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 on 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 primary 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 first thoughts on those brand new matchups in today’s MMA odds and ends.
Frankie Saenz vs. Marlon Vera, UFC 235 Because of an accident to Thomas Almeida, veteran Frankie Saenz is stepping up on short notice to resist the surging Marlon Vera at a bantamweight bout at UFC 235. Ariel Helwani of ESPN broke the news. Saenz (13-5) is 5-2 overall in the UFC and is coming off of back-to-back choice wins over Henry Briones and Merab Dvalishvili. At one point it seemed like he can get cut by the UFC after suffering a three-fight losing skid, but he’s bounced back well 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 has fought a high amount of competition inside 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 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 around the toes while Saenz will be searching for the takedown. Though Saenz is a crafty veteran and will probably make this fight more competitive than the lineup will imply, it is difficult to go from the younger Vera and I expect him to be a big favorite for the win.
Charles Byrd vs. Edmen Shahbazyan, UFC 235
Middleweights Charles Byrd and Edmen Shahbazyan are set to battle at UFC 235 too. This battle is official according to the UFC. Byrd (10-5) had a terrific UFC debut last spring when he filed John Phillips in 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 that he faded badly and was pumped out. At age 35, Byrd looks to be more of a gatekeeper rather than a late-blooming competition that some believed 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 by first-round knockout, but struggled in a split decision win over the aforementioned Stewart. He’d get the nod and at age 21 should find out a lot from that fight, but he showed a lot of holes from Stewart a veteran like Byrd could exploit. I would still need to favor Shahbazyan somewhat just because of the age difference and the knockout power, but I’ve a feeling that this struggle is going to be more aggressive than most want to think.
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