UFC 185 sees the Ultimate Fighting Championship return to Dallas, Texas, and with plenty of colorful characters.
Faces, fighters new and old.
Former UFC Welterweight champion Johnny Hendericks and battle-tested contender Mike Brown have been there and done that. Both are seeking a fight with their shared rival Robbie Lawler, but will need to express their desires in the cage if they really want that shot at the title.
Carla Esparza, on the other hand, rose through "The Ultimate Fighter" series to claim the Women's Strawweight title.
She was in full control, submitting Rose Namajunas in the third round with a Rear-Naked Choke. Joanna Jedrzejczyk, of Poland, is a tricky fighter. Despite lacking finishing ability, at 8-0, she is prepared to make Esparza work harder in her first big title defense; particularly with her grappling skills. Both athletes wish to make their presence, and that of their newly-established weight class, known in the UFC.
Finally, Anthony Pettis has earned a consensus top five position on most credible pound-for-pound lists. The Lightweight champion has a tough out against the best of the rest in a Lightweight division with a lot of depth.
Rafael Dos Anjos has stoppage wins over Nate Diaz and Benson Henderson, back to back, and goes against an accomplished mixed-martial-artist with finishes in his last three bouts. Both men have yet to apex and become MMA superstars -- a win here is a title belt for Dos Anjos -- a title belt that would make him only the second reigning UFC champion from Brazil.
Dos Anjos could reach that summit, after years of working towards it. Or, the champion could finally mark this as his day. The man from Milwaukee could mark his presence as an elite martial artist with this second Lightweight title defense; an important one after a run plagued by injuries and struggles.
This match-up means more than most others, and the entire main card sparks intrigue at UFC 185. Fight by fight, I predict and preview just that:
Sam Stout Vs. Ross Pearson
Two fighters with thirty-combined UFC fights open up the Pay-Per-View portion of the show. Sam Stout and Ross Pearson have both been victimized by rough scoring, and downright merciless matchmaking throughout their careers. They come into this one off of stoppage defeats.
Their hearts are both flat on their sleeves, like always, and it's sure to be a good, throwback contest.
Prediction: Pearson def. Stout by T/KO in round two
Alistair Overeem Vs. Roy Nelson
Overeem and Nelson have had a fall from their graces as of recently.
Together, they are 4-6 in their last ten bouts. Some prosperity remains within reach, however, as both pack fight-changing power and gutsy, action-packed approaches to the sport. Overeem's endurance might be called into question after a recent string of knockout defeats, but Nelson's conditioning has always been next to none. If he can withstand early, Overeem should be heavily favored to make it his night.
Prediction: Overeem def. Nelson by unanimous decision
Johnny Hendricks Vs. Mike Brown
Johnny Hendricks and Mike Brown are 1-2 against current champion Robbie Lawler, with the champion splitting fights with Hendericks (he claimed the Welterweight title in their most recent meeting), and defeating Brown by unanimous decision in "The Immortal's" most recent fight.
Brown had won seven straight prior, and earned himself a position inside the Welterweight top five. He has come so close to redeeming himself after going 12-11 to begin his career. A win against "Big Rigg", a fighter whom he parallels in the striking department, would put Brown front-and-center in the title race. A loss, and those hopes could be over.
Prediction: Brown def. Hendericks by unanimous decision
Carla Esparza Vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Esparza and Jedrzejczyk are 115-lb women -- and they fight like it, too.
Not that it is bad thing. Both fighters are ultra-aggressive, and aren't afraid to to put in work up close to get the victory. Esparza's five fight win streak features four by way of knockout or submission; meanwhile, Jedrzejczyk, 28, depends more on her skills and all of the finer aspects of martial arts.
It won't be easy, but Esparza should be a slight favorite to make her first title defense in to success.
Prediction: Esparza def. Jedrzejczyk by T/KO in round three
Anthony Pettis Vs. Rafael Dos Anjos
Anthony Pettis is coming off of submission wins over Benson Henderson and Gilbert Melendez to win and defend the UFC Lightweight title. "Showtime" as become a very complete fighter, with punching power in both fists and vigilance on the ground and when looking for the finish.
He fights with bad intentions, while Dos Anjos himself is an athletic fighter with the skills to overcome everyone but the very best in MMA. Pettis is at the very pinnacle, and that might raise doubts despite the Brazilian's furious rise to the top of his division.
Prediction: Pettis def. Dos Anjos by submission in round two
Undercard Picks: Daron Cruickshank UD 3 Beneil Dariush, Sergio Pettis SUB 2 Ryan Benoit, Chris Cariaso SD 3 Henry Cejudo, Jared Rosholt UD 3 Josh Copeland, Joseph Duffy SUB 1 Jake Lindsay, Elias Theodorou UD 3 Roger Narvaez