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UFC 185: And so it begins….

UFC 185: And so it begins….
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UFC 185: And so it begins….

Welcome to the start of a possibly historic run of great MMA matchmaking over the next few months. UFC is preparing to stuff our faces with great PPV cards such as UFC 185, which features two title fights. The month of May just might be the greatest fight month in the history of….well fighting! Hopefully, the Fantasy sites will take notice of the sheer amount of star power in the following cards and adjust their tournaments accordingly. Regardless of what those sites decide to do, one thing is for certain……DO.  NOT.  BLINK.

These fight breakdowns are designed for you, the reader, to give you the essential information you need to know in order to best “guestimate” how a fight may end up. I break down each fighter’s weaknesses and strengths, and how they match up versus each other. But remember, having a gameplan is very important as well. Some fighters have all the talent in the world, only to be decimated by their sheer amount of idiocy once they get inside the octagon. Fight IQ is an integral part of every fighter’s gameplan and can decide a match at any time, along with their chins. So while a fighter may seem to have all the tools to completely and utterly annihilate an inferior opponent, stupidity is still a factor, just like in any other sport. Luckily for you, most of the known bad fight IQ guys have been ousted at this point, and I will make sure to mention that in any breakdown that I do in the future. And off we go!

Germaine de Randamie (+135) vs Larissa Pacheco (-155)

Kicking off the event is a fun scrap between two willing strikers in de Randamie and Pacheco, with the former being the more skilled of the two. De Randamie has a strong Muay Thai base and utilizes plenty of leg kicks (the norm for Muay Thai fighters) but lacks striking defense and quick instincts on counters, leaving herself open too much during exchanges. Good thing she faces someone who has essentially the same type of weakness in Pacheco.

While Pacheco isn’t as experienced as de Randamie is in Muay Thai or striking, she is very aggressive and a very willing fighter on the feet. She is very raw when it comes to using proper technique and not overextending herself during her flurries of punches and kicks, which De Randamie should take advantage of during their battle. She is relatively new to the MMA scene, and it shows in fights when it comes to fight IQ and handling pressure.

This should most likely be a standing affair with tons of potential significant strikes for either one, and I could really see both garnering 80-100 significant strikes. Still, it wouldn’t be that surprising if either one got a knockout win, particularly de Randamie, as Pacheco’s last fight versus the much better Jessica Andrade showed that Pacheco tends to struggle versus pressure and allows opponents to close the distance too easily on her. With De Randamie’s experience and Pacheco’s relatively rawness, I’m going to go with De Randamie in a highly contested decision win.

2ToN’s Pick: De Randamie by split decision

Jake Lindsey (+425) vs Joseph Duffey (-550)

It’s book reading time! Jake the Librarian returns to the UFC after two consecutive losses and is facing the man who defeated the notorious Conor McGregor! Yes, that Conor McGregor that’s taking the UFC by storm and is facing Jose Aldo for the featherweight championship. Let me start by saying Jake Lindsey is not very good. He is the definition of a scrapper, a guy who doesn’t really excel in any particular facet of the game and certainly doesn’t scare anybody worth a fart. Jake the Librarian is basically just a guy to beat up and see what happens. He has mediocre striking to go with mediocre wrestling, but I guess he’s all right enough to get a sub on a scrub guy or something. Point is, he’s not a big test for a rising prospect on the level of Duffy. His last two losses to Tuck and Aubin-Mercier reinforces this school of thought as both Tuck and Aubin-Mercier were able to control the fight standing and get the takedown easily on Lindsey, ending it on the ground both times.

Duffy actually took a break from MMA after his last loss and went into professional boxing, amassing a 7-0 record before deciding to come back to MMA. His time as a boxer has clearly made Duffy a much better technician and a striker as he utilizes what I continue to preach for every single fighter to learn: head movement. He leaves his hands down a bit too much but moves around expertly and with his head movement and hand speed, he can sustain that kind of fighting style versus anyone. He is a powerful and agile striker, pouncing on the chance to finish an opponent if given the chance and will go for the simple takedown to end it on the ground via the ever popular ground and pound. This is the method of victory I predict Duffy will take versus the Librarian, giving the Librarian a 0-3 record in the UFC, ending his short time in the octagon.

