Lightweight champion Anthony Pettis will attempt to make his second title defense on Saturday, March 14 (10 P.M. EST, Pay Per View), headlining UFC 185 in Dallas, Texas, against number-one ranked challenger Rafael Dos Anjos.
One of MMA's most dynamic athletes, Pettis (18-2, 5-1 UFC) last competed in December 2014 at UFC 181, when he submitted Gilbert Melendez via second round rear-naked choke. Dos Anjos (23-7, 12-5 UFC), a winner of three straight, is coming off of a dominant unanimous decision over Nate Diaz.
Known mostly as a creative and crafty striker, Pettis has shown impressive Jiu Jitsu in his last two outings, a pair of submission finishes. But it is the threat of his sophisticated Taekwondo attack that lures many opponents into close range.
Last losing in June 2011, Pettis has improved his takedown defense and wrestling, evolving into a complete mixed martial artist; however, Dos Anjos is equally well rounded.
Primarily considered a Jiu Jitsu specialist, Dos Anjos trains under the tutelage of famed Chute Boxe mastermind Rafael Cordeiro at Kings MMA. Dos Anjos, once considered a lower-tier journeyman in the UFC, has fought his way up the promotional ranks on account of an improved striking game. And while Dos Anjos has put together several impressive win streaks inside the Octagon, it was his August 2014 first-round knockout of former champion Benson Henderson that propelled him into the forefront of the lightweight division.
Dos Anjos has a complete MMA skillset, and he has the ability to beat any fighter on any day. But in the end, Pettis is on his own level, and will land a third-round TKO.
Co-main event: Carla Esparza vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Just three months after winning gold to become the UFC's debut strawweight women's champion, Carla Esparza (10-2, 1-0 UFC) attempts her first title defense against surging striker Joanna Jedrzejczyk (8-0, 2-0 UFC).
A wrestler with savvy on the ground, Esparza is one of WMMA's most decorated fighters. First winning the Invicta FC belt in 2013, she later claimed UFC gold with a third round rear-naked choke of Rose Namajunas.
Hailing from Poland, Jedrzejczyk is a former Muay Thai world champion, who has demonstrated precise striking inside the Octagon. Jedrzejczyk earned a title shot with decision wins over Claudia Gadelha and Juliana Lima, but has yet to score a signature win or finish.
And while Jedrzejczyk has the edge in striking, Esparza's smothering style and pace will prove to be too much, as she earns a later-round submission.
Matt Brown vs. Johny Hendricks
A potential number-one contender matchup in the welterweight division, this contest between Brown and Hendricks has a high potential to take home Fight of the Night honors.
Hendricks (16-3, 11-3 UFC), the former 170-pound titleholder, looks to return to the win column after losing his belt to Robbie Lawler last December. Brown (19-12, 12-6 UFC) is also coming off of a decision loss to Lawler.
Known for his wrestling prowess and thunderous left hand, Hendricks is badly in need of a finish, after going 1-2 in his last three bouts. The criticism of Hendricks has always been that if he's unable to land the knockout punch, he reverts to stalling tactics. His cardio has also been vastly questioned, although a re-invigorated training regiment should have Hendricks swinging until the final bell.
Brown is one of MMA's great underdogs. After almost being cut by the UFC in 2010, he went on to win seven straight bouts, until falling to Lawler via decision last June. Brown is a legendary tough guy who walks straight toward the opposition and fires punches back and forth. And while this style has made Brown one of the UFC's most entertaining fighters, it will be his undoing against Hendricks.
Look for Hendricks to take the decision.
Roy Nelson vs. Alistair Overeem
A battle of heavyweights, this bout between Nelson (20-10, 7-6 UFC) and Overeem (38-14 1 NC, 3-3 UFC) will likely end early, as both competitors have a penchant for exchanging big punches.
Coming off a knockout loss to Mark Hunt, Nelson is known for a durable chin and a devastating overhand right. Overeem has displayed high-level kickboxing and submission skills for the better part of 15 years, but his chin has always been a question.
Expect Nelson to come out firing and look for his signature overhand, while Overeem chops away with leg kicks.
In the end, however, Overeem with let his guard down, allowing Nelson to land the second round knockout.
Henry Cejudo vs. Chris Cariaso
An interesting matchup in the flyweight division, this contest between Cejudo (7-0, 1-0 UFC) and Cariaso (17-6, 7-4 UFC) will attract as much intrigue on weigh-in day as the actual fight.
A former Olympic gold medalist on the wrestling mat, Cejudo has failed on multiple occasions to make the contracted 125-pound limit, forcing his brief departure for the bantamweight division. But after topping Dustin Kimura in December, Cejudo has earned another shot to make weight.
Cariaso, who last fought at UFC 178, is a veteran of both the UFC and the WEC, and is known for his standup technique.
Still, while Cariaso owns the edge on the feet and in experience, Cejudo is far stronger on the ground, and will take a unanimous decision. But questions remain over if he can make 125 pounds.