UFC 235 was a remarkable event because, win or lose, everyone got to be themselves. Jon Bones Jones got to kick ass and yet still come within an ace of disqualifying himself over a stupid mistake. He’s only champion because Anthony Smith, being the Lionheart that he is, was too fair-minded to take the DQ win when it was offered to him. Tyron Woodley got to back himself into the cage for five rounds, except this time, Kamaru Usman was standing across from him doing Kamaru Usman things, which, amazingly, worked perfectly for him. Woodley, despite Din Thomas in his corner screaming at him not to back up, couldn’t help himself. That’s just who he is as a fighter. Oh, and let us not forget Colby Covington in the stands, doing what he does: heckle.
Robbie Lawler and Ben Askren each got to do their thing, Lawler smashing Askren and Askren working hard for that takedown, until Herb Dean did his thing and messed it all up. (Maybe that’s not fair to ol’ Herb, but he’s had a few of these). This was perfect because it let Lawler and Askren be themselves afterwards, too: Askren the consummate troll, claiming he will say no to a rematch, Lawler classy and philosophical in defeat.
Weili Zhang and Tecia Torres each got to do their thing, Torres fighting a tough fight, as she always does, but Zhang edging her out by being better, which she has been for 19 straight fights now. Cody Garbrandt and Pedro Munhoz? Oh man. Those two REALLY got to be themselves, and it was NOT pretty for Cody. It was, however, very familiar.
Munhoz’s thing is hanging really tough and loving the pocket, and he did exactly that. Cody… well… he had that amazing win against Cruz, but that performance was predicated on him winning 50/50 exchanges. He’s never been able to fight without taking one to give one, and unfortunately, lately, his opponents have been making him pay for it.
Then, on the undercard, we had Johnny Walker, getting another lightning win over poor Misha Cirkunov, only lasting ten seconds longer than that knockout loss to Volkan Oezdemir. Then Walker promptly injured himself doing the worm afterwards, which, again, is very on brand. Let’s not skip past the headliner, though, Zabit Magomedosharipov vs. Jeremy Stephens, though. Zabit showed us his game works against the upper-echelon gatekeeper that is ‘Lil Heathen’, winning two rounds with flashy kicks and solid grappling… and then getting really tired in the third round. Stephens couldn’t knock him out, but he did his dead-level best in the final frame.
Then, rounding out this list in the most positive way, we have Diego Sanchez, proving his doubters wrong with another vintage performance, outlasting another tired grappler in Mickey Gall to win by channeling lightning from the storm.
Sometimes, it isn’t about wins and losses. Sometimes, as UFC 235 taught me, it’s about just being yourself.