2ToN’s Pick: Duffy via 1st round GnP

Ryan Benoit (+385) vs Sergio Pettis (-485)

Seems like the Pettis brothers always fight on the same card. Pettis is moving down from bantamweight to flyweight for this fight, and that’s probably a great career move as he still has the great hand/foot speed to compete in the division with the quickest fighters but can hold a size/strength advantage over most flyweights. Sergio Pettis is basically the miniature version of his older brother Anthony; he possess a great arsenal of strikes (second degree black belt in Taekwondo) to go with a great ground game (purple belt in BJJ). The difference between the two thus far in the UFC has been Sergio’s aggressiveness, or a lack thereof. In fights where he was clearly the better fighter in every aspect of the game, he was just simply too passive and was content on being primarily a counterstriker rather than taking the initiative his older brother does, going for the kill and ending it before the fight reaches the judges. Thankfully, from his last fight and a revitalized Sergio, it seems like he is on his way to becoming more comfortable in his skin and going with the flow of the fight rather than sitting back and waiting for his chance to strike.

Ryan Benoit is a brawler at flyweight, keeping most fights standing as he has very good boxing skills and techniques, while lacking any sort of wrestling, although his takedown defense is above average. Benoit is a bit of a scrapper, which can make for extremely entertaining fights versus an opponent who wishes to trade on the feet with him. While he may have solid takedown defense, once he hits the ground he is very immobile and does not have a great guard. Sergio could very well take advantage of Benoit’s main weakness as he is a very skilled ground technician. However, I think this should stay standing and be a very entertaining back and forth affair, with Sergio winning most of the exchanges as he is simply too well-rounded and more powerful than Benoit. Still, don’t be surprised if Benoit can rack up enough significant strikes to be a decent salary dump play.

2ToN’s Pick: Pettis by unanimous decision

Jared Rosholt (-300) vs Josh Copeland (+250)

Battle of the fats! This is a rather simple fight to dissect as both fighters don’t usually stray away from their usual strategy. Rosholt is a big boy wrestler who loves to impose his will on opponents with relentless takedowns and cage humps but will occasionally stand and trade on the feet as he does possess some serious knockout power. I don’t think he is going to want to trade with Copeland considering he has been knocked out a few too many times in his last few fights, even though Copeland is extremely one dimensional on the feet. Rosholt should be able to drag Copeland down into murky waters, ending it with a vicious ground and pound if he feels like it. Chances are he could just end up laying on Copeland and falling asleep on him.

Copeland, aka Cuddly Bear, is a legitimate fat. As in, he’s really fat. He is surprisingly agile for being such a fatty fat and does take some decent angles in the striking department. Unfortunately for him, he doesn’t really string together consistent combinations and leans too heavily on his big powerbombs with wild looping overhands, looking for that mystical one punch knockout. Cuddly Bear doesn’t really use any kind of wrestling or possess any kind of legitimate takedown offense, so he is basically a stand and trader. The man has a hell of a chin though as he took some punishment in his last fight vs Ruslan Magomedov, a rising HW prospect with a very diverse arsenal of strikes. Rosholt is not going to captivate our minds with his striking, so Cuddly Bear probably won’t be as evasive as he was vs Magomedov. This bodes well for his chances. If Copeland can keep Rosholt’s hands off him, he can definitely crack Rosholt’s seemingly fragile chin to get the win. He’s going to have to fight smart in order to do that and mix it up more than what he showed in his last fight.

This ideally should go one of two ways: Rosholt closes the distance on Cuddly Bear and yanks him down to the ground, either finishing it via GnP or winning a boring decision. OR Copeland stops Rosholt’s advances and slaps him around, eventually getting a glancing knockout blow on Rosholt for the upset. Both men’s cardio aren’t particularly great, but I don’t think it’ll matter as I feel the fight will end before the third round starts. I’m going to trust the wrestler in the match up as Copeland tends to overextend himself and throw off balance overhands that Magomedov did not take full advantage of. Rosholt won’t let Cuddly Bear off the hook that easily.

