Almost no one gave Anthony Smith a chance against Jon Jones at UFC 235 Saturday night. Jones proved everyone right when he won a unanimous decision over Smith in a fight in which he dominated nearly every second. It was not Jones’ most highlight reel-worthy performance but it may have been the best exhibit of Jones’ mastery in the cage that we’ve seen. Jones did exactly what he needed to do to win, no more, and no less. Smith, in losing, proved his toughness as much as anything else.
Round one was tentative for both fighters, but Jones was able to keep Smith at bay and make him pay for his choices. Jones turned it up and hurt Smith with kicks in the second round. Round three saw Jones take the fight to the mat. Smith curled up against the cage while Jones delivered knees to his legs. In the fourth, Jones cut Smith open with punches and elbows and then tossed him to the mat. At this point, Smith turtled up and there was little he could do to defend against Jones. Smith survived nearly until the end of the round when Jones kneed Smith to the head while he was down. Referee Herb Dean deducted two points from Jones for the infraction.
“This dude made things really hard,” Jones said post-fight. “Hats off to Anthony Smith…now I know why they call him ‘Lionheart’.”
Jones’ compliments towards Smith sounded genuine and he remarked on how Smith would talk to him while he was getting hit. Jones seemed to be impressed with Smith’s heart and endurance through a tough fight.
The win sets up potential clashes with either Brock Lesnar or Daniel Cormier later this year. Jones has recently expressed interest in Lesnar over Cormier, but ultimately that decision is in UFC’s hands.