Guess what MMA fans! UFC 185 is almost here! And, I’m going to be there! That’s right, I will be attending my first ever UFC event in just over 15 hours!
What makes it so much better is that the card is actually stacked, from top to bottom! The Fight Pass prelim fights could pass for solid FOX televised prelim fights, the televised prelim fights could easily be part of any Fight Night main card, and almost every main card fight could headline any card! Man am I amped!
Two belts will be on the line, headlined by the always electrifying Anthony Pettis defending his Lightweight strap against surging contender Rafael dos Anjos. The other title fight, in which former Invicta and current UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion Carla Esparza will hope to fend off Polish striker Joanna Jedrzeczyk.
The rest of the main card includes a potential Welterweight title eliminator, a potentially entertaining Heavyweight bout, and is opened up with a Flyweight fight that could put the winner into title contention. The prelims are chock full of quality matchups, and the night should be a banger for sure.
As far as predictions go, I did not do great, but did fare much better than I did in the Bigfoot/Mir card going 7-3, with a no contest. As a result, my record for 2015 is now 57-24, with a no contest. While I do hope that I my picks are more accurate in this card, I’m sure I’ll enjoy it regardless.
Fight Pass prelims (6:30/5:30c, UFC Fight Pass)
Larissa Pacheco (10-1) vs (14) Germaine de Randamie (4-3)
Make no mistake, the first fight of the evening could be a sizzler. Pacheco is a young, exciting fighter who has never gone the distance. She has won four fights via knockout, six fights via submission, and has seen seven of them end in the first round. Unfortunately, her first career loss went just that way, falling against Jessica Andrade last September via guillotine choke late in the first round. If she wants to keep her UFC slot, she probably needs a win tonight.
Pacheco’s opponent, Germaine de Randamie, is quite the Kickboxer. The Dutchwoman, better known as “The Iron Lady”, went an unprecedented 37-0 in Kickboxing bouts. Unfortunately, that sort of success has not translated well for her in the octagon. The former Featherweight has gone 1-1 in with the UFC, with the win coming in a hotly contested split decision over the venerable Julie Kedzie back in July 2013. Meanwhile, her last fight, which took place 16 months ago, resulted in a tko loss against Amanda Nunes. Like Pacheco, a loss won’t necessarily end her UFC tenure. However, a win could potentially fuel a title run.
The two fighters vary greatly Pacheco is a pure finisher, but ten years younger, and therefore much more raw than her opponent. Meanwhile, de Randemie is more of a volume striker, a la Michael Bisping, who’s striking can wear down her opponent and result in either a close decision, or a late finish. While she stands a solid chance here, I believe Pacheco will pull off the finish midway through the second round. Prediction: Pacheco via submission, round 2.
Jake Lindsey (9-2) vs. Joseph Duffy (12-1)
The next fight is relevant for one reason: it features the last man to defeat the rising star Conor McGregor. Granted, that fight took place back in November of 2010, and was just the sixth fight for each man. However, it was a fight that lasted just 38 seconds, and was part of an incredible nine straight first round victories, seven via submission, to open Duffy’s career. He’s a finisher, having gone the distance only once, with eight submission wins. Granted, he has just fought twice since 2011. However, both of those fights took place in the last seven months, and ended via finish.
As for Lindsey, he’s better than his atrocious performances inside the octagon. He began his career with a spotless 9-0 mark, before entering the UFC. In his time with the promotion, however, he has gone 0-2, being finished by the likes of Jon Tuck and Olivier Aubin-Mercier. While I’m not sure whether or not Duffy is better than either of those two at this point in his career, I do see him getting his ninth submission win tonight. Prediction: Duffy via submission, round 2
Sergio Pettis (12-1) vs. Ryan Benoit (7-3)
The final Fight Pass fight of the evening is a scintillating Flyweight tilt in which one fighter deserves to be on Fight Pass, while the other deserves anything but. Ryan Benoit is a hometown kid who has won all of his fights via finish, and is a surefire entertainer. However, he may or may not be UFC ready yet. He was coming off a fun fight at Legacy FC 24 in October 2013, and made his UFC debut against an overweight Josh Sampo just seven weeks later. He lost that fight via rear-naked choke late in the second round, and is returning after a nearly 17-month hiatus.
