Askren wins UFC debut over Lawler under controversy
Aaron Bronsteter has all of the latest news and notes stemming from UFC 235 in Las Vegas in Saturday night that saw Jon "Bones" Jones retain his light heavyweight crown, while Kamaru Usman became the UFC's first ever African-born champion with a dominating unanimous decision win over Tyron Woodley to capture the welterweight title.
Jones retains, Santos wants next title shot
At UFC 235 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Jon Jones offered up another virtuoso performance, landing nearly twice the significant strikes that his opponent, Anthony Smith, attempted en route to a five-round, unanimous decision victory.
The event drew one very interested onlooker, as Thiago Santos was in attendance to support his girlfriend, Polyana Viana, who competed on the first bout of the card.
"He'd better be ready, because I'm coming to take that belt," Santos told TSN as translated by his manager, Alex Davis. "I don't look backwards; I don't have a rear view mirror."
Last weekend, Santos knocked out top-five ranked light heavyweight Jan Blachowicz in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Prague, Czech Republic.
With Jones having defeated most of the top contenders already, Santos would be a logical next opponent.
Prior to UFC 235, Santos was the last opponent to defeat Smith, who challenged for the belt as a result of a similar emergence as Santos, with both having migrated from the middleweight division.
While Jones was not immediately impressed by his win over Smith, he wanted to go back and see it for himself.
"I think I need to go back and watch the fight because my coaches are saying 'Jon, you're tripping, bro, it's not as bad as you think it is,'" Jones told TSN following his victory. "I'm grateful to be in the situation that I am, not only winning, but being expected to dominate. It's a good spot."
While Jones did not want to speculate on the future, UFC 237 in Rio de Janeiro this May is in need of a main event and a bout with Santos would make sense given Jones's desire to stay active in 2019.
Usman dominates Woodley despite a fractured foot; Covington next
In the biggest shock of the evening, Kamaru Usman utterly dominated an uninspired Tyron Woodley, who had very few positive moments over the course of five rounds, to become the new welterweight champion.
While Usman defeating Woodley was certainly a possibility, few could have predicted he would do so in such dominant fashion.
To make the effort even more impressive, Usman entered the fight with a fractured foot, which was unbeknownst to those outside his inner circle.
"I was in a boot all week because I kicked a teammate in the face," Usman told TSN after his decimation of Woodley. "I just felt it go and I had a hard time walking, I could hardly even walk on it, but I wasn't going to let that get to me. Nothing was going to stop me from my moment of greatness tonight."
Following the event, Woodley called for an immediate rematch, but UFC President Dana White told TSN that former interim champion Colby Covington is next in line.
"He said that I was next, but he's told me that before," Covington told TSN of his conversation with Dana White that took place during the fifth round of the welterweight title fight. "Until I actually sign on the dotted line and am locked in that cage, I'm not going to believe anything."
Askren wins debut in controversial fashion
While Woodley had a bad night, his teammate Ben Askren remained undefeated, albeit in controversial fashion, after defeating Robbie Lawler in his UFC debut.
After a first round that nearly resulted in Askren being finished by Lawler, who slammed him and went after him with ground strikes, Askren survived the onslaught and, in the second round, defeated Lawler via bulldog choke when referee Herb Dean stopped the fight.
Lawler immediately protested the stoppage and had a conversation with Dean in the cage.
"We had a conversation about it; he's a hell of a ref, he made a decision and it just happens," Lawler told TSN. "I'm not whining about anything, it is what it is."
The victor abided by Dean's decision.
"Herb asked him three times, 'Are you okay?' and there was no response, there was no thumbs up, there was nothing and they tell you in every pre-fight meeting that if I say that to you, you need to do something and show me that you're good to go," said Askren when asked about the stoppage.
Following the event, Dana White told TSN that he hopes to book an immediate rematch - an idea that does not appeal to Askren, who had his heart set on facing the winner of an upcoming matchup between Darren Till and Jorge Masvidal and had already booked his travel to London where that bout takes place.
Cirkunov knocked out early by up-and-coming prospect Walker
Brazilian prospect Johnny Walker continued his incredible ascent up the light heavyweight ladder with his third straight first-round finish - his only fights in the UFC to date - when he stopped Canadian Misha Cirkunov in under a minute.
Cirkunov has been open about his difficulty focusing entirely on the matchup while his wife has been battling breast cancer in Toronto.
"I have no words to explain this because it's a horrible situation," Walker told TSN following his win. "If I can do something to help him, his family or his wife, I will try. The bigger fight now is her fight, she needs to win this fight."
Cirkunov told TSN that he plans to go back to Toronto and be with her while she undergoes chemotherapy treatment going forward.
Attendance and bonuses
UFC 235 drew 14,790 attendees for a $4.03 million (USD) gate.
The Fight of the Night bonus went to Pedro Munhoz and Cody Garbrandt, a back and forth striking battle that resulted in Munhoz catching Garbrandt and knocking him out in the first round.
Performance of the Night bonuses went to Walker and Diego Sanchez, who scored his first win by stoppage in more than 11 years, by defeating Mickey Gall.