Can Rafael dos Anjos spring the upset? | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Anthony Pettis, the stage is once again yours.
Pettis will defend the Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight crown against surging Brazilian contender Rafael dos Anjos in the UFC 185 main event on Saturday at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. The champion will enter the cage as a significant favorite in the minds of most.
Operating out of the Roufusport camp in Milwaukee, Pettis has rattled off five straight wins, four of them finishes. The 28-year-old last appeared at UFC 181 in December, when he became the first man to submit former Strikeforce titleholder Gilbert Melendez, doing the honors with a second-round guillotine choke. One of MMA’s most lethal offensive fighters, Pettis has secured 15 of his 18 career victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission.
Dos Anjos has posted seven wins in his past eight outings. The 30-year-old Rafael Cordeiro protégé last competed at UFC on Fox 13 in December, when he took a lopsided decision from “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 5 winner Nate Diaz at the US Airways Center in Phoenix. Dos Anjos has compiled a strong 12-5 record since arriving in the UFC in November 2008, including wins over Benson Henderson and Donald Cerrone.
Sherdog.com touched base with a number of professional fighters, trainers and MMA personalities to gauge their opinions on the UFC 185 headliner:
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Matt Serra: I think dos Anjos is a threat, but I give it to Pettis. He’s improving. With each fight, you see different weapons. Look at the guys he’s submitted. He’s submitting guys who don’t get submitted, with Gil and with what he did with Benson. He’s just looking like a monster, and I think he’s going to be difficult to beat; and I don’t think dos Anjos has his number.
Josh Barnett: I think that Pettis is going to come out and Korean taekwondo box, and his “kiai” is going to be so high-pitched and crazy-sounding that it’s going to explode dos Anjos’ eardrums and win by default.
Urijah Faber: I think Pettis is going to come away with it. Dos Anjos is looking great, but I think the dynamic style of Pettis is just going to be too much for him. In my opinion, the most creative and exciting fighter in the UFC is Pettis. He’s got a solid ground game, and he’s got those incredible kicks and pinpoint punches.
Carla Esparza: Pettis wins by KO in round two.
Mike Ciesnolevicz: I didn’t think Pettis would beat Henderson or Melendez in his last two fights. I was particularly impressed that he submitted them both. Dos Anjos has the Brazilian jiu-jitsu advantage in this fight, but that’s it. He doesn’t have the wrestling to get Pettis down and keep him down. Pettis should be able to force a standup fight and score a TKO stoppage.
Keith Berry: Pettis wins by second-round submission or TKO. I see the first round as a feeling-out process and then he finds his rhythm.
Jason Dent: I won’t pick against Pettis again, that’s for sure. He is so well-rounded it’s scary. Not sure I see anyone taking his belt anytime in the near future. Only way Dos Anjos wins is if he is throwing bombs and somehow perfectly clips Pettis. Pettis will win, no matter if it ends with a KO, a submission or somehow makes it to the judges. I see Pettis being victorious.
Joe Duarte: I believe this fight is going to be a barnburner. I’m going to bet on the underdog and go with Dos Anjos since Nam Phan is most likely going to pick Pettis.
Nam Phan: Pettis wins.
Cody Gibson: Pettis has looked damn near unbeatable in his last couple of fights. Even when he faces strong wrestlers who try to neutralize him, he is patient and waits for his chances. Dos Anjos has really resurrected his career. He has solid striking, power, good wrestling and great Brazilian jiu-jitsu. With that said, I just don’t see a way dos Anjos beats him unless he lands a KO punch. Stylistically, I see this fight remaining on the feet, and I don’t see anyone at 155 pounds beating Pettis in a kickboxing match. Pettis wins by decision.
Robert Drysdale: Pettis wins by decision.
Zack Makovsky: Dos Anjos will start strong by putting the pressure on Pettis, but Pettis is just too sharp and will slowly turn the tide. Pettis will dominate late in the fight -- maybe he gets a late finish, but I’m going to say unanimous decision.
Jeff Hougland: Pettis wins by TKO in the second round. A body kick hurts dos Anjos, and Pettis finishes him off with ground-and-pound.
J.J. Ambrose: Pettis is the man. I can’t bet against that guy again; he’s the best lightweight in the world. Pettis wins via spectacular finish in the third.
Mitch Clarke: I’m picking Pettis by TKO in round two.
Colton Smith: Styles make fights, and this one is a no-brainer. Pettis will pick dos Anjos apart en route to a TKO victory in the third to retain his status as the lightweight kingpin.
John Gunderson: Dos Anjos has been doing a great job and has been beating some quality opponents, but Pettis’ standup game will expose the difference between the two. Pettis wins by KO in the second.
Yves Edwards: I don’t think anybody has a chance of beating Pettis until Khabib Nurmagomedov fights him, and I don’t even know if he can do it. That young man is special.
Al Iaquinta: Although I think dos Anjos presents a lot of problems for Pettis early on, it will be the champion that gets the victory.
Kyle Kingsbury: Pettis wins.
Michael Guymon: I like both guys, but I’m going with my boy Pettis.
Ray Elbe: Dos Anjos has been on a tear, but I’m not sure he’s beating Pettis. My prediction is the Duke Roufus prodigy stuffs the takedown for a TKO victory.
Ed Herman: I’ve got to go with Pettis. He’s a pretty amazing kid and surprises me every time.
Ed Soares: I think Pettis is going to be a hard guy to beat. I think it’s going to be Pettis who wins that fight.
Ricardo Liborio: Dos Anjos is my boy. I really like him a lot, but I’ve got to be honest: Pettis is in a different world. If Rafael plays well with his strategy, which will be to take him down ... on the ground, Rafael is a very skilled jiu-jitsu player. He can do damage also. He’s got good ground-and-pound. He’s strong. He’s ballsy. He’s going to keep coming; but the accuracy standing up with Pettis is hard to match in the UFC. If he can’t take him down, it’s going to be complicated for Rafael, so I’m going to stick with Pettis just because of that.
THE FINAL TALLYPros Picking Pettis: 25
Pros Picking dos Anjos: 1