The UFC had tagged its UFC 185 card in Dallas as "Welcome to the Show." And most, if not all, felt it was more than likely that Anthony "Showtime" Pettis would retain his lightweight title against Rafael dos Anjos.
The feeling wasn't as strong for Carla Esparza's chances to hold on to the women's strawweight title against Joanna Jedrzejczyk, but she was still the odds-on favorite.
Well, we all know what happened: both titles changed hands for the first time in over six years. Jedrzejczyk finished Esparza in the second round after battering her with punch after punch and flawlessly defending the wrestler's takedown attempts. dos Anjos put a five round whooping on Pettis to earn a 50-45 from all three judges. Both of the new champions also earned a "performance" bonus for their efforts.
You would have to go back to UFC 92 for the last time that occurred with Frank Mir knocking out Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira to win the interim heavyweight title, and Rashad Evans taking the light heavyweight belt from Forrest Griffin by technical knockout.
This sport can often be unpredictable and UFC 185 was further proof that you just never know what can happen on any given night.
Let's take a look back at the night that was UFC 185.
Rafael dos Anjos
dos Anjos is proof that you can continue to improve and evolve in MMA. The Brazilian has won nine out of his last 10 fights and he slapped up Nate Diaz for three rounds and finished Benson Henderson prior to taking Pettis' title at UFC 185. dos Anjos got after it from the opening bell and pressured Pettis, beat him to the punch and forced "Showtime" to react to him rather than the other way around. In addition to out-striking Pettis, he out-grappled him too, even threatened with a kimura later on in the fight. It was simply a marvelous performance. If Khabib Nurmagomedov gets past Donald Cerrone, and I suspect he will, then that rematch should be the Brazilian's first title defense.
To me, this seems like one of those times where you just chalk it up as a really bad performance. Not to take away from dos Anjos, because he beat Pettis from pillar to post for 25 minutes, but we've seen Pettis lay an egg before when he lost his UFC debut to Clay Guida. Now, fans are chucking their Wheaties boxes in the garbage and acting like he was never that good, but that is just silly. That is just how it is in all professional sports. You are usually only as good as your last performance. Pettis is still one of the best in the sport, and he deserves a chance to redeem himself before everyone writes him off. You can't win them all, as they say.
Not being able to see
Now, I've read quite a bit about people taking Duke Roufus to task because Pettis said he couldn't see prior to the fifth round. Just stop. And please don't compare it to the situation with the death of Dennis Munson Jr. That is a completely and totally different set of encyclopedias and Roufus was not in his corner, either. Pettis didn't have his eye hanging out of his head. It was swollen and not swollen all the way shut either. It was a title fight and even if it wasn't, if a guy wants to fight, then let him fight. Had Roufus thrown the towel then he would've been taken to task for that. This is just much ado about nothing, like many topics in this sport. If no one heard Pettis say he couldn't see out of his eye, then no one would be talking about it ad nauseam.
Her name may be hard to pronounce and even more difficult to spell, but if the first Polish UFC champion continues to fight like she did against Esparza, everyone will catch on rather quickly, if they haven't already since Saturday. The six-time Muay Thai champion just flat-out beat up the "Cookie Monster." She didn't steal the title from the cookie jar, she picked it up the jar and smashed it to smithereens. Her striking was too much for Esparza to handle to the point where it was almost uncomfortable to watch. Almost as impressive as the striking performance was Jedrzejczyk's takedown defense. It was just superb. She avoided almost every takedown, save for one, which Esparza really had to work for to get. Esparza is the best wrestler in the division, so the Polish striker is going to have a huge advantage over many in the division. A rematch against Claudia Gadhela should be next, Jedrzejczyk earned a split decision over Gadhela last December.
A brutal loss for Esparza. No other way to say it. She got destroyed at UFC 185. This will a really tough one for her to overcome. She gave up her Invicta title, won the 20th season of The Ultimate Fighter and defeated Rose Namajunas to win the UFC strawweight title, and lost it in her first title defense. "Cookie Monster" is still the best wrestler in the 115-pound division and is better than most of the other fighters the division has to offer. How she rebounds from this loss will be vital in the next phase of her career.
