Last weekwe have news 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 over the weekend, along with the March 2 event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada is now a go with all the GOAT seeking to defend his name in the main event.
Besides the confirmation of Jones vs. Smith, a few other struggles for UFC 235 were revealed over the weekend, and I’ll give my initial thoughts on those 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 fight the slumping Marlon Vera at a bantamweight bout at UFC 235. Ariel Helwani of ESPN broke the news. Saenz (13-5) is 5-2 overall from the UFC and is coming off of back-end decision wins over Henry Briones and Merab Dvalishvili. At one stage it seemed like he can get cut by the UFC after suffering a three-fight losing skid, but he’s bounced back nicely since then. At age 38, this can be the last opportunity he has to make a title run.
Vera (12-5-1) is only 6-4-1 from the UFC but he has fought a high amount of competition within the Octagon and also his album does not 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 looking to keep this battle with Saenz on the feet while Saenz will be looking for the takedown. Though Saenz is a tricky veteran and will probably make this fight more aggressive than the lineup will suggest, it is hard to go from the younger Vera and I expect him to be a sizeable 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 battle is official according to the UFC. Byrd (10-5) had a terrific 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 strong first round he faded badly and was pumped out. At age 35, Byrd looks to be a gatekeeper rather than a late-blooming competition 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 his wins coming from first-round knockout, but struggled in a split decision win over the above Stewart. He’d get the nod and at age 21 should learn a lot from that struggle, but he showed a lot of holes against Stewart that a veteran like Byrd may exploit. I would still have to prefer Shahbazyan somewhat just due to the age gap and the knockout energy, but I’ve a feeling that this struggle will be more aggressive than many want to believe.
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