The Good, Bad and Strange from UFC 185

March 15, 2015 Posted by admin

As the saying goes, “Everything is bigger in Texas.” And that certainly was the case for UFC 185.

With the promotion’s 2015 campaign getting off to a memorable, yet rocky start in the new year, the biggest stage in MMA put a major focus on their return to Dallas on Saturday night. Rather than the normal pay-per-view format of surrounding a pair of high profile fights with a mixture of recognizable names and ones fans are likely to have never heard of, the Las Vegas-based operation used the guns blazing approach for UFC 185.

The card’s lineup was stacked from top-to-bottom with interesting matchups, with the top of the bill anchored by highly anticipated title fights in the women’s strawweight and men’s lightweight divisions. Carla Esparza, The Ultimate Fighter 20 winner and inaugural women’s 115-pound champion, would put her title on the line for the first time against Polish upstart Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and pound-for-pound phenom Anthony Pettis would return to action to square off with seasoned veteran Rafael dos Anjos with the 155-pound title up for grabs.

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

While other bouts on the card fueled fight fans’ excitement in the lead up to UFC 185, the title tilt between “Showtime” and the Kings MMA representative definitely held the most electricity. Pettis has been a wrecking machine since joining the UFC fold back in 2011, but where the Duke Roufus protege built his name on defeating a collection of former champions and contenders during his time atop the 155-pound fold, dos Anjos accomplished many of the same tasks to earn his shot at championship gold.

The Brazilian’s title shot at UFC 185 was as hard-earned as any in recent memory, and it set the stage for a crucial showdown for the top spot in what is arguably the most talent-stacked division on the UFC roster. The main event on Saturday night was figured to be a barn burner of a scrap, but once the action began it was all dos Anjos.

The Rafael Cordeiro-trained fighter dominated Pettis from start to finish to earn a lopsided unanimous decision and become the new champion of the lightweight division. Not only did he pull off the most impressive performance of his career, but his victory culminated one of the best redemption stories in the history of mixed martial arts.

Let’s take a look at the good, bad and strange from UFC 185.


The Good

On November 15, 2008 Rafael dos Anjos made his UFC debut.

On that night in Las Vegas, the young Brazilian became highlight reel fodder courtesy of an uppercut from Jeremy Stephens in the third round of their tilt at UFC 91. At the time, “RDA” wasn’t much more than a jiu-jitsu practitioner looking to make good in mixed martial arts, and if the way things went down against “Lil Heathen” and Tyson Griffin in his next bout were any indication, his time under the UFC banner was going to be short-lived. 

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Fast forward six years and the Kings MMA representative is the new lightweight champion thanks to his five-round thrashing of Anthony Pettis at UFC 185. Like most of his bouts at the elite level of the 155-pound fold, dos Anjos came into his bout with “Showtime” a heavy underdog, and once again the Brazilian veteran rose to the occasion. He dominated the Duke Roufus-trained fighter throughout the 25-minute affair, and battered Pettis in a fashion no other man before him had done.

It was a spectacular performance from start to finish and one that will put the definitive stamp on dos Anjos’ climb to prominence. With the 155-pound division being host to a collection of hungry contenders in waiting, it won’t be long before he’ll have to defend his title. That said, March 14, 2015 in Dallas, Texas is a night that belonged entirely to him.

*** There were a lot of jokes made about Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s name coming into UFC 185, but in the aftermath of her trouncing of Carla Esparza in Dallas, “champion” is the only label that matters. The Polish striker battered The Ultimate Fighter Season 20 winner as she put an absolute clinic on Esparza in the co-main event. After Jedrzejczyk stuffed several of Esparza’s takedowns, the champion had nothing to offer as the challenger smashed her with one heavy shot after the next.

With Esparza barely surviving the opening round, Jedrzejczyk picked up where she left off in the second and finished “The Cookie Monster” with a flurry of shots to become the new champion of the women’s strawweight division. 

*** The story going into his bout with Matt Brown at UFC 185 was how in shape Johny Hendricks appeared to be. “Bigg Rigg” may have had a new look going into Saturday night, but it was old school Hendricks that defeated “The Immortal” in Dallas. The two-time NCAA Div. I national champion went to his wrestling early and often as he put Brown on the canvas continuously throughout the fight. The end result was Hendricks earning the lopsided unanimous decision victory and positioning himself to face the winner of Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald at the end of 2015.

*** Championship belts are to be collected in the eyes of Alistair Overeem, and “The Demolition Man” took another step toward a shot at the UFC heavyweight crown by defeating Roy Nelson on Saturday night. While his performance was a curious mix of efficiency and evasion, Overeem controlled the action at range where he tagged “Big Country” with body kicks. Nelson dropped him with a big left hand late in the fight, but it wasn’t enough to turn the tide of the fight. Overeem took the unanimous decision on the judges’ scorecards and picked up his third victory in his last four outings inside the Octagon.

*** Elias Theodorou came to UFC 185 determined to keep his unblemished record intact and take another step up the middleweight ladder at the expense of Rogar Narvaez. The Ultimate Fighter: Nations winner wasted zero time getting to work as he set a hard-charging pace from the opening bell that kept the Corpus Christi native on his heels in defense mode. While the opening round was close, “The Spartan” poured it on in the second frame and pounded out Narvaez to earn the TKO stoppage. With the win Theodorou has now won three bouts inside the Octagon and will draw a bigger name in the 185-pound fold for his next outing. 