2ToN’s Pick: Rosholt via 2nd round TKO

Beneil Dariush (+120) vs Daron Cruickshank (-140)

This may possibly be a FOTN candidate for the card as both men are evenly matched when you consider their strengths and weaknesses. Both men are adept standing as both can stick and move with the best of them, although I’d definitely give the advantage to Cruickshank here. He is always circling around the octagon waiting to counter with a vicious head kick. Dariush is clearly the better of the two when it comes to handling themselves on the ground, and Dariush will most likely try to take advantage that distinct advantage to counter Cruickshank’s own distinct advantage over him.

While Dariush is good in his own right standing (has a dark blue/black belt in Muay Thai), he probably would be better off trying to close the distance on Cruickshank with clean boxing techniques and utilizing the leg kick on Daron. Dariush has some questions about the durability of his chin and maybe that will affect his gameplan vs Cruickshank, going for the takedown and getting Cruickshank on the ground rather than boxing his way inside the difficult-to-approach Cruickshank. Dariush is very, very good on the ground as his BJJ credentials show, and Cruickshank has shown in the past he is suspect to submission attempts as he tries to get up quickly whenever his back hits the ground rather than being patient and biding his time. The problem with that is Cruickshank is such a slippery opponent as he is always circling around the cage, trying to find the perfect angle to impose his tremendously powerful kicks to his opponent. The man may be short in stature but by god can he kick someone’s head off clean!

As vicious as Cruickshank is standing, he can be a bit passive at times, waiting far too long for the right counter instead of poking and prodding his way into his opponent’s face to goad an attack in which he can then counter with utter disdain of his opponent’s well-being. Cruickshank is going to do his best to stay far, far away from Dariush’s attempts to get him to the ground, and that could end up being his plan to win the fight – by outpointing Dariush en route to a decision win. However, that’s not Cruickshank’s prerogative. He’d ideally like to retire Dariush from the UFC via…..anything on the feet. He may have a solid wrestling base, but he doesn’t really dip into that well much unless necessary or if he feels pressured. That wrestling base is mostly for defensive purposes.

Bottom line? I hope both men stand and trade and survive the entire three rounds all bloodied up with hematomas all over, but we can’t get what we wish for all the time. Cruickshank is the quicker, stronger guy of the two, with more powerful striking and enough slippery movement to frustrate Dariush from getting his hands on Cruickshank. As much as I want to pick Dariush for the upset, I don’t know how he’s going to get close enough to Cruickshank without suffering brain damage. Cruickshank’s had some dumb moments before in his fights, so don’t rule the possibility of a submission win for Dariush.

2ToN’s Pick: Cruickshank via 1st round spinning roundhouse KO

Elias Theodorou (-340) vs Roger Narvaez (+280)

THIS IS SPARTA!!!!! Elias Theodorou calls himself The Spartan, along with 50 other people, so yeah that’s why I said Sparta. Whatever. The winner of the mostly awful TUF Nations: Canada versus Australia faces a mediocre test as he battles the Silverback, Roger Narvaez. Elias Theodorou is a very sound wrestler with solid techniques as he uses his powerful stature to impose his vicious ground and pound style, pressuring his opponents from anywhere in the octagon. He has finishing power but doesn’t have any particular strengths standing as he is mostly a very good wrestler with good takedowns and an even better GnP game. Theodorou finished a fellow TUF alum in Westcott in vicious fashion, beating Westcott at his own game with his much more refined wrestling skills. He is going to end the fight the same way he ended Westcott, and the same way Patrick Cummins ended Roger Narvaez: via a takedown and GnP. Enough about Theodorou, let’s talk about his victim!

Roger Narvaez is the bigger man of the two at 6’3 inches with a 4.5 inch reach advantage (79.5 to 75). He is going to need it if he has any chance of surviving the fight, much less winning it. Being the bigger man in most of his fights has usually favored Narvaez. He has several finishes on record and has a solid stand up game. His main issue is, despite being the bigger man, he has pretty bad takedown defense and is awful on his back. Patrick Cummins did not have any type of even remotely decent striking game when he faced Narvaez, and it didn’t matter as Cummins got Narvaez on the ground easily and ended him. Theodorou is much better standing than Cummins is, and while he doesn’t have Cummins’ pedigree in wrestling, it isn’t too far off. Narvaez has to be wary of Theodorou’s pressure and avoid the takedown at all costs to have a chance and use the same gameplan he had versus Luke Barnatt in his last fight, keeping his distance and countering quickly. I just can’t see it right now, and even the immortal Bruno Santos in all of his boring decision fight ruining glory could not succeed in breaking Theodorou’s will and his takedowns. Good night, sweet prince.

