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UFC 185 fight card: What's at stake?

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

It's a bit of a shame this event isn't getting the same kind of hype the previous UFC pay-per-view events have earned this year, but it's to be expected. Anthony Pettis isn't the sort of commercial attraction we had hoped he'd become and how could he be? Injuries have derailed his momentum on more than one occasion. Worse, star making isn't instantaneous. It's a laborious process that requires greatness extended over a fairly significant period of consistent activity.

Perhaps, though, this is the beginning of that process. That is, the real beginning. If he can stay healthy and compete as many times this year as he's suggested is ideal, our conversation about him in one year's time could be radically different.

Pettis appears to be doing everything he can, the UFC is trying to promote him as deserves to be, and fans are surely if slowly warming up. To get to the next level, we simply have to wait, despite being a frustrating experience. There is no magic to the process, just the process itself.

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Anthony Pettis vs. Rafael dos Anjos, Carla Esparza vs. Joanna Jędrzejczyk

At stake: just about everything. Obviously the situations for all four fighters isn't identical, but title fights carry so much significance that parsing them out is a bit unnecessary.

For Pettis, he's looking to put together a body of work that can help propel him to stardom. There isn't anything Rafael dos Anjos does in particular he hasn't seen before, but the package together is certainly a stiff test. As for the Brazilian, this is everything he's been working towards. If he falls short here, there's no guarantee he'll ever find himself in this place again.

Esparza is on a similar path to Pettis, but much further behind. Moreover, it's widely believed among insiders Pettis has major star potential. Fairly or not, that's not the case with the UFC's first strawweight champion. She's looking to not only establish a record of dominance, but parlay that into greater fan sentiment. Jedrzejcyzk, by contrast, wants to ride her technical development and organic fan attraction into being everything Esparza is not.

Oh, and the titles are up for grabs, too. These fights are, naturally, so central to each fighter's career, they don't require much explanation.

Johny Hendricks vs. Matt Brown

At stake: another chance at gold, defying the odds. Hendricks and Brown arrive at this fight in very different positions. Hendricks is the former champion and top-ranked contender. A win here likely puts him back in a title fight or the next best thing. He's been at the top and viewed, by default, as a fighter capable of reaching that level. Brown, some suggest, is a very good fighter who has maximized his ability, but is a step shy of the very best.

Beating Hendricks would be enough to change that perception, to say nothing of the opportunity that would come afterwards. For the Ohio native in Brown, this fight is of monumental importance.

This is the case for Hendricks, too, but under a different consideration. If Hendricks can't put Brown away early, he's facing the type of fighter who finishes strong. After his last outing with Robbie Lawler - and other fights, if we're being honest - that could be problematic. This isn't just a chance for Hendricks to get another crack at the belt, but to put to bed some of the lingering doubts about his ability to compete over long distances.

Roy Nelson vs. Alistair Overeem

At stake: ending the idea there's a trend. Overeem is coming in off of a dominant win, but there are questions about both competitors. Both are still ranked in the top ten, which means the loser could get bounced out of the space. But the bigger issue is whether one or the other is headed in a direction from which they can't return. Nelson, 38, is 1-3 in his last four. Overeem, 34, is 2-3 in his last five. Is this the beginning of the end for them or are they going to use this fight to prove they just had off nights, tough competition or some other forgivable lapses? This fight could help answer that question.

Chris Cariaso vs. Henry Cejudo

At stake: the promise of destiny. This one is straightforward. We've got on our hands an Olympic gold medalist still in his twenties with no other athletic goals outside of MMA. This gold medalist also happens to at least be more than a hobbyist when it comes to boxing. Furthermore, he's full of personality, media friendly and Latino (speaks fluent Spanish as well). The only issue has been his weight maintenance and, to some extent, whether he has enough commitment to the game to maximize his potential. For tonight, he's already made weight. We'll see through his performance if he's putting in the kind of training required to make the most of what he has. Cariaso is a perfectly reasonable if manageable test, but make no mistake, this bout is about whether he can turn himself into everything he's supposed to be.

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