Meanwhile, Pettis has won two straight, is 3-1 inside the octagon, and had his lone loss late against Alex Caceres back in January of last year, in a fight that was expected to be a clear win for Caceres. And yet, the younger brother of tonight’s headlining bout can’t even get himself on the televised portion of the card! Regardless. I see the second-degree Taekwondo and first degree Roufusport Kickboxer getting the nod tonight. Prediction: Pettis via decision.
Televised Prelims (8/7c, FX)
Jared Rosholt (11-2) vs. Josh Copeland (9-1)
In the first fight of the televised prelims (which will return to FX for the night), we get the first bout that may become a snoozer. That’s because while Rosholt has the ability to finish fights, he rarely does that nowadays. His last finish came back in August 2013, and he usually wrestles his way to decision wins these days. Granted, he got plastered against the vastly underrated Oleksiy Oliynyk. But, he was 3-0 inside the octagon prior to that, due to his lay n’ pray tendencies. While I do hope Josh Copeland can find success, I don’t see the “Cuddly Bear” fairing much better in this fight than he did in his UFC debut against Ruslan Magomedov last November. I think this fight will go the distance, and might wind up being a bore. Heart pick: Copeland via tko. Prediction: Rosholt via decision.
Daren Cruickshank (16-5) vs. Beneil Dariush (9-1)
While the televised opener has a strong possibility to be a bore, this fight is almost a surefire contender for ‘Fight of the Night’. I honestly cannot recall the last time Cruickshank was part of a less than stellar brawl. Sure, he was laid upon by Jorge Masvidal for most of their July 2014 fight, but the Taekwondo black belt did make it a somewhat fun bout. “The Detroit Superstar” did lose that fight, but he is still a vey exciting fighter.
Meanwhile, Dariush is aBrazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt who has a lot of potential. The question is whether or not he is at Cruickshank’s level yet. While I believe he’s close, and will continue to get closer by the bout, I believe Cruickshank is jsut a bit better. I see this being an exciting win for the veteran. Prediction: Cruickshank via decision.
Elias Theodorou (10-0) vs. Roger Narvaez (7-1)
Up next is a Middleweight bout that could yield mixed results. Theodorou is the well rounded Middleweight winner of TUF: Nations, who can finish fights, but often gets into the clinch with his opponents, and grinds his way to decisions. Meanwhile, Narvaez is a fighter who may or may not be UFC caliber at this point. He got smashed in his short notice octagon debut against Patrick Cummins last June, and edged out Luke Barnatt via split decision in November. While I’d love to see the local kid win, I see him losing a grinder against the Canadian. Prediction: Theodorou decision.
Sam Stout (20-10-1) vs. Ross Pearson (16-8, 1NC)
In the headlining prelim of the night, a pair of UFC veterans will take the stage. Pearson, a Taekwondo black belt with some Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu credentials, is in a bit of a rough patch. He is just 1-2 with a no contest in his last four bouts, with a loss putting the TUF 9 winner’s UFC career in dire jeopardy. His opponent, Sam Stout, has not put together back-to-back wins or losses since June 2011. Having none 10-9 in the octagon, there’s no guarantee as to which Stout will show up. WIll it be the exciting combatant who participated in some legendary wars against Spencer Fisher? Or, will it be the tepid fighter who will aim for takedowns and “meh” level volume strikes? Regardless, I see Pearson outboxing him, and potentially getting the finish. Prediction: Pearson via decision/late tko.
Main card (10/9c, PPV)
(10)Chris Cariaso (17-6) vs. Henry Cejudo (7-0)
The opening bout of the main card is simple: one of the greatest Olympians to ever grace the octagon, against a possible gatekeeper. Cejudo stunned the world at the 2008 Summer Olympics, winning the gold medal in Freestyle Wrestling at the tender age of 21. Since then, he has translated to MMA, where he has been successful against every opponent, except for the scale. He missed weight in each of his Legacy FC bouts, and had to cancel his UFC debut against Scott Jorgensen last August. As a result, he had to fight at Bantamweight, where he decisioned Dustin Kimura in December. He asked to move back down to Flyweight, got his wish granted, and actually made weight for tonight!
