Leading up to UFC 185 in Dallas, the UFC’s lightweight and women’s strawweight belts seemed like they were in good hands. Lightweight champ Anthony Pettis was being hailed as the long-awaited king that had finally claimed his throne, while Carla Esparza had won her 115 pound title by cutting through an Ultimate Fighter tournament with ease.
But if there’s one lesson that must be learned in mixed martial arts, it’s that no champion is ever truly safe (Ronda Rousey exluded). Both Esparza and Pettis went down on Saturday night, and they went down hard. Let’s take a look at new champions Rafael dos Anjos and Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
From the very start of their fight it was clear that Rafael dos Anjos planned to put Anthony Pettis into a pressure cooker fight, and that’s exactly what he managed to do. From the opening bell dos Anjos backed Pettis into the cage and unloaded with a neverending stream of combinations, rocking him with a shot in the first round that left the champion effectively blind in one eye for the rest of the fight.
From there dos Anjos mixed his strikes up with effective takedowns and grueling wrestling. Pettis stayed game on the bottom, throwing his legs up to attempt submissions. But Rafael shrugged those off and continued to work away, leaving Anthony Pettis a mess by the end of the fight. It was a one sided beatdown reflected in the unanimous 50-45 scorecards handed in by the judges.
As if routing a pound for pound great wasn’t impressive enough on it’s own, it was later reported that Rafael dos Anjos had fought with a partially torn MCL – an injury sustained weeks out from the fight that prevented him from training his wrestling. If this is what dos Anjos looks like at such a disadvantage, it should be exciting to see him with both legs working properly.
He’ll need to stay sharp – the UFC’s lightweight division is a murderer’s row of tough competitors who are constantly adapting to take out the latest ‘unbeatable’ fighter at the top of the totem pole. Next up for Rafael dos Anjos: the winner of the Donald Cerrone / Khabib Nurmagomedov fight on May 23rd at UFC 187.
The prevailing attitude of the Carla Esparza vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk fight was that Esparza’s wrestling would prove too much for the muay thai focused Jedrzejczyk. But Joanna flipped that narrative on it’s head, instead stuffing takedown attempt after takedown attempt while punishing Carla mercilessly with short elbows and pinpoint accurate strikes on every shoot.
By the end of the first round it was clear the strawweight champion was in trouble. Joanna Jedrzejczyk is a Muay Thai champion with over 80 fights and she used that experience to keep Esparza on the outside where she was picked apart from every angle. The end of the fight came mercifully in the dying seconds of round two as Jedrzejczyk bullied Esparza into the cage and opened up with a barrage of punches so fierce they may have been the only thing keeping Esparza upright.
With the women’s strawweight division just kicking off, Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s next opponent still hasn’t stepped out of the pack. But there are already some promising contenders in Joanne Calderwood and Jessica Penne. And if Saturday night was anything to go by, there are still a lot of dark horse fighters emerging from the shadows ready to prove their worth.
Full UFC 185 Results:
Rafael dos Anjos def. Anthony Pettis (c) via Decision (unanimous) (50-45, 50-45, 50-45)
Joanna Jedrzejczyk def. Carla Esparza (c) via KO (punches) at 4:17 of round 2
Johny Hendricks def. Matt Brown via Decision (unanimous) (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Alistair Overeem def. Roy Nelson via Decision (unanimous) (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Henry Cejudo def. Chris Cariaso via Decision (unanimous) (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Ross Pearson def. Sam Stout via KO (punches) at 1:33 of round 2
Elias Theodorou def. Roger Narvaez via TKO (punches) at 4:07 of round 2
Beneil Dariush def. Daron Cruickshank via Submission (rear-naked choke) at 2:48 of round 2
Jared Rosholt def. Josh Copeland via TKO (punches) at 3:12 of round 3
Ryan Benoit def. Sergio Pettis via TKO (punches) at 1:34 of round 2
Joseph Duffy def. Jake Lindsey via TKO (head kick and punches) at 1:47 of round 1
Germaine de Randamie def. Larissa Pacheco via TKO (punches) at 2:02 of round 2