2ToN’s Pick: Theodorou via 1st round GnP

Ross Pearson (-350) vs Sam Stout (+290)

Well, I’m glad to see Sam Stout is back in the octagon as his last loss to KJ Noons seemed like the end of his career. It was his first KO loss, and it was a very bad one as he tried to choke out the ref after being knocked out in his confused state. A UFC veteran, Stout faces a similar fighter in Ross Pearson as both men like to stand and box their way to a win. Stout is suspect to takedowns, but fortunately for him Ross Pearson has no interest in going for takedowns unless it is gift wrapped for him. Both men are going to stick and move all over the octagon, looking for the right angles and try to outpoint each other on their way to the judges. While both men have finishing ability, both guys very rarely get finished, and as I mentioned before the loss to KJ Noons was Stout’s first KO loss of his career.

It’s safe to say this should be a solid fight for both men to get in a high amount of significant strikes. Pearson loves to throw tons of jabs to set up his smooth combinations, and Stout lacks striking defense while also liking to throw the jab to set up for the power shot. Pearson is the quicker of the two and the more agile/defensive, so he should edge out Stout on the cards in a possible rout. There isn’t much to add to the matchup as both men should be punching their way to the judges, and Pearson is clearly the faster man with the superior boxing techniques.

2ToN’s Pick: Pearson by unanimous decision

Chris Cariaso (+440) vs Henry Cejudo (-580)

I need to mention this before I go any further. Cejudo has had past history of missing weight badly, and based on what has happened in the past few cards, this fight may end up not even happening if Cejudo’s struggles to cut weight continue. Just keep that in mind. Anyways, the odds here are pretty damn high for Cejudo. Sure, he is going to be the much bigger and powerful man than Cariaso, but Cariaso’s no slouch especially on the feet. Cejudo is still a newcomer on the MMA circuit as he had spent most of his years wrestling his way to gold medals in the Olympics. Surprisingly enough, Cejudo hasn’t used his world class wrestling pedigree during his time in the MMA circuit, rather choosing to showcase his striking skills as evidenced by his fight versus Dustin Kimura, where he got 72 significant strikes to Kimura’s paltry 25 significant strikes. In that fight Cejudo clearly showed his instincts and speed can be on par with his fellow flyweights (even though he took the Kimura fight at bantamweight). Granted, Kimura is mostly known for his dangerous ground game than for his striking prowess, but it was impressive enough that bettors are all over Cejudo in this fight versus the more experienced Cariaso.

As mentioned before, Cejudo may have all the credentials and skillset to be a dominant wrestler, but he seems to prefer to stand and trade. Versus Cariaso, I just don’t think that’s a smart plan. Cariaso is very adept on the feet as he possesses the same speed and quickness that Cejudo showed versus Kimura, to go along with veteran savvy. He has clean and smooth boxing techniques and solid kicks to keep his opponents honest as well as fight experience as he has faced some of the best in the FFW/BW division, including the current FFW champion Demetrious Johnson. The one glaring weakness Cariaso has, and I do hope Cejudo can exploit this, is his severe lack of takedown defense. In almost every single fight he has been involved in, even in his wins, Cariaso has simply given up an easy takedown to his opponent. I don’t know why he continues to display such a lack of concern in defending takedowns or even attempt to sprawl to counter an attempt, but it has definitely caused several losses on his record.

