After reviewing betting odds, we have our UFC 185 pick ready. Lightweight champ Anthony "Showtime" Pettis puts his title on the line as he squares up with the white hot Rafael dos Anjos.
Anthony Pettis (18-2, 7 KO's, 8 Subs)
It was only a few years ago when Pettis lost to lightweight gatekeeper Clay Guida by unanimous decision and then barely eked out a split decision victory over another UFC veteran tough guy (but by no means championship timber) in Jeremy Stephens. Since that time Pettis has not only defeated but finished his last four opponents including Joe Lauzon, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, and then tapping out the illustrious Benson Henderson in the opening round to claim the UFC Lightweight title and earn 2013 Submission of the Year honors. Most recently he enjoyed a thoroughly dominating performance as a -300 betting favorite in UFC odds over the legendary Gilbert Melendez which culminated in a second-round submission.
Thus it is clear that Pettis has not only matured as a fighter but has honed his already razor-sharp skills. The champion is not a one-trick pony, as his equal parts knockouts versus submissions reflects, and incorporates both his powerful striking and slick submission skills into a sweet symphony of pain for his opponents. Pettis is equally at ease fighting either strikers or grapplers. He deserves to be the UFC Lightweight champ because as of this moment there is no one better at 155 pounds.
Rafael dos Anjos (23-7, 4 KO's, 8 Subs)
Since losing by unanimous decision to the undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov in April of last year as a +250 underdog in UFC odds dos Anjos bounced back with a TKO over Jason High and then notched a huge win for those that included him in their UFC picks as a +270 underdog when he knocked out former champ Ben Henderson in the first round earning him a Performance of the Night bonus as well as a great deal of respect in the lightweight category. In his last trip inside the Octagon he manhandled Nate Diaz at a 160 pound catch-weight and proved he is among the very best in the division.
However, if it were not for an injury to Khabib Nurmagomedov then dos Anjos would be a spectator at this fight. As previously stated Nurmagomedov is undefeated and the logical candidate to throw down with the champion Anthony Pettis. However, a knee injury has derailed those plans which is why dos Anjos is getting the shot. The 30-year-old Brazilian's wheelhouse is rooted firmly in BJJ but it should be noted that two of his four career knockouts came in 2014 which means he either got lucky against a pair of elite fighters in Jason High and Benson Henderson or he's been working diligently on the striking aspect of his game. Though dos Anjos did not register a KO in his last match, Nate Diaz's face told the story of an opponent who has plenty of power in his punches.
UFC Picks for Dos Anjos vs. Pettis
I fear Rafael dos Anjos will become the newest incarnation of Urijah Faber. A world-class championship caliber fighter who unfortunately happens to be surrounded by one or two others just half a click better. One of those fighters happens to be the champion himself, Anthony Pettis. I cannot see how dos Anjos will be able to stand up to Pettis despite his evolving striking skills. While dos Anjos may be Pettis's equal on the mat the script flips precipitously when one fighter's head is still ringing from left hooks and uppercuts while the other exploits that very opportunity.
I realize betting Pettis is difficult considering his -400 status in UFC odds from BetOnline but just remember, there is no value in backing dos Anjos if you are sure to be ripping up a ticket. Don't do it - play Pettis.