Two title fights, two heavyweight brawls and a Fight of the Year candidate in Hendricks vs. Brown await at UFC 185 in Dallas on Saturday night. Let’s break down the fights, Draft Kings Playbook style.
Anthony Pettis ($12200) vs. Rafael dos Anjos ($7600)
Rafael dos Anjos has been on a nice run in the UFC, with consecutive victories over Nate Diaz, Benson Henderson and Jason High. But when he steps into the Octagon against Anthony Pettis, he’ll soon realize there is a major difference in speed between the champion and the last three combatants he has beat. Pettis has all the athleticism in the world and the fight IQ to match. Pettis will use his speed, movement and reach to baffle dos Anjos and eventually knocking him out and retaining his title.
Fight Prediction: Pettis by KO/TKO
Carla Esparza ($10500) vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk ($9000)
I wonder if Joanna Jedrzejczyk has ever seen the film “Groundhog Day.” Because she’s about to live it. In her last fight against Claudia Gadelha, Jedrzejczyk was taken down early in each round. UFC strawweight champion Carla Esparza has plenty more of that for her in their UFC 185 title fight. Esparza has also shown that she is a better striker than advertised, and she will have a speed advantage. Esparza will score takedowns, wear Jedrzejczyk down with ground and pound, and eventually submit her.
Fight Prediction: Esparza via Submission
Johny Hendricks ($11700) vs. Matt Brown ($7800)
I think this is a bad matchup for Hendricks and here’s why: Matt Brown is very good at defending takedowns. Before his loss to Robbie Lawler, Brown rattled off seven straight wins. He was not taken down in any of those fights. Add to that his reach advantage, intense striking and fast pace, and it all spells doom for Hendricks. Hendricks eats a lot of punches but has never been finished. Still, I think Brown will be the first to put away Hendricks, as he will be able to get inside and work his clinch game, landing elbows and knees in what should be an amazing fight.
Fight Prediction: Brown by KO/TKO
Alistair Overeem ($11100) vs. Roy Nelson ($8400)
Overeem saved himself from getting cut with his KO win over Stefan Struve at UFC on FOX 13. Before that he was knocked out in his three of his previous four fights, the lone win coming against an uninspired Frank Mir. Nelson has lost three of his last four, but when he lands that big right hand, more often than not his opponents hit the deck. Nelson will light up Overeem with one of those in the first round, putting Overeem to sleep and his UFC career in jeopardy.
Fight Prediction: Nelson by KO/TKO
Henry Cejudo ($12400) vs. Chris Cariaso ($7100)
Before Henry Cejudo attempts to beat Chris Cariaso, he’ll first have to beat himself. Cejudo has been his own worst enemy, failing to make weight in multiple promotions. Cejudo will try yet again to make 125, and if he does he should have his way with Cariaso. Cejudo won olympic gold in wrestling back in 2008 at the age of 21. He’s undefeated as a pro and still getting better. Cariaso is game enough to take this the distance, but it will end with Cejudo getting his hand raised.
Fight Prediction: Cejudo by decision
Ross Pearson ($11800) vs. Sam Stout ($7700)
There was a time when Sam Stout could hang with some of the best UFC lightweights, but those days are seemingly over. It’s been a rough ride since Stout knocked out Yves Edwards back at UFC 131, going just 3-4 with no finishes. Pearson is coming off a loss to Al Iaquinta, but can remain relevant with a win here. Look for Pearson to finish Stout early in this one and get back on the winning track.
Fight Prediction: Pearson by KO/TKO
Elias Theodorou ($11700) vs. Roger Narvaez ($7800)
Theodorou has had a fairly easy time in his first two UFC fights since winning TUF Nations. Narvaez got knocked out by Pat Cummins in his UFC debut, but came back strong with a solid performance against Luke Barnatt last November. While this one will likely be a closer bout than the salaries would indicate, Theodorou keeps a fast pace, lands a lot of strikes and can get Narvaez to the ground. For a salary as high as Theodorou’s you should expect a finish, but I think Narvaez will take him to the final bell.
Fight Prediction: Theodorou by decision
Daron Cruickshank ($10600) vs. Beneil Dariush ($8900)
Cruickshank is one of the most dynamic strikers in the UFC. He’s fast, explosive and a ton of fun to watch. Dariush is slick on the ground with five of his nine wins coming by way of submission. Statistically speaking, they are very similar in strikes landed per minute, takedowns per 15 minutes and defense. If Cruickshank can keep the fight standing I think he’ll land more, earning a decision victory in the process.
Fight Prediction: Cruickshank by decision
Jared Rosholt ($11400) vs. Josh Copeland ($8100)
Jared Rosholt is a mountain of a man and former NCAA division I All-American wrestler. He’s coming off a loss to Alexey Oleinik last November, but prior to that he won his first three UFC fights. Copeland dropped his UFC debut to Ruslan Magomedov, the first loss of his pro career. Rosholt out-struck his first three opponents and was also able to take them down. He’ll do the same here — stay busy and get the fight to the ground, where he will do enough to earn a decision win.
Fight Prediction: Rosholt by decision