The UFC has booked argubaly the top fighter in the world for a quick-turnaround bout, and I’ll give my thoughts on this new matchup in today’s MMA odds and ends.
Jon Jones vs. Anthony Smith, UFC 235
UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones will put his belt on the line against Anthony Smith at UFC 235, which takes place March 2 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. TMZ was the first to report on the bout, with UFC president Dana White confirming the news with them. The holdup now is that Jones still needs to get his license from the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which should happen later this month after he has a hearing regarding his controversial failed drug test for picograms before UFC 232.
The news of Jones vs. Smith being booked for UFC 235 came alongside ESPN’s Ariel Helwani reporting that Kamaru Usman is set to fight UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley at UFC 235 in the co-main event. I wrote about that matchup in last week’s MMA odds and ends, which you can read here. The cole’s notes version of my thoughts on that bout are that Woodley deserves to be favored based on the fact he’s the defending champion, but I give Usman a great shot to win the title.
As far as Jones vs. Smith goes, it’s clearly the right fight to book and it’s good news the UFC is making this fight instead of Jones against Corey Anderson, which wouldn’t have been a competitive fight. At least Smith has the finishing ability to make things interesting, though Jones will presumably still enter this fight as a massive betting favorite due to his incredible record and how good he looked in his return bout against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 232, which he won via third-round KO.
Jones (23-1, 1 NC) has an incredible 17-1, 1 NC record in the Octagon that includes win over Daniel Cormier, Gustafsson twice, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Chael Sonnen and Vitor Belfort. By all accounts, he has one of the greatest resumes we’ve ever seen in the sport and he’s looked pretty much unstoppable in his MMA career save for an extremely controversial DQ defeat to Matt Hamill nearly a decade ago now in December 2009. Smith (31-13) is one of the most-improved fighters in the UFC. After racking up a 4-3 record as a middleweight during two separate stints in the UFC, Smith has exploded into stardom as a light heavyweight since moving up a weight class in the middle of 2018. He’s defeated Shogun, Evans and in his last finish Volkan Oezdemir all by finish, earning a title shot for his incredible run at 205lbs.
As good as Smith has looked at light heavyweight, it’s still impossible to favor him to beat Jones, who has shown very few flaws in his game since making his UFC debut over a decade ago. I’d look for Jones to be around a -500 favorite for this fight, and considering Smith has been finished 14 times in his career there’s a good chance Jones stops him in this fight.