After an emphatic win over rival Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 232 in Los Angeles, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones plans a quick turnaround.
According to TMZ Sports, Dana White confirmed that Jones will face third-ranked Anthony Smith at UFC 235 on March 2 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
After going 4-3 in the UFC’s middleweight division over the course of two separate stints with the promotion, Smith made a move to light heavyweight last June and from then until now has racked up three straight wins over two former champions and a former title challenger.
The run started at UFC 225 in Chicago when he defeated former champion Rashad Evans with a knockout victory in under a minute and Smith followed that up with another knockout win over a former champion over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in his first-ever UFC main event in under 90 seconds.
Smith went on to headline another event in Moncton in October when he defeated Volkan Oezdemir by third round submission. Oezdemir faced former champion Daniel Cormier for the light heavyweight title last January at UFC 221 and suffered a loss.
Smith’s three victories in less than six months surged him to the top-3 of the division’s rankings and with only Gustafsson and former champion Cormier, who is injured, ahead of him, Smith was the obvious choice for Jones’s next challenger.
Following Jones’s victory at UFC 232, Smith was serving as an analyst at the FOX desk and had a back-and-forth with the champion.
This will be Smith’s first opportunity to challenge for a UFC championship.
Pettis challenges Thompson in bid to move to welterweight
Former lightweight champion Anthony “Showtime” Pettis is looking to compete in a third division during his UFC tenure.
After making a run for the interim title at featherweight in 2016, an opportunity that he lost after being unable to make championship weight for the bout, Pettis moved back to lightweight with mixed results, going 2-2.
Having lost six of his last nine, Pettis looks to be turning his attention to a move to welterweight after posting on Instagram that he is interested in a matchup with former two-time title challenger Stephen Thompson.
Thompson fired back on Instagram saying that he is willing to accept the challenge.
Thompson only fought once in 2018, losing to Darren Till in Till’s hometown of Liverpool, England, a bout that ultimately earned Till a title shot last September.
Former champion Werdum requests release from UFC
In early 2018, former heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum told TSN that he would be champion again by the end of the year, but that certainly did not go as planned.
Following a loss to Alexander Volkov in May, Werdum was flagged by USADA for the banned substance trenbolone and was subsequently given a two year suspension.
At 41 years of age, the suspension does not bode well for Werdum’s future as a professional mixed martial artist.
As a result, Werdum has requested his release from the UFC to attempt to fight for a commission that will not recognize the suspension.
”I already told the UFC, I’ll sign a term that I would not fight in the United States anymore,” Werdum told PVT as translated by MMA Fighting’s Guillherme Cruz. “I’d fight overseas, Japan, Russia, Europe, wherever, but I wouldn’t fight in the United States to cause no harm. I would sign that to be released. I just want to be free to do what I want, which is fight. It’s not about money. I still have a lot to show. I’m 41, but I feel like a kid.”
Canadian Cirkunov to face Saint Preux at UFC 235
Earlier this week, the UFC announced that 14th-ranked Canadian light heavyweight Misha Cirkunov would return to action on March 2 to face 11th-ranked Ovince Saint Preux at UFC 235 in Las Vegas.
In December, Cirkunov told TSN that he had hoped to compete on this particular card because he had relocated to Las Vegas last year and enjoyed the perks of not having to travel to compete.
Since moving to Las Vegas, Cirkunov is 1-0 with a win over Patrick Cummins in Moncton last October following a two-fight losing streak.