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UFC 185 Observer Picks & Preview: Anthony Pettis, Johny Hendricks, Alistair Overeem, more!

UFC 185

By Josh Nason, Wrestling Observer

Tonight’s UFC 185 marks the beginning of what the promotion is calling their second season, a concept they kicked off with the “The Time Is Now” campaign. If we get an injury free “Welcome To The Show” run, we’ll be talking about another great series of events, kicked off by Saturday’s show in Dallas, TX.

This isn’t a must-buy show, but if you plunk down the money, you won’t be disappointed. When it comes to PPV, that’s what you really want at the end of the night.

Our panel:

Jack Encarnacao (21-9 | .700) Sherdog Rewind host, The Lapsed Fan podcast co-chair, Steve Austin impersonator

Mike Sempervive (20-10 | .666) Wrestling Observer Live co-host | Big Audio Nightmare

Steve Juon (19-11 | .633)AngryMarks founder, MMA Mania writer

David Bixenspan (18-12 | .600)
 Figure Four Weekly writer, Observer Daily Update writer

Front Row Brian (18-12 | .600)
 MMA newsbreaker, Twitter personality, podcast host

- John Pollock (18-12 | .600) Fight Network personality, Live Audio Wrestling co-host, The MMA Report host

Dave Meltzer (18-12 | .600)
 Wrestling Observer founder & writer 

Todd Martin (17-13 | .566)
 Weekly Bryan Alvarez guest | LA Times | Sherdog

- Josh Nason (17-13 | .566)
 Wrestling Observer digital media and content guy, WON Twitter enabler

Mike Sawyer (15-15 | .500)
Tough Talk MMA, 2014 picks panel champion 


Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis (18-2) vs. Rafael dos Anjos (23-7)

After missing more than a year due to injury and filming TUF, we get a second Pettis fight just three months after his return. What a treat! Despite battling injuries in his UFC tenure, he’s finished four straight opponents within two rounds and if healthy, could be the dominant champion many expect he could be. A successful title defense here will put him in line to defend against the winner of Donald Cerrone vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov in the fall.

At 30, RDA gets the reward for a remarkable mid-career UFC run. He’s won eight of his last nine and three straight. He knocked out Benson Henderson, punked Nate Diaz and outlasted Donald Cerrone with his only loss to Nurmagomedov. A personable challenger, he’s a live dog but a considerable underdog. He’s only been finished twice and the last time was due to a freak jaw injury. This could go the distance, but if Pettis continues his surge, it won’t.

Pettis (favorite): Nason, Meltzer, Bix, Sempervive, Pollock, Juon, FRB, Encarnacao, Sawyer, Martin

Women’s Strawweight champion Carla Esparza (10-2) vs. Joanna Jędrzejczyk (8-0)

I feel like this fight has gained a little more interest in the last week or so, but to say this is less than anticipated is fairly accurate. Esparza won the title by submitting Internet darling Rose Namajunas in December, her fifth straight pro victory, and has spent her months since then having to see fellow strawweight Paige VanZant zoom past her on the popularity scale.

MMA Junkie posted a funny video of fighters attempting to pronounce Double-J’s last name (Yen-Dre-Jick) and she’s been having fun with it all week. What’s not fun is getting punching in the face by her mitts. The 27-year-old is 2-0 in the Octagon and is coming off a December split decision win over another Internet darling Claudia Gadelha. She’s a Muay Thai ace with over 60 wins and six titles to her credit, and Dana White loves her.

The game plan for the champ is simple: get it to the ground.

Esparza (slight favorite): Nason, Meltzer, Sempervive, Pollock, Juon, FRB, Sawyer, Martin
Double J: Bix, Encarnacao

Jonathan Hendricks (16-3) vs. Matthew Brown (19-12)

If this fight turns out to boring, I am going to crawl in bed and be depressed for a week. The former UFC welterweight kingpin competes for the first time since losing his title and came into this fight in tremendous shape. A pro athlete taking care of himself and eating right in his prime? Imagine that! Hendricks usually fights twice in a calendar year and a win here could make the next fight a shot at the gold.

The 34-year-old Brown has been out of action since dropping a decision to Robbie Lawler last July, a loss that snapped a seven fight win streak that brought him to the doorstep of getting a title shot. Before that loss, he had won five in a row via T/KO. A win here puts him back in that conversation and a defeat simply puts him main eventing a Fox Sports One show in Cleveland or something.

Hendricks (favorite): Nason, Meltzer, Bix, Sempervive, Pollock, Juon, Encarnacao, Sawyer, Martin
Brown: FRB

Alistair Overeem (38-14-0-1) vs. Roy Nelson (20-10)

If you don’t think this is a fun fight, perhaps you’ve been hit too hard by a UFC heavyweight. The 34-year-old Reem is coming off a first round KO of Stefan Struve, his second win in his last three. He has shown a penchant for looking up at the lights in recent years (Bigfoot Silva, Travis Browne, Ben Rothwell) and Nelson has shown an equal ability to put his opponents in that position.

The 38-year-old Nelson has fallen on hard times in the last few years, a loser in three of his last four (Stipe Miocic, Daniel Cormier, Mark Hunt). In the Hunt loss, Nellie was knocked out for the first time since Andrei Arlovski turned out his lights in 2008. The last time Nelson didn’t win by T/KO? 2007. That’s a streak of 11 straight wins by punching someone so viciously that they’re donezo. Kaput. Finished.

The guy that takes more punishment than anyone (Nelson) vs. the guy who tends to have a weak chin (Overeem) seems like an obvious pick. Or does it?

Overeem (slight favorite): Nason, Pollock, Juon, FRB, Encarnacao
Nelson: Meltzer, Bix, Sempervive, Sawyer, Martin

Henry Cejudo (7-0) vs. Chris Cariaso (17-6)

Breaking news: Cejudo made weight! The undefeated Olympic freestyle wrestling gold medalist’s path to a title shot continues, the likelihood increased because of the lack of challengers to Demetrious Johnson. He still has to win though and a former title challenger to Johnson stands in his way. The 33-year-old has actually been in the UFC for longer than I thought (2011) and is 7-4 in the Octagon. He hasn’t competed since his submission loss to Johnson in September 2014.

Cejudo (huge favorite): Nason, Bix, Meltzer, Pollock, Sempervive, Juon, FRB, Encarnacao, Sawyer, Martin

As usual, Dave Meltzer has you covered for fight night coverage. Ham and pineapple on the pizza, please.