It’s possible for Cariaso to win a tough decision vs Cejudo if Cejudo doesn’t take advantage of Cariaso’s huge weakness. Obviously, the more important question for those who play DFS MMA is can either one finish the other? Well, Cejudo could conceivably ground and pound Cariaso into oblivion, but he is still green when it goes to battling on the ground and learning proper positioning and the do’s and don’ts. Versus an experienced guy like Cariaso, even with his inability to get off the ground, Cejudo would be smart not to overpursue anything on the ground lest he gives up a dominant position and gets reversed into possibly a sub. Very unlikely, but you never know with newcomers. If I were a betting man, and I’m not, I would put some money on Cariaso as a dog, hoping that Cejudo ignores his Olympian gold medal winning wrestling capabilities and keeps the fight standing as Cariaso can outpoint Cejudo for sure. I’m going to go out on a limb and say Cejudo actually decides to wrestle Cariaso down and ends it in the 2nd round with some ground and pound. Yes, I know hes -580 and everything so that’s not really going out on a limb, BUT WHATEVER.

2ToN’s Pick: Cejudo by 2nd round GnP

Alistair Overeem (-210) vs Roy Nelson (+175)

The return of the MIGHTY REEEEEEEEEM! Alistair Overeem has all the tools and talent to be the heavyweight champion, but he has the chin of a broken wood table. The man can KO anybody by anything, has great takedown defense and can wrestle his way through a match. The man is a wasted talent when it comes to fighters being in the UFC and never realizing their full potential. However, being a -210 favorite over Roy Nelson is very surprising. For all of his shortcomings, Roy Nelson is still a dangerous out in the HW division as he has a heck of a chin to go with his cheeseburger-filled gut and the infamous looping overhand right that could detonate a building. That kind of power is a volatile thing when dealing with a fighter like Overeem and his awful chin. Roy Nelson does not do anything special, does not get takedowns despite having a black belt in BJJ, does not use combinations much, and never even kicks (although he claims to be working on a specialized spinning roundhouse kick, which I’d love to see in action). He’s more or less your typical fat guy swinging for the fences. However, facing Overeem basically gives a 50/50 chance that Roy Nelson cracks him once and gets a flash KO win. It’s happened much too often in Reem’s career, most recently versus Ben Rothwell, who shouldn’t even be breathing the same air as Overeem. Yet Overeem still got knocked out by Rothwell despite being a big favorite. I mean, I’d love to break down this fight, but in all honesty, I DON’T KNOW. Overeem is so so so so so SO SO SO SO SO unpredictable despite his immense talent and skillset, all because he can be knocked out by a sneeze and is facing a guy who sneezes A LOT. This should be Overeem’s fight to lose as he is better than Roy in every aspect of the game: striking, power, speed, athletic ability, strength, technique, whatever have you. But Roy eats cheeseburgers.

2ToN’s pick: Nelson via 1st round KO

Johny Hendricks (-350) vs Matt Brown (+290)

Well, another fight where the odds don’t really make a lot of sense. While Hendricks is a former welterweight champion and lost his title in a highly contested decision loss, Matt Brown is/was on an absolute tear. Before his loss to the eventual WW champion Robbie Lawler, Brown had won his last seven fights in a row, all by KO other than one fight, including an incredible performance of sheer will and grit vs Erick Silva, proving his nickname “The Immortal” really does fit him.

Both fighters are some of the most powerful strikers in the WW division as Matt Brown’s frenetic fighting style complements his power punches and nasty knees in the clinch. On the other hand Hendricks has the infamous left hand overhand that is essentially the welterweight version of the Hendo Bomb. Matt Brown absolutely loves a slobberknocker and will continually push the pace to Hendricks and see what happens. He does not care who you are, or what you have accomplished, he will bring the fight to you standing whether you like it or not.

Hendricks is more balanced in his fighting style and demeanor as compared to Brown, utilizing his strong wrestling base as he was a NCAA championship winning wrestler, to go with his ever improving boxing. As mentioned before, Hendricks has a devastating left overhand that has slain a couple of his past opponents. RIP. While Hendricks should be able to handle Brown’s initial onslaught and take Brown down during an exchange where Brown overextends himself by being super aggressive, I’m interested to see how Hendricks fights while facing that kind of pressure. When he fought Lawler twice, Lawler didn’t push the pace but didn’t allow Hendricks to take him down and impose his will on Lawler. In both fights Hendricks gassed and let Lawler back in the fight, eventually succumbing to a decision loss to Lawler. Despite that loss, the fights did showcase Hendricks’ increased ability to string together consistent 1-2 combos, instead of staying back and waiting to unleash his own Hendo Bomb. He hasn’t faced a striker as relentless as Matt Brown, and while Matt Brown may not be very good versus wrestlers and susceptible to submissions (almost all of his losses are by sub), he is not an easy task at all. If Hendricks thinks he can hurt Matt Brown, he’s got another thing coming. Brown relishes giving out punishment as he takes damage, which seems to only make him stronger and meaner.

