This column highlights five past bouts from fighters competing on this weekend’s UFC 185. These fights represent some of the highest moments in the careers of their respective participants, and should serve to pique your interest heading into the event. The list of potential candidates for these five slots was incredibly long, which gives hope that UFC 185 will be an action-packed event. Due to the sheer volume of fights that could have made this list, there are some obvious omissions. Lightweight champion Anthony Pettis is not present, nor is his Saturday night foe Rafael dos Anjos. Former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks and MMA action-hero Matt Brown didn’t make the list either, as you’re already very familiar with them. If you wanted to see one fights from those individuals, my recommendations would be: Anthony Pettis vs. Benson Henderson – WEC 53 Rafael dos Anjos vs. Terry Etim – UFC 112 Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler – UFC 171 Matt Brown vs. Erick Silva – UFC Fight Night 40 Now, onto the list: 1. Carla Esparza vs. Rose Namajunas – TUF 20 Finale Upcoming Bout: Carla Esparza vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
I think people really forget how dominant Esparza was over Namajunas to become the first ever 115lb champion in the UFC. Much like in this bout, the hype was squarely behind her opponent, and Esparza wasn’t getting the credit she likely deserved. Also like this bout, Esparza holds a significant wrestling advantage (something she likely has against any woman at strawweight), and came in with a smart gameplan. Rather than resulting in a boring 25-minute decision however, ‘The Cookie Monster’ made openings and went hard for the finish. With Namajunas being a more dangerous and accomplished submission artist than Jedrzejczyk, we may very well be in store for a repeat of that performance.
2. Henry Cejudo vs. Dustin Kimura – UFC on Fox 13 Upcoming Bout: Henry Cejudo vs. Chris Cariaso
There’s no doubt that Henry Cejudo is on the fast track here. In just his second UFC bout (and first at flyweight) he’s taking on a man who challenged for the the 125lb title in his last outing, and he’s a massive favorite (-650 at 5Dimes as of this writing). If you’ve seen him up to this point in his career, it’s hard to argue. Cejudo is one of the most accomplished wrestlers to ever compete in MMA, and yet he dominated his UFC debut without a takedown. His boxing is far beyond what any other Olympic wrestling gold medallist has ever displayed in MMA, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a fighter who can either take and hold him down, or stop his takedowns, should he choose to explore that avenue in his fights. It’s tough to say that Cejudo should be competing for a belt if he beats Cariaso, but if he looks as impressive as he did against Kimura, who would be a more compelling challenge for Demetrious Johnson?
3. Sergio Pettis vs. Dillard Pegg – RFA 8 Upcoming Bout: Sergio Pettis vs. Ryan Benoit
On a fight card with two title fights, Johny Hendricks vs. Matt Brown, Alistair Overeem vs. Roy Nelson, and Henry Cejudo finally fighting at flyweight, Sergio Pettis taking on Ryan Benoit could very easily turn out to be fight of the night. Here’s what Pettis did last time he fought at 125lbs (back in June 2013). It took him all of 51 seconds to finish poor Dillard Pegg. That finishing power has been noticeably absent from the younger Pettis since moving up to bantamweight, and hopefully a return to 125 can produce the exciting fighter we had all hoped for when the UFC signed the youngster. Saturday’s opponent, Benoit, is the perfect foil for excitement as you will see shortly…
4. Ryan Benoit vs. Anthony Birchak – MFC 37 Upcoming Bout: Ryan Benoit vs. Sergio Pettis
This was my favorite fight outside of the major promotions in 2013, and ended up being a contender for my fight of the year. It showed Benoit’s abilities as a striker, wrestler, and grappler against a bigger fighter. Even though he lost, it was hard not to gain a ton of respect for Benoit watching this bout. Pettis offers more on the feet than Birchak does, but Benoit usually prefers to keep his fights standing so that shouldn’t trouble the Texan at all.
5. Larissa Pacheco vs. Irene Aldana – Jungle Fight 63 Upcoming Bout: Larissa Pacheco vs. Germaine de Randamie
Normally I’m not the biggest fan of women’s MMA, but the two fights on UFC 185 should be fun. Larissa Pacheco brings an aggressive style to the cage the forces her opponents to match her pace or get overwhelmed. Germaine de Randamie doesn’t fight at the same pace, but her more technical striking may be able to slow Pacheco’s advances like Aldana was able to do at some points in this bout. In the end, Pacheco was simply too much for Aldana at that point in her career. This is a rematch I wouldn’t mind seeing if Aldana does get the call to come to the UFC, as I think her improvements would make her a much more difficult fight for Pacheco, as I expect de Randamie to be on Saturday night.