With a fun weekend of mixed martial arts (MMA) action in the books, we now turn our attention to the UFC 185 pay-per-view (PPV) card taking place TONIGHT (Sat., March 14, 2015) in Dallas, Texas.
Everything is bigger in "Big D", and this high-octane card is prepared to knock your block off, literally.
The PPV is headlined by a lightweight championship tilt featuring Anthony Pettis defending his strap against No. 1 contender Rafael dos Anjos. Fight fans will also be treated to another title bout in the co-main event, which will showcase newly-minted women's strawweight titleholder Carla Esparza and top 125-pound contender Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
There are also a number of intriguing contests on the preliminary card, which will air on Fight Pass and FX. Here are the five most intriguing storylines heading into UFC 185.
Bonus honorable mention!
Heavyweight sluggers Roy Nelson and Alistair Overeem square off
"Big Country" and "The Reem" square off in a match-up of potent strikers looking to keep pace with the divisional elite.
Nelson is looking to rebound from a punishing knockout loss at the hands of Mark Hunt in September, while Overeem seeks consecutive wins for the third time in his UFC career.
The Dutch kickboxer is one of the most revered heavyweight strikers in the world. A former K1 kickboxing champion, Overeem has fought all over the world, against top-notch competition.
The 34-year-old hasn't looked all that impressive in the Octagon, accumulating a lackluster 3-3 record.
Like Overeem, Nelson has fought the best of the best throughout his near 11-year run as an MMA fighter. The 38-year-old has a
Nelson is a one-trick pony; despite his grappling credentials. Each of his seven UFC victories have come by way of knockout. The Las Vegas native is also deceptively fast, and possesses underrated cardio.
I can almost smell the knockout.
5. Baby brother Sergio Pettis looks to emerge from the champ's shadows
Where big brother goes, so does little brother. Sergio Pettis, and brother Anthony, fight on the same card for the second time in a row.
After compiling a 3-1 record at bantamweight, the 21-year-old Pettis looks to make a statement in his flyweight debut in the main event of Fight Pass action against Ryan Benoit.
"The Phenom" was already lightning fast and should have more of a strength advantage at his more natural weight of 125 pounds. A dynamic striker, Pettis has the ability to fire off a multitude of threatening combinations, all the while preserving his gas tank.
He's went the distance in virtually all four of his Octagon appearances.
Pettis has won two consecutive fights, most recently dispatching the much bigger Matt Hobar via unanimous decision at UFC 181 in December. Should he emerge victorious over "Baby Face", Pettis won't be all that far from obtaining a spot in the shallow flyweight rankings.
4. Joseph Duffy: the next big Irish threat in the UFC's lightweight divison?
"Irish Joe" makes his first trek into the Octagon to take on the struggling Jake Lindsey.
Like Conor McGregor and Cathal Pendred before him, the 27-year-old Duffy is a veteran of the esteemed Cage Warriors Fighting Championship. In fact, he holds a 38-second, arm-triangle choke victory over current featherweight top contender McGregor. The demonstrative European import has also submitted UFC lightweight Norman Parke during his time fighting overseas.
There's much to be excited about here if you're UFC President Dana White.
Provided Duffy continues his winning ways, the fight promotion will have a fourth prized fighter in its stable of Irish contingents to deploy on their next visit to Ireland. Duffy has the ground game to go with a frightening stand-up skill set; the former professional boxer has taken out three men by knockout, and eight by way of submission.
His opponent, the 28-year-old Lindsey has endured a rough stay in the UFC, and was finished in two outings in 2014. Prior to his Octagon stint, "The Librarian" racked up nine straight wins on the independent circuit.
Seems like easy picking for Duffy.
3. Carla Esparza aims to establish dominance as UFC champion
The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Season 20 competitor and current women's strawweight champion Carla Esparza wants some respect.
Esparza submitted Rose Namajunas in the TUF 20 finale via rear-naked choke in the third round to become the UFC's first women's 125-pound champion. And yet, despite that, she feels like she is a "little overlooked" by her employer after fellow strawweight Paige VanZant scored a solo sponsorship deal with UFC apparel provider Reebok.
"Cookie Monster" is a high-level grappler, who's keen at finding submissions. The 27-year-old has also sunk in the RNC on three other fighters besides VanZant.
Esparza can also hold her own in the ground-and-pound department (check out her thundering performance over Sarah Schneider here)
With another dazzling showcase, she will undoubtedly command more respect not only from her employer, but also her peers. Here's hoping for a VanZant-Esparza tussle in the future.
2. Johny Hendricks and Matt Brown look to add another performance bonus to their growing collection
"Bigg Rigg" and "The Immortal" have a combined 11 performance bonuses between them. Both have a penchant for the spectacular, and are two of the most exciting fighters in the welterweight division; maybe in all of the UFC.
Hendricks is looking to make the short climb back to the top of the 170-pound ladder after being bested by rival and current champion Robbie Lawler in a close contest at UFC 181. Brown, on the other hand, is looking to get back in the swing of things after losing a title eliminator to "Ruthless" in July.
It's been a long journey to the top for Brown, who has won eight of his last ten. Prior to his most recent run, the 34-year-old was just 4-4 in the Octagon, which included a disastrous three-fight losing streak.
As for Hendricks, he's been fighting the division's best for the last two years. The Texas native went 2-2 over that span, losing to former longtime champ Georges St. Pierre and Lawler in title meetings.
When looking at the resumes of these heavy-handed welterweights, two things become clear: this fight can end early, or it can go the distance. Hendricks and Brown possess 20 career knockouts combined, and are tough outs; for the most part.
Brown has lost an astounding nine fights by submission. Regardless if it lasts 15 minutes, or it lasts 30 seconds, this welterweight scrap will be one you surely won't want to miss.
1. Anthony Pettis begins his quest to become most dominant lightweight titleholder in UFC history
"Showtime" had to deal with criticism from fighters, media and everyone in between in the lead-up to his showdown with Gilbert Melendez at UFC 181. Pettis silenced the critics with a second round, guillotine choke-victory over the former Strikeforce champion.
The Roufusport fighter now has his sights set on No. 1 contender Rafael dos Anjos. The Brazilian has finished two of his last three opponents via strikes, and has won eight of his last nine fights.
Most recently, Dos Anjos ravaged Nate Diaz with gruesome leg kicks and ground shots. Pettis is going to have his hands full.
The pride of Milwaukee has flourished in the UFC, and defeated two former champions in "El Nino" and Benson Henderson. Pettis gives opponents fits with his unorthodox blend of striking disciplines, and also employs a highly-active guard.
Will Dos Anjos' smothering top game prove too much for the champion, or will Pettis continue to amaze and capture another highlight reel victory?