Meanwhile, Cariaso is a decent fighter. He’s been in the UFC since January 2011, and has goen 7-4 with the promotion. He did fight for the title last September, but did not deserve it, and was starched by Demetrious Johnson in the one-sided affair. Basically, he beats subpar fighters, and loses to anyone that’s anywhere near contender status within the division. While I’m not sure whether or not Cejudo is a contender yet, I see him easily winning this one. Cariaso can keep it competitive to some degree, before being wrestled away. Prediction: Cejudo via decision.
(8) Roy Nelson (20-10) vs. (9) Alistair Overeem (38-14, 1NC)
The next fight is a Heavyweight tilt between two very popular veterans. A few years back, it would have been good enough to headline any card. Today, it is not exactly that notable. Still, the fight is quite a solid one. Both fighters have credentials, as Nelson is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt with one of the strongest knockout punches in UFC history. He’s won 13 times in that manner, including his last 11 wins. In fact, his last win via decision or submission came back in June 2007. Alas, he has lost three of his last four fights, so a loss could end his UFC tenure.
Meanwhile, Overeem is a great finisher, with elite-level striking. The former Strikeforce Heavyweight champion won the K-1 Heavyweight Grand Prix in 2010, and has prevailed via knockout 16 times in MMA. On top of that, he possesses 19 submission victories. However, like Nelson, it seems as if his best days are well behind him. He has lost three of his last five fights, all via knockout. Granted, he was winning two of them, and virtually finished Antonio Silva and Travis Browne, before succumbing to knockout losses against each of them.
In the end, this fight will likely go down one of two ways. Either Overeem will turn this into a clinch-fest, or Nelson will blast him with an overhand shot to turn the lights out. I’ll go with the latter. Prediction: Nelson via tko, round 1.
(1) Johny Hendricks (16-3) vs. (5) Matt Brown (19-12)
Up next is a potential Welterweight title eliminator that is expected to produce fireworks, but may wind up underwhelming the masses. In the end, that’s up to Johny Hendricks. Participating in his fist non-title bout since March 2013, the former UFC Welterweight Champion might reclaim yet anoter title shot with a win over always formidable Matt Brown.
Even though he is known for his elite one-punch knockout power, he has not finished anyone since November 2012. Since then, he’s fought Carlos Condit, the legendary Georges St. Pierre, and Robbie Lawler twice, with each fight ending via controversial decision. The Condit fight garnered Hendricks notoriety due to his constant relying on takedowns, instead of fighting face to face. The St. Pierre fight was one that many considered to be a robbery in favor of then champion St. Pierre, who retired soon thereafter and vacated the belt. Less than four months later, he won a classic fight against Robbie Lawler in Dallas, due to a fifth round dominated by Hendricks’ usage of his wrestling. Ironically, it was that same wrestling that may have cost him in the rematch in December, which many viewed as a victory for Hendricks, but the judges awarded to Lawler.
Regardless of whether Hendricks tries to wrestle and grind his way to a decision win or not, Matt Brown will provide a tough challenge. Once viewed as a washed up veteran, Brown was on the verge of being cut from the UFC. After losing to Seth Baczynski in late 2011, he had lost four of five bouts, with each bout coming via submission, and had a near even record of 12-11. Since then, “The Immortal” has more than lived up to his nickname, having won seven straight fights, six of them via knockout, and earned a title eliminator shot against Robbie Lawler. While he lost the decision to the eventual champion, the fight reminded the world of his grit and will.
