On paper, there is a lot to like about the UFC 185 fight card.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is poised to deliver its Anthony Pettis vs. Rafael dos Anjos-led pay-per-view (PPV) event this Saturday night (March 14, 2015) inside the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, featuring not one, but two championship title fights.
Iiiiit's ... "Showtime!"
And if you don't like women's mixed martial arts (MMA), you have two options: Get with the times, or GTFO.
It's here to stay, which means tomorrow night's co-main event pitting strawweight champion Carla Esparza against division No. 1 contender Joanna Jedrzejczyk, will undoubtedly terrorize our play-by-play team for up to 25 minutes in "The Lone Star State."
If the main event is a squash and the co-main fails to deliver (not likely), we still have the four horsemen of heavy hitters in Alistair Overeem vs. Roy Nelson (heavyweight) and Johny Hendricks vs. Matt Brown (welterweight). Between that quarter of power-punchers, somebody is definitely getting KTFO.
And we finally get to see if Henry Cejudo is, in fact, capable of performing at flyweight.
In short, this is probably one of the year's best fight cards not named UFC 187. I suggest you enjoy it, considering the abomination that awaits us next weekend in Brazil (shudders).
Now, let's get picking!
155 lbs.: Anthony "Showtime" Pettis (18-2) vs. Rafael dos Anjos (23-7)
Nostradumbass predicts: I can't imagine how frustrating it must be for a fighter to have the tools to beat his opponent and still lose the fight. Can Rafael dos Anjos win by knockout? Yup. Can he make Anthony Pettis tap? No doubt about it.
Too bad it's not gonna happen.
The Brazilian is a skilled fighter, clearly, or he wouldn't be competing for the title (this isn't flyweight). The problem will be implementing those skills on fight night. In order to knockout Pettis and win the fight, Dos Anjos has to actually, you know, land a punch.
The champ is too fast and has too many angles.
To get Pettis to the floor and submit him, Dos Anjos will have to score a takedown, or dump him in the clinch. Even if it happens (doubtful), "Showtime" has a neutralizing guard and is quick in the scrambles. Where he's weak is against the fence, where opponents have been known to bully him.
This will be no different.
But wall work and dirty boxing won't be enough to win the lightweight title and I'm not convinced the Brazilian's frame is built for five rounds. While a late finish would not surprise me, I do expect Dos Anjos to be durable enough to cross the finish line in a spirited (but losing) effort.
Final prediction: Pettis def. Dos Anjos via unanimous decision
115 lbs.: Carla "Cookie Monster" Esparza (10-2) vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (8-0)
Nostradumbass predicts: I'm surprised at how many fans have written off Carla Esparza and I think some of them are putting a little too much stock in the kickboxing attack of Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Personally, I believe the Polish import took the path of least resistance by passing on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 20.
After disposing of Angela Hill (as expected), Esparza had to get through Tecia Torres, Jessica Penne and ultimately, Rose Namajunas -- all within a few weeks. That's a murderer's row of strawweights and beating "Thug" proved that "Cookie Monster" is not just a wrestler who strikes to set up shots.
She's a complete fighter.
I'm not sure I can say the same about Jedrzejczyk, who admittedly looked great in her first two fights under the ZUFFA banner. While she's displayed solid takedown defense thus far in her still-blossoming career, she hasn't faced a wrestler like Esparza.
And this is a five-round fight.
The reason I don't expect the champ to get lit up on her feet is because she doesn't sit still. If she shoots and fails, she transitions to strikes, then gets the heck outta Dodge, a gameplan that worked well against Namajunas and disrupted her rhythm. I would expect a similar strategy tomorrow night.
With similar results.
Final prediction: Esparza def. Jedrzejczyk via submission
170 lbs.: Johny "Bigg Rigg" Hendricks (16-3) vs. "The Immortal" Matt Brown (19-12)
Nostradumbass predicts: This is Johny Hendricks' fight to lose and whether or not he does, all depends on which version of "Bigg Rigg" we get on fight night. If we get the bloated bumpkin who ate steak during his weight cut, then bled out 30 pounds the night before, he could very well give this away on the cards.
As we learned at UFC 181, a tired Hendricks will shoot, then stick his head between his opponent's legs in that awkward ball-sniffing pose, kind of like a dog meeting someone for the first time. It didn't work against Robbie Lawler and it won't work against Matt Brown.
Fortunately for the ex-champ, this is a three-round fight, so he should have the gas tank to seal the deal.
I like Brown and think he's an exciting fighter, but he simply hasn't faced the same level of competition as his foe. You can't compare Erick Silva and Mike Pyle to guys like Georges St. Pierre and Carlos Condit. In addition, Hendricks has a more developed arsenal and the beard to take a punch.
Round three at UFC 171 comes to mind.
"The Immortal" has one of the more punishing attacks in this (or any) weight class, but I'm having a hard time finding an area where he's better than "Bigg Rigg." Then again, he may not need to be, if he can at least be busier and score points while Hendricks spams takedowns or becomes over-reliant on the one-punch knockout.
Either way, we could be in for "Fight of the Night."
Final prediction: Hendricks def. Brown via unanimous decision:
265 lbs.: Roy "Big Country" Nelson (20-10) vs. Alistair "Demolition Man" Overeem (38-14)
Nostradumbass predicts: This falls into the classic Nostradumbass "Doesn't surprise me" category; meaning, if I missed the fight and found out the next morning that Alistair Overeem got KTFO, my response would be "Meh, doesn't surprise me."
Which would be my exact response if Roy Nelson gassed and played punching bag for three rounds.
I like "Big Country" but he's about as dynamic as a traffic cone. Knocking out Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is MMA's version of cow tipping, and to be frank, it's his only win across his last four fights. That's because he comes out and swings for the fences and ... well, that's about it.
Sometimes it's enough.
If Overeem does his look what a badass I am while I fight with my hands super low-thingy, he's getting popped and dropped in the opening frame. If, however, he covers up, mixes up his striking with his clinch work, then he can cruise to victory in much the same way Fabricio Werdum did when "Vai Cavalo" tooled the bearded brawler back at UFC 143.
The ball's in Reem's court.
Greg Jackson Overeem def. Nelson via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Chris "Kamikaze" Cariaso (17-6) vs. Henry "The Messenger" Cejudo (7-0)
Nostradumbass predicts: The hardest part about doing these pre-fight predictions is trying to find a way to be critical of talent without sounding like a complete shithead. Sometimes, it's simply unavoidable, like in the case of No. 10-ranked flyweight Chris Cariaso.
He's good, but not great.
"Kamikaze" was gifted a division title fight last September, but that had less to do with merit and more to do with the fact that flyweight is about as deep as an ice cube tray. It also explains why Henry Cejudo is so determined to make 125 pounds.
One or two respectable wins and it's hello "Mighty Mouse."
Time is of the essence, since John Dodson -- content to look and act like Michigan J. Frog from the injured reserves -- is waiting in the wings. Fortunately for "The Messenger," he's the recipient of favorable matchmaking, as I have a hard time picturing Cariaso -- taken down five times in three rounds against Danny Martinez -- stuffing any and all shots from the Olympic gold medalist.
From there, it's academic.
Final prediction: Cejudo def. Cariaso via unanimous decision
That's a wrap.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 185 fight card tomorrow night (Sat., March 14, 2015) RIGHT HERE, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, right on through the FX-televised under card bouts at 8 p.m. ET and then main card PPV, which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET.
For previews and predictions of the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC 185 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Pettis vs. Dos Anjos."
What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow night's event.