*** While Sergio Pettis doesn’t carry the accomplished resume his brother had built, the amount of hype surrounding him often casts the opponents he faces in the long shot role. That was certainly case on Saturday night with Ryan Benoit, as many assumed the hometown fighter would serve his purpose as a stepping stone for the younger Pettis’ entry into the flyweight fold. The opening round of the fight supported this notion as Pettis battered Benoit at every turn throughout the first five minutes of the tilt. So much in fact that victory seemed like a foregone conclusion, that is until a perfectly timed left hook from Benoit leveled the Duke Roufus-trained prospect.

Benoit’s shot crumpled Pettis to the canvas and the young Texan immediately pounced on his wounded opponent. “Baby Face” unloaded a flurry of shots as Pettis attempted to recover but Benoit’s flurry was simply too much and the bout was stopped early in the second round. While the victory over Pettis is certainly the biggest of his career, Benoit will lose a few sportsmanship points for throwing a kick at the Milwaukee native shortly after the referee stepped in. Nevertheless, it was a phenomenal comeback for Benoit and he has plenty of reasons to celebrate after his victory at UFC 185.

*** As the last man to defeat Irish sensation Conor McGregor inside the cage, there was a lot of buzz surrounding Joseph Duffy’s official Octagon debut at UFC 185 was high. The scrappy Irish lightweight certainly lived up to expectation as he made quick work of Jake Lindsay as he finished “The Librarian” with a vicious flurry midway through the opening round. Duffy planted a left head kick on Lindsay up against the cage followed by a brutal body shot that led to put the Kansas native on the canvas and forced the referee to step in and stop the fight.

While Duffy was certainly impressive in his debut, his trainer Firas Zahabi told Joe Rogan post-fight that he was going to drop down to featherweight for his next bout in his pursuit of Conor McGregor. Starching your opponent then putting on target on the hottest commodity under the UFC banner made Duffy’s showing at UFC 185 a great example of how to make a memorable first impression.


The Bad

There are few fighters who have competed in the UFC’s lightweight division longer than Sam Stout.

Brandon Wade/Associated Press

“Hands of Stone” made his promotional debut back in 2006, and has been mixing it up inside the Octagon for the better part of the past decade. Yet, consistency has always been an issue for the Ontario native and those woes continued on Saturday night against Ross Pearson. Despite a gritty effort to get the job done, the seasoned veteran ate a blistering left hook from “The Real Deal” that sealed the deal for Pearson. With the loss, Stout has now suffered back-to-back setbacks and has been defeated in three of his last four showings.

Where Stout was once considered one of the gamest fighters in the 155-pound ranks, that status has come into question over recent years. His tendency to “give one, take one” where wins and losses are concerned kept him relevant while the lightweight division was developing, but the current “shark tank” status at 155 moves is no place for inconsistency. At 30-years-old Stout should just be coming into his fighting prime, but 19 UFC appearances—and losses in 10 of those bouts—could have very well taken their toll.


The Strange

Living up to the hype is a difficult task to accomplish and Sergio Pettis is currently in the process of figuring this out.

While “The Phenom” had won three of his four showings inside the Octagon coming into his bout with Ryan Benoit at UFC 185, the Duke Roufus-trained fighter had yet to put on the caliber of performance to match the level of expectation attached to his name. When the bout against “Baby Face” began, it appeared the 21-year-old striker was well on his way to getting that done. He was battering Benoit at range and controlling and punishing his opponent when the action went to the canvas.

Everything seemed to be going to plan for Pettis until he drifted in on an exchange in the second round and was floored by a left hook from Benoit. Dazed and hurt on the mat, Pettis attempted to scramble and recover, but Benoit poured it on and the referee stepped in to stop the fight. With his second loss in four showings, Pettis will certainly lose a bit of luster on his highly touted status. That said, the skills he possesses is obvious, and both of his losses have come abruptly in fights where he was dominating the action. 

There will be plenty of time for Pettis to come into his own inside the Octagon, but there is a limited amount of time and errors allowed where hype and expectation are concerned. This especially rings true when your older brother is one of the most accomplished and exciting fighters currently competing in the sport, which undoubtedly creates an even loftier pedestal to reach.

While there was a minimal amount of strange inside the Octagon on Saturday night, a poor choice from the UFC’s production team brought the noise in the awkward department. With the Dallas crowd worked up from a good night of fights, they decided to do a close up of former Cowboy turned Philadelphia Eagle DeMarco Murray on the pay-per-view portion of the card.

Dallas fans are passionate about their football and equally driven in their hatred for their rivals in Philadelphia. The departure of the Pro Bowl running back from “The Big D” was big news earlier in the week, and when Murray’s face hit the screen on Saturday night, a strong chorus of boos immediately followed.

From the look on Murray’s face it was clear he not only wanted to get out of the American Airlines Center but the city of Dallas in quick fashion. 

In closing, the durability of Roy Nelson has become the stuff of legend. The former IFL heavyweight champion has put on some of grittiest performances in the current era of the sport, and the heart he displayed in bouts against Junior dos Santos and Fabricio Werdum are memorable examples of how difficult the Las Vegas native is to finish.

On Saturday night at UFC 185, The Ultimate Fighter Season 10 winner added another battle to his resume as he and Alistair Overeem mixed it up for 15 minutes of heavyweight violence. And although Nelson ate one big body kick after the next, He was still throwing heat until the final bell. He was able to drop Overeem with a powerful left hook late in the final round, but was unable to finish and lost the bout on the judge’s scorecards. 

It was an unfortunate turn for Nelson as he has now lost four of his last five fights, but he’ll be damned if he’s not one of the toughest outs to ever step into the Octagon on fight night.


Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. 

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