In the end, if Brown can hold off on Hendricks’ takedown attempts, he stands a great chance of winning. Hendricks has incredible power, but Brown’s chin is made of granite. Alas, I do not see Brown withstanding all that Hendricks has to offer. He may be able to avoid a few takedowns here and there, but at least a few of them will land. At some point, I would not be surprised if he landed the finishing blow. Regardless, I see the former champion pulling off the victory, in what will hopefully be a fight that lives up to the hype. Prediction: Hendricks via decision/late tko.
UFC Women’s Strawweight Championship: (c) Carla Esparza (10-2) vs (1) Joanna Jedrzeczyk (8-0)
In the co-main event of the evening, the UFC Women’s Strawweight champion Carla Esparza will look to make her first career title defense against high-level Polish striker Joanna Jedrzeczyk. She failed to defend her Invicta title, due to injury, and subsequent absorption of the promotion’s Strawweight division by the UFC. She wove her way through the 20th season of The Ultimate Fighter, and won the title she never lost against upstart, crafty submission specialist Rose Namajunas. She is known for her wrestling, and occasion “lay n’pray” style, but has finished seven of her ten wins, including three of her last four. After the legendary Megumi Fugii and current WSOF Women’s Strawweight champion Jessica Aguilar (the only two women she’s ever lost to), she’s the best in the history of her weight class.
Her current opponent, Joanna Jedrzeczyk, is one of the best women to ever compete in the sport of Muay Thai. In her ten years participating in the sport, she came away with over 60 victories, as well as six championships. In MMA, she’s won fights against the likes of Julia Berezikova, former UFC fighter Rosi Sexton, as well as current UFC fighters Juliana Lima and Claudia Gadelha. She is not necessarily a knockout artist, as much as she is a long, rangy striker.
As for the fight, this will be a clear clashing of the styles. Esparza is the better wrestler, but Jedrzeczyk is a better defensive wrestler than almost every opponent Esparza has ever faced. In contrast, Esparza has never faced a striker as elite as that of the Pole. If it becomes a striking battle, Jedrzeczyk has a great chance. However, if Esparza can control the fight her way, she’ll take it. I hate to do this, but I have no choice. Heart pick: JJ. Head pick: Esparza.
UFC Lightweight Championship: (c) Anthony Pettis (18-2) vs. (1) Rafael dos Anjos (23-7)
In the main event of the evening, we have a fight that simply cannot be boring. Both men possess black belts and put on entertaining contests. Dos Anjos is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt, has won eight of his last nine bouts, and has finished 12 opponents. He has only been finished twice, or, basically once. He got knocked out back in 2008, and the lone “submission” loss came via jaw injury. That’s right, a jaw injury. So, it’s hard to actually view that as a submission.
The Brazilian possesses crisp boxing, terrific grappling, and is worthy of his shot. Granted, he got smoke by Khabib Nurmagomedov jsut 11 months ago, but the Russian is hurt, and dos Anjos has pulled off three straight victories, including a stunning first round knockout over former UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson just 2:31 into the opening round. It’s quite possible that he might be the toughest title opponent Pettis has ever faced.
That said, Anthony Pettis is special. Now that he’s finally healthy, the man they call “Showtime” might finally be on the path towards superstardom. He’s got flashy submission, and electrifying knockouts. His last four fights have ended early, and he’s the first person to submit former Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez, and the second to pull off the feat against former UFC champion Benson Henderson. Not only that, but both results happened in his last two fights.
If dos Anjos wants to win, the strategy is pretty clear to understand. Or, at least, it was. The strategy against Pettis used to be to fight close to him, and cut off the cage. He may be 15-0 in fights that have ended early, but is an average 3-2 in fights that go the distance. However, that’s exactly what Gilbert Melendez tried to do last December. He looked good early on, but the strategy soon failed him. All of a sudden, in the second round, Pettis overcame “El Nino, and pulled off a stunning guillotine choke.
In the end, I guess this means that Pettis is ever-evolving, for the better. Without question, dos Anjos stands a chance. However, I don’t see how he pulls this off. It would be remarkable to see such a feat occur, and stranger things have happened in just the past calendar year. However, I am not willing to bet on it, and will pick the champion to defend his belt once again. Prediction: Pettis via decision, or 4th round tko (unlikely).