UFC 185 is the sole pay-per-view offering for the month of March, but it looks to be an incredibly enticing card. In the main event at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas is a lightweight championship bout between Anthony Pettis and Rafael dos Anjos. The stacked main card features two title fights and every fighter on the broadcast except for one is ranked.
Before we get into the main event, let's take a brief look at each of the main card fights below it. The UFC 185 main card airs live on pay-per-view at 10 PM ET/7 PM PT, with prelims airing on FX (not Fox Sports 1) at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT.
Esparza went through the TUF 20 route to become the UFC's inaugural women's 115 lbs champion. The special season of the long running reality show pitted 16 fighters against each other with the finale doubling as the title fight. Esparza didn't thrill many fans with her performances, failing to get a finish in two of her three wins leading up to the final. However, against the favored Rose Namajunas, who finished everyone in her road to the title fight, Esparza dominated her and choked her out to become the new champion.
Jedrzejczyk has been able to keep her undefeated record intact in the UFC, winning both of her fights inside the Octagon by decision. Joanna, who came into the UFC on the heels of a KO over Rosi Sexton, beat Juliana Lima in her debut and then pulled off a moderate surprise when she earned a split decision over the heavily favored Claudia Gadelha last December. Her ability to counter-wrestle and work her strong Muay Thai game was a major factor in her upset win, and she aims to do the same against the champion tonight.
It's been one hell of a series of title fights for "Bigg Rigg". He earned a title shot with a narrow win over Carlos Condit, lost his title fight in controversial fashion to Georges St-Pierre, captured the vacant belt over Robbie Lawler in March 2014, then lost the belt in the rematch. All of his fights went the distance and all were back-and-forth from start to finish. Hendricks hasn't been able to land that vicious left hand and get a KO for more than 2 years, and he faces a man in Matt Brown who has never been finished with strikes.
"The Immortal" had one of MMA's greatest comeback stories. He went from nearly out of the UFC to a 7-0 run stretched from 2012-2014, and he was one more win away from an unlikely title shot against Robbie Lawler last July. Brown not only missed weight, but he lost by unanimous decision to put an end to his winning streak. Matt was moved to a fight with Hendricks after his February fight with Tarec Saffiedine fell through. Brown's style of constant pressure and high volume of strikes, plus his general toughness, has made him one of the toughest outs in all of the welterweight division.
"Big Country" was knocked out by a big uppercut from Mark Hunt last September, marking his first ever KO loss in the UFC and only his 2nd in his career. The granite jaw was finally cracked and it dropped Nelson to 1-3 in his last 4. He's switched up camps for this one, choosing to train at American Top Team in Florida, who are red hot at the moment with Robbie Lawler leading the charge as the welterweight champion. Nelson is theoretically inferior to Overeem everywhere, but one big right hand can change everything and give Nelson the W.
Overeem had a winning record in 2014 but as usual it was an uneven set of fights for the former Strikeforce heavyweight champion. He dominated Frank Mir at UFC 169 and then stopped Stefan Struve in December, but sandwiched in between was a disappointing 1st round TKO loss to Ben Rothwell. If Overeem wants to give it one last run at the UFC heavyweight title, this is surely his last chance.
The Olympic gold medalist in freestyle wrestling has had his problems making weight in the past, and it delayed his UFC debut when he became ill cutting weight against Scott Jorgensen at UFC 177. Cejudo went up to bantamweight for his 2nd crack and impressed with his dispatching of Dustin Kimura. He chose to box Kimura up instead of go for the takedowns and showcase what made him an Olympic champion, and after making weight on Friday, hopes are high that the undefeated Cejudo can take that step towards becoming a 125 lbs contender.
Cariaso was a long time bantamweight before he made the drop to flyweight in 2012. His losses have been only to the top 10 of the division, including his title fight against Demetrious Johnson at UFC 178. Chris earned the shot through a combination of a 3 fight winning streak and just a general lack of other challengers for Mighty Mouse. Having been easily dispatched by the champ, Cariaso returns to a role of more a gatekeeper who can be a stern test for up-and-comers like Cejudo.