Reem and Big Country
Overeem looked good at UFC 185, but I won't go crazy about the win. Reem is the better striker, better athlete and other than getting clipped by a haymaker, had many more ways to win than Nelson and proved it. That is now two wins in a row for the 34-year-old Dutchman. Perhaps the fight that never happened against Junior dos Santos materializes now.
As for Nelson, not much changes. He is fun to watch, has an otherworldly chin tolerance that allows him to smile at strikes that would drop an elephant, and he can still change a fight if he gets a clean right hand in. That is what he has always been and that is all he will continue to be from here on out. "Big Country" is not going to beat the upper echelon of the heavyweight division. Every top guy he has faced, he has lost. Any match up with the bottom half of the top 15 makes sense next.
Bigg Rigg and Matt Brown (highlights)
Johnny Hendricks looked terrific against Matt Brown. He mixed up his strikes and takedowns very well and got the unanimous decision victory in his first fight since losing the welterweight title to Robbie Lawler. "Bigg Rigg" also avoided his usual brutal weight cut this time around and it appears he has a better handle on that part of his preparation now. After Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald face off at UFC 189, I expect Hendricks to get another crack at the title.
Brown's seven-fight streak was fun while it lasted, but he has hit the wall with his last two losses. It appears he is just step below the top tier of the division. He is still a player in the division, but I'm not sure he will ever get a crack at the 170-pound title. He could work his way up into contention again, but he will be hard pressed to do so going forward.
"The Immortal" tune not approved for walkout song
Jamey Jasta, the front man of the metal outfit Hatebreed, penned a special walkout track for Matt Brown. It was all set to go for UFC 185, except the UFC didn't approve it. Why you ask? No reason was given, but the UFC have turned down Hatebreed tracks before, not wanting to be associated with the band's name. Sounds stupid, right? That's because it is. First of all, if that is their issue, the track was a "Jasta" track -- the name of Jamey Jasta's solo project -- it wasn't a Hatebreed track. Secondly, Hatebreed is not a hate-fueled band or racist band, their band name spawns from an old Misfit song. I mean what year is it exactly, UFC? Are you afraid Tipper Gore and the PMRC are going to come down on you because Jasta is from a band that has the name "Hate" in it? Get it together over there already. It would've been awesome to hear that track he wrote get played for Matt Brown and they totally ruined it.
The Olympic gold medalist looked awesome and dominant against Chris Cariaso at UFC 185. He just blanketed the No. 11-ranked UFC flyweight and made his debut in the rankings at No. 10. Cejudo showcased some solid striking at times, but it was his wrestling that was the difference. "The Messenger" used takedowns and trips to control where the fight took place. Now that he has his weight issues in check, we will see just how good this prospect can be. I would think another top-10 opponent will be next.
Always Be Closing
Props to the winners of all seven preliminary fights. One submission, one KO and five technical knockouts. All the fights were fun to watch, save for Germaine Randamie's beatdown of Larissa Pacheco. Randamie's striking shows how refined a fighter with that kind of experience in kickboxing and Muay Thai can be, but Pacheco has no business fighting in the UFC. Ross Pearson picked up a "performance" bonus for his left hook finish over Sam Stout that was reminiscent of Carlos Condit vs. Dan Hardy. Beniel Dariush looked awesome and he too picked up a "performance" bonus for choking out Daron Cruickshank. Two bonuses on the prelims is always a good thing in my opinion. Needs to happen more.
That was a hell of a win to come back and just stop Sergio Pettis in his tracks with a huge punch and finish it up on the ground. Too bad he marred his victory by kicking Pettis in the ass after the fight was stopped. Yes, he apologized, but sorry doesn't fix the broken lamp. There is no business for that type of crap in this sport. Duke Roufus and Pettis took the high road, but I expected more from Dana White and the Texas commission. You have to set an example that actions like that after a fight is over should never be tolerated. A sorry doesn't make up for the fact that it shouldn't have happened in the first place.
For more results and fallout from UFC 185 click here.