Look, plain and simple this is how the fight SHOULD turn out. Matt Brown approaches Hendricks with no regard for his own well-being, raining wild punches and trying to get Hendricks in the clinch to destroy him with knees. That’s always Brown’s plan in every single fight, without hesitation. That is how he has become a force in the division. Combined with his determination, iron chin, and mean streak he can beat up anyone. At the same time, being so aggressive opens himself up to easy takedowns as well as leaving his body open to vicious shots. For whatever reason Brown does not have a great conditioned core and has occasionally been “stung” by body shots/kicks to the point where they actually hurt him badly (see fight vs Erick Silva). What is going to be the most crucial part of the fight for either person is how Hendricks reacts to the start of the match. Is he going to back up and succumb to the pressure? Is he going to use his strong wrestling base and strength (he is a big man power wise for WW) to take Brown down and end him via ground and pound or sub? Or will Hendricks stand and trade for a thrilling back and forth affair that could be named FOTY? I don’t know, but after reading Hendricks’ past comments and how he has currently been training in his camp, I have a feeling Hendricks wants to prove a point that he’s the true champion of the division still. He’s going to go to war with Brown and beat him at his own game. Can he do it? Can he slay the Immortal? Can he achieve something that’s never been done before, knocking out Brown on the feet? I can’t see it, but he definitely could sub him on the ground if given the chance. Just mark my words, Matt Brown is not going to give up. The first two minutes of this fight might be the best two minutes you have ever seen.

2ToN’s Pick: Hendricks by 2nd round RNC

Carla Esparza (-165) vs Joann Jedrzejczyk (+135)

This is the first title defense to be the champion of the 115 lb strawweight division in the UFC, and it is between two of the more exciting prospects in the division as well. Let’s just go ahead and call Joanna, JJ, okay? Or Jersey Chick, whatever floats your boat. Anyways, this is a classic matchup of the superior wrestler versus the nasty striker. Esparza is a world class wrestler in her own right as well as being very slick on the ground with her purple belt in BJJ. JJ is one of the FASTEST strikers I have had the pleasure of watching in MMA, and she is equally vicious and powerful as she is fast. The girl can hit your face five times in less than a second! She is an absolute stud on the feet, using very fast and clean 1-2 punch combos and finishing them off with a vicious body kick. She has already faced two wrestler/grapplers before the title fight vs Esparza, and dispatched both with vicious combinations en route to decision wins. One fight in particular was versus a highly touted 115 prospect in Claudia Gadelha, who is very big for 115 pounds. Gadelha took down JJ a couple times, trying to use her strength to stifle JJ’s strikes, only to get viciously countered by a punch that knocked Gadelha down momentarily. This helped JJ win a split decision over her. Having faced two similar strong grapplers, I like JJ’s chances versus the young Esparza.

Now, while Gadelha was a very strong test for JJ, she is not on the level of Esparza when it comes to pure wrestling. Esparza was an All American in college and has vastly improved her striking to go with fantastic takedowns and ground control. Ideally, she is going to avoid battling with JJ on the feet and try to keep her distance and wait for a mistake to get a single leg takedown and finish it on the ground as she did vs the dangerous Rose Namajunas to win the inaugural 115 pound title. She proved that she can take anyone to the ground and not care about your credentials as it pertains to ground game. Rose is a very deadly submission artist and could not even get close to notching a sub attempt on Esparza, eventually succumbing to a rear naked choke. Esparza also employed a very efficient ground and pound while holding her own dominant positions effectively without making a mistake and getting reversed/leaving herself open to submissions. She is definitely going to try and get JJ on the ground as much as possible because there is no way she wants to stand and face the lightning quick combinations of JJ.

