenz Due to an accident to Thomas Almeida, veteran Frankie Saenz is stepping up on short notice to resist 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 in the UFC and is coming off of back-end decision wins over Henry Briones and Merab Dvalishvili. At one stage it seemed 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 can be the last opportunity he has to make a title run.
Vera (12-5-1) is just 6-4-1 from the UFC but he has 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 from back-to-back stoppage wins 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 on the toes while Saenz will be looking for the takedown. Though Saenz is a crafty veteran and will likely make this battle more aggressive than the line will suggest, it is difficult to go against the younger Vera and I expect him to be a sizeable preferred for 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 a terrific UFC debut last spring when he submitted John Phillips at the first round at UFC Fight Night 127. He was a gambling favorite for his next fight against Darren Stewart in UFC 228, but following a solid first round he faded badly and was brutally knocked out. At age 35, Byrd looks to be a gatekeeper rather than a late-blooming contender that some believed he might be after 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 should find out a lot from that fight, but he showed a lot of holes from Stewart that a veteran like Byrd may exploit. I would still have to favor Shahbazyan somewhat just due to the age difference and the knockout power, but I’ve a feeling that this fight is going to be more aggressive than most want to believe.
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