Anthony Pettis is set to defend his UFC lightweight championship at the American Airlines Arena in Dallas against Rafael dos Anjos, fresh off a dominating win over Nate Diaz, and Carla Esparza will defend her newly minted women’s strawweight belt against the Polish striker Joanna Jędrzejczyk at UFC 185 on Saturday night.

From top to bottom, UFC 185 is probably the most stacked card that the UFC has put on in 2015 so far. In my opinion, it’s a card that features five fights with title implications (two of which are  obvious because they’re championship fights).

Let’s go through the entire main card because I don’t think there’s a fight on there that shouldn’t be mentioned.

Is Cejudo the next big thing?

Possibly. But before we answer that question, we need to answer whether or not Henry Cejudo can comfortably make the 125-pound flyweight limit. Before he joined the UFC, he had trouble making that weight and the UFC had him move up to bantamweight for his promotional debut at UFC on Fox: dos Santos vs. Miocic.

That question will be answer at the weigh ins on Friday. Assuming he does make weight and he doesn’t look like he’s going to pass out on the scale, then yes. Henry Cejudo is the next big thing and it won’t be long until he challenges Demetrious Johnson for the flyweight title. He’s won a gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in freestyle wrestling and has developed a decent striking game since transitioning into MMA.

Chris Cariaso is a huge test for Cejudo. Cariaso lost to Johnson in his last fight when the champion locked in a kimura in the second round, but Cariaso had won three consecutive fights before that and is currently ranked tenth in the official UFC rankings. If Cejudo puts on another impressive performance, his rise up the ladder won’t take long at all.

Overeem’s last run

I think it’s safe to say that many fans had higher expectations of Alistair Overeem when he come over to the UFC from Strikeforce. He’s had an up-and-down run in the promotion with a 3-3 record including (T)KO losses to Bigfoot Silva, Travis Browne, and Ben Rothwell. In December, he bounced back from the Rothwell loss with a KO finish over Stefan Struve and probably saved his job in the process. In the UFC’s heavyweight division, it won’t take many more performances like that to combine with name recognition of Overeem to earn him the title shot we all expected him to get in the first place. If he can string together four consecutive wins over worthy opponents, it’ll happen.

The winner fights Rory or Robbie

That’s what the result will be when Johny Hendricks takes on Matt Brown this Saturday. Hendricks is probably more likely to receive another shot at the title because of his past performance against Robbie Lawler and the fact that he almost already had that immediate rematch. Even if Rory wins, I doubt Lawler gets an immediate rematch (depending on how close the fight is) and that would open it up for Hendricks to get another crack at it.

Brown would get the shot if he beats Hendricks because one, him and Lawler already put on one of the best fights of the year in 2014 and two, because a win over Hendricks is a win that puts you right back in the mix. The winner of Brown and Hendricks will get the next shot barring some ridiculously close decision between Lawler and MacDonald.

The champs are here

Carla Esparza and Anthony Pettis both have something to prove. For Esparza, it’s proving to fans and to the promotion that she can put on as impressive performances as Ronda Rousey, the other women’s champion in the UFC and one of the top draws in the sport. For Pettis, it’s proving that he can become one of the the faces of the company.

Comparing Esparza to Rousey is unfair. There might not be another female fighter like Rousey for generations to come, but that’s not going to stop Esparza from trying to show fans that she can put people away in her own right. She’s going to have her hands full with Joanna Jędrzejczyk. Jędrzejczyk hails from Olsztyn, Poland and is undefeated in her MMA career. She’s probably one of the best strikers within that division and has the chance to put Esparza away.

Pettis has been nothing short of phenomenal in his young reign as the lightweight champion. After submitting Benson Henderson to win the belt, he followed that up with another submission win over Gilbert Melendez. Both are black belts in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He’s already making a quick dash for UFC stardom and a finish over Rafael dos Anjos would catapult him into being one of the most marketable fighters on the promotion’s roster.

About The Author

Blane Ferguson
Associate Editor/Senior Staff Writer

Blane can trace his MMA roots, like many others, to the finale of the first Ultimate Fighter season between Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin. After watching that incredible fight and cleaning the local Blockbuster of any recorded UFC pay-per-views they had, Blane was hooked on watching the sport and he carried that passion with him to the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. Blane is a four-year broadcasting veteran of ASU's campus radio including a founder and co-host of the station's combat sports show, The Final Round.