Las Vegas, Nevada – Two world titles are on the line when the UFC® returns to the American Airlines Center in Dallas on Saturday, March 14 as lightweight champion Anthony “Showtime” Pettis defends his title for the second time when he meets No. 1 contender Rafael dos Anjos and newly-crowned women’s strawweight champion Carla Esparza makes her first title defense against top contender Joanna Jedrzejczyk. The last UFC event in Dallas in 2014 saw Johny Hendricks defeat Robbie Lawler to claim the UFC welterweight title in front of a sold out crowd.
In his first title defense at UFC 181, Pettis (18-2, fighting out of Milwaukee, Wis.) submitted Gilbert Melendez to retain his title, capping off a stellar year that saw him sign with Reebok and become the first UFC athlete to ever grace the cover of the iconic Wheaties box. Known for his flashy fight style that’s seen him finish his last four opponents, Pettis is looking to further establish himself as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
Riding a three-fight win streak that includes victories over Nate Diaz and former champ Benson Henderson, dos Anjos (23-7, fighting out of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) hopes to become only the third man to ever defeat Pettis. A 17-fight veteran of the Octagon®, dos Anjos can add his name to the record books by becoming the first Brazilian UFC lightweight champion.
The co-main event will feature Esparza (11-2, fighting out of Irvine, Calif.) in her first title defense since becoming the inaugural UFC women’s strawweight champion by defeating Rose Namajunas last month. Esparza will look to use her high-level wrestling to combat the striking prowess of undefeated No. 1 contender Jedrzejczyk (8-0, fighting out of Olsztyn, Poland). A five-time Muay Thai world champion, Jedrzejczyk has never lost in the Octagon, compiling victories over 12th-ranked Juliana Lima and 2nd-ranked Claudia Gadelha to earn the shot at Esparza.
In addition, former UFC welterweight champion and Dallas resident Johny Hendricks (16-3, fighting out of Dallas, Texas) will meet sixth-ranked contender Matt Brown (21-12, fighting out of Columbus, Ohio) in an exciting bout guaranteed to produce fireworks. Both men were involved in Fight of the Year candidates with current champion Robbie Lawler in 2014 and are hoping to secure another crack at the champ with an impressive win in Texas.
Also, ninth-ranked heavyweight Roy Nelson (21-10, fighting out of Las Vegas, Nev.) will collide with No. 11 Alistair Overeem (38-14, 1 NC, fighting out of Amsterdam, The Netherlands). The two fan favorites have no shortage of finishing power, as they’ve combined for 53 total finishes – 29 knockouts and 24 submissions. With the division wide open, these heavy hitters hope to take one step closer to a UFC title shot.
Other bouts for UFC 185 include:
· The Ultimate Fighter season 9 winner Ross Pearson (18-8, 1 NC, fighting out of San Diego, Calif. by way of Sunderland, England) and Sam Stout (21-10-1, fighting out of London, Ontario, Canada) meet in a battle of lightweight strikers.
· Brother of main eventer Anthony Pettis, Sergio Pettis (12-1, fighting out of Milwaukee, Wisc.) moves to the flyweight division to take on Dallas’ own Ryan Benoit (7-3, fighting out of Dallas, Texas).
· Former title challenger and ninth-ranked Chris Cariaso (17-6, fighting out of Tucson, Ariz.) collides with Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo (7-0, fighting out of Phoenix, Ariz.) in a flyweight bout.
· The Ultimate Fighter: Nations winner Elias Theodorou (10-0, fighting out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada) takes on Texas’ Roger Narvaez (7-1, fighting out of Corpus Christi, Texas) in a middleweight matchup.