UFC 235 will go down as the night that Tyron Woodley lost the UFC welterweight championship to Kamaru Usman in the co-main event, but we almost saw a second title change hands as UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones was nearly disqualified against Anthony Smith in the evening’s main event.
Let’s start with the welterweight title fight first. In the lead-up to the bout, Woodley kept calling himself the greatest welterweight of all-time, and for whatever reason a lot of fans and media bought up the narrative, despite the fact he had six fewer title defenses than the recently-retired Georges St-Pierre did. Usman, meanwhile, slipped under the radar despite having a 9-0 record in the UFC heading into the fight. The betting odds had Usman as a sizable underdog for this bout, with most figuring the more experienced Woodley would win rather easily. That certainly wasn’t the case.
Instead, the opposite happened, as Usman completely dominated the fight from bell-to-bell, winning a lopsided unanimous decision to take home the gold and pick up by far the biggest win of his career to date. Usman now holds a brilliant 10-0 record in the Octagon and at just 31-years old and showing constant improvements every time he steps into the Octagon, Usman looks like he could hold the title for a very long time. For his first title defense, he’s primed for a fun fight against fellow wrestler Colby Covington. For Woodley, however, he needs to go back to the drawing board and figure out what’s wrong.
It’s rare enough to see a dominant champion like Woodley lose his belt, but we nearly saw another lose his gold as Jones had a close call against Smith in the main event. It’s not like this fight was close or anything. Jones put a beating on Smith, just like he does to everyone, and he took home a wide unanimous decision on the scorecards when it was all said and done. But he still had a scare that nearly cost him his belt. What happened was in the fourth round Jones landed an illegal knee to the head of a downed Smith, and it nearly knocked Smith out. Credit to Smith for hanging in tough and refusing to win the belt by DQ, but referee Herb Dean was so appalled by Jones’ actions that he took a rare two points away from the champ. Jones is lucky he held onto his belt, because this looked like it might be another Matt Hamill situation, where Jones would lose based on a DQ. Thankfully, Smith proved his “Lionheart” moniker correct by toughing it out to the final bell.
At the end of the night, one title changed hands at UFC 235, but it could have easily been two. Usman emerged as the star of the night with his resounding victory over Woodley, and it’s a victory that will gain “The Nigerian Nightmare” a ton of respect from fans and media going forward, not to mention leading him to what should be a very fun fight against the former interim champ Covington. While Jones remained the GOAT with yet another dominant victory over a durable Smith, he was nearly the “goat” of the night if he lost by disqualification for the second time in his career. Thankfully, things didn’t come to that.
That’s the beautiful thing about this wonderful sport we call mixed martial arts, you can never count anyone out of a fight. Even though few gave Usman a chance, and even less gave Smith one, we have one new champion today and we were nearly an illegal knee strike away from two. That’s MMA for you.