This is really a tough fight to call as JJ has some decent takedown defense and can hold her own up the cage and in the clinch. Esparza is relentless in going for takedowns and is JJ’s biggest test grappling wise. JJ has been taken down a couple times before in her past few fights so there’s precedent there for Esparza. Despite getting taken down and laid on several times by Lima and Gadelha, JJ bounced back and basically won those fights solely off her incredible striking that hurt both women at various points of their battles. JJ can easily knock out Esparza in a five round fight if given the chance and give Esparza a tough test no matter what, but Esparza just seems best suited to be the champion in that division. She is too well balanced of a fighter with her strong grappling skills that can keep JJ off balance and unable to string together consistent combinations without the fear of a takedown. Esparza grinds her way to a five round win.

2Ton’s Pick: Esparza by decision

Anthony Pettis (-450) vs Rafael Dos Anjos (+360)

Another title fight back to back! This time, it is for the lightweight title between the current champion Pettis versus the now resurgent Dos Anjos. Anthony Pettis is by far and away one of the most talented strikers in the LW division, and trust me, this division is LOADED with talent. It is easily the hardest division in the UFC, and Pettis has proven himself to be up for the task, as he submitted both Benson Henderson to win the title and Gilbert Melendez during a title defense (Melendez’s first submission loss of his career). Not to mention Pettis’ infamous cage kick nuttiness of the aforementioned Henderson in WEC before the UFC took it over. The man is an exceptional striker with thunderous kicks and the crazy angles he takes are on a whole different level to the point it makes me wonder how the hell he pulls it off. He has multiple black belts in several fighting styles as well as a brown belt in BJJ, but his third dan black belt in Taekwondo and yellow rope in Capoeira are what pops out during his fights. The man will do anything if it means it will knock you flat out. Have you noticed I can’t stop talking about how awesome this guy is? Oh, you have? Well, okay.

Rafael Dos Anjos has reemerged as a serious contender in the LW division despite losing to the future champion KHABIB NURMAGOMEDOV (cough), and the reason for his recent success is his vastly improved striking game. He seems quicker and more refined, utilizing his quick leg kicks to destroy his opponent’s lead leg whenever necessary (see Nate Diaz) and improved footwork to better maximize his potential in getting the angles in and out as he prods his way around his opponent to potentially set up a takedown and use his black belt in BJJ. I mean going 8-1 after his split decision loss to the famed Tibau helps, but that’s not the point here. Dos Anjos has just simply evolved into a contender, molding his striking game and adding more tools to his arsenal to better match up versus the majority of the now crowded division. Do not sleep on Dos Anjos’ ability on the ground. I think it will be a big part of his gameplan as he faces Pettis’ variety of attacks. This is despite the fact that Pettis has an underrated guard; he is very active off his back on the ground. I mean, that’s how he got an armbar on Benson Henderson! Soooooo slick! THAT GUY IS AWESOME! Ahem.

This fight should be a very fun one to watch as both men are extremely willing to stand and throw a high volume of strikes, most of which can knock the other one out. The difference between the two is probably going to be Pettis’ power versus Dos Anjos’ speed. Dos Anjos has not only evolved as a striker but also as a technician inside the cage. He possesses strong fight IQ as he knows where he is at in relation to his opponent as he moves around the octagon. He can get a good feel for his range and distance needed to best fight his opponent. Dos Anjos is going to need to utilize that kind of fight IQ versus the swarming Pettis, finding his range and keeping himself out of harm’s way, possibly biding his time until he finds an opening to shoot in for the takedown and try for an upset via submission. Being able to stay away from Pettis for five rounds is a hell of a task to ask out of Dos Anjos. Truth be told, the only real threat I can see at legitimately stopping Pettis’ unorthodox fighting style is Khabib Nurmagomedov, as his Sambo based wrestling can stifle Pettis’ plethora of strikes, and his strength to hold down Pettis will come in handy. But that’s later down the road after Khabib shows Cowboy Cerrone a thing or two in May. You gotta go Pettis here and hope for the best if you’re going to roster Dos Anjos. Best case scenario, besides the obvious in a win, is to get a couple rounds out of Dos Anjos and both men do decide to stand and trade. Dos Anjos would then be able to rack up enough significant strikes to possibly pay off his low price on some sites. Again, tough task to ask out of him.

2ToN’s Pick: Pettis by 4th round KO