The UFC returned to Dallas on Saturday, with plenty at stake for Anthony Pettis.
Most surmised that the 28-year-old was just too much for the Brazilian. He just had that something extra that would bring him over the hump. Those people were caught blindly by Rafael Dos Anjos' perfect takedowns and ground strikes. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt was the fighter with the chip on his shoulder, and that added element that was simply too much for his opponent. A rugged, imposing force, he allowed Pettis only a single, brief takedown, and not a round on any of the three scorecards.
Similarly, Women's Strawweight champion Carla Esparza was sent off with nothing as Joanna Jędrzejczyk waged a striking war, and Esparza was gone from the building.
Precise punch combinations ended the fight at the 4:17 mark of round two, in perhaps the most methodical beatdown in WMMA history. Jedrzejczyk poured it on through every second and showed that, despite only two finishes prior to tonight, she can deliver when she needs to most.
What else did we learn from UFC 185? What questions did it leave unanswered? Read on:
Henry Cejudo can and will make a UFC splash.
Usually, any fighter from any martial art will need to make anything from a couple of tweaks to their fighting style to a full-on whitewash of everything they know. This sport is demanding, and, no matter your foundation, few fighters are ready until they've already taken a loss or two.
At 8-0, Henry Cejudo need not. He won gold in the 2008 Beijing Olympics in freestyle wrestling, and, after eight fights, has become a complete MMA fighter -- striking and all. His win over Chris Cariaso at UFC 185 could see him break the top ten at Bantamweight.
I'm not so sure about Sergio Pettis just yet.
Sergio Pettis, the younger brother of Anthony Pettis, is still at the very beginning of his career. At 21, he's 3-2 in the UFC, but suffered his second loss at UFC 185 in dramatic fashion.
He will make it on a high level one day. At 21, he's hardly as physically developed or mentally disciplined as his brother. He has an excellent striking background, however, he may need about four or five years before actually making his presence known in the UFC. A plunge into a second-tier promotion shouldn't be entirely ruled out, either.
Will Joseph Duffy amount to the levels of, say, Conor McGregor?
Conor McGregor has drawn eyes towards Irish MMA, and a fighter named Joseph Duffy could play a role in keeping them there.
Duffy is the last man to defeat Conor McGregor; he did so by arm-triangle choke in 2010. He can hold his own on the ground, but showcased some terrific striking at UFC 185. A head-kick to set up a knockout over Jake Lindsay, if nothing else, earned him the chance to prove himself at Lightweight or, perhaps, down in a Featherweight division where countryman McGregor resides.
Was Carla Esparza just a placeholder?
Carla Esparza's significance to Women's MMA in the UFC will be remembered greatly. Maybe not as greatly as Ronda Rousey's, but Esparza really managed to kickstart the 115-lb weight class with her displays in The Ultimate Fighter. Her second-round knockout win over Rose Namajunas was particularly impressive, but she had no chance against Jedrzejczyk tonight.
We'll have to wait and see how she can bounce back. She needs to, for, if nothing else, to prove that she belongs amongst the best of the sport. She needs to prove that she isn't just a fluke.
Johnny Hendricks is ready for the winner of Robbie Lawler-Rory MacDonald II.
I haven't personally instilled a whole lot of faith in Johnny Hendericks over the past year. He beat a reigning champion and MMA legend in Georges St-Pierre, yet I've still picked against him in fights and not been outraged by either of the calls for or against him verses Robbie Lawler.
That might just be a tepid attitude towards a fighter willing to learn a lesson or two in the ring, but never lose that fighting vigor. He showed amazing resilience and improvement against Matt Brown. He made the fight exciting, yet didn't allow it to get too out of hand, and didn't get forced into exchanges. He stepped up to the plate, fessed up for his mistakes, and is ready for that title shot against whomever it is that emerges victorious at UFC 189.
Has the value of the Heavyweight fight dipped?
In boxing, it sure has, but MMA?
There are some shallow waters in the Heavyweight title picture, but even "fun" fighters like Alistair Overreem and Roy Nelson can be dull and uninspiring, all the while considering that neither has any more possibility of winning the title than I do of becoming a fighter. It's atrocious that Heavyweights are brought out as show-ponies, although many lighter-weight fighters and hungrier prospects could entertain much better than "Big Country" or Overreem did in Dallas. Sitting through some of these fights...for name recognition? I would have preferred having Ross Pearson and Sam Stout make the main card, personally.
"Big Country" doesn't belong as a contender anymore, and Overreem still needs more work before he'll be able to fare well against a top five Heavyweight. Both are attractive fighters, though, if not in body image than in... Oh, wait.
UFC 187's Khabib Nurmagomedov Vs. Donald Cerrone could shape the Lightweight division for years to come.
Khabib Nurmagomedov is an undefeated Russian fighter with a Sambo background, while Donald Cerrone is a cowboy with two wins already to his name in 2015.
Nurmagomedov handed Dos Anjos his first loss; Cerrone hasn't lost in seven fights -- his last being against Dos Anjos. It's already a fascinating encounter without title implications. If Khabib Nurmagomedov wins, I would expect him to immediately get the rematch with Dos Anjos. If Cerrone wins, there is a chance that Pettis gets a rematch beforehand. I would hope to be wrong.
Nonetheless, the winner of Nurmagomedov Vs. Cerrone is right in the thick of it. The loser gets to watch it all go down as Rafael Dos Anjos eyes the continuation of his title reign at age 30.
How long can Rafael Dos Anjos stand as the champion?
The Lightweight division has multiple layers of depth.
Every day, a new fighter enters the fray. There are sharks in the water and Dos Anjos has been proven beatable despite his latest triumph. How long can he realistically hold on for until losing his belt?
How will Anthony Pettis come back?
As a true cornerstone for the UFC's next generation, a loss here for Showtime is a showstopper.
For now -- at age 28 he does have time to turn the tables. Maybe, in a year or so, he'll have made the necessary improvements to beat a fighter like Rafael Dos Anjos. Maybe he won't, and that will be that, but I'm sure he'll give it his best shot.
Pettis needs to assert himself -- in the cage and in training. Clear all of the distractions, and, with a fresh outlook, prepare to rise again.How much success that will bring him depends on, well, what he is actually ready for. Nothing is a given in any fight. Nothing stays the same forever, with so many men all coveting the championship belt.
The UFC is ready for another shake-up.
Two new champions were crowned in one night.
The same thing could very easily happen at UFC 189, where Robbie Lawler is challenged by Rory MacDonald and Conor McGregor battles Featherweight champion Jose Aldo. It's also viable to see it happen at UFC 187, as UFC Light Heavyweight champion Jon Jones takes on Anthony Johnson and Middleweight champion Chris Weidman finally gets to face top contender Vitor Belfort.
A lot of change may continue to come as new contenders are filtered in, and spent fighters outwards. Plenty of shaking is bound to happen and happen again in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The unpredictability of MMA remains true and foreseeable.