DALLAS -- Rafael dos Anjos has seemingly hid in plain sight his entire UFC career. Maybe that will change with a championship belt around his waist.
Dos Anjos (24-7) turned in a masterpiece of a performance in front of a mostly silent crowd at American Airlines Center on Saturday, dominating Anthony Pettis in a five-round title fight. The championship fight headlined UFC 185.
All three judges scored the bout 50-45 for Dos Anjos. It was Dos Anjos' 18th fight in the organization and 13th win, which moves him into a tie for third all-time in the UFC lightweight division.
"Man, it's such a blessing," Dos Anjos said. "I knew going into this fight I was going to win. I knew I was going to win before this fight happened.
"I'm an MMA fighter. I'm a striker. I'm a jiu-jitsu black belt. I've been working on wrestling. I'm the best in the world. Thank you Jesus. I came from the bottom to be here, fighting in a main event, UFC champion."
UFC president Dana White said on the fight, "I didn't imagine anybody could do that to Anthony Pettis and he did tonight. Absolutely dominated him everywhere. Beating Anthony Pettis is a big deal."
The Brazilian lightweight, who lives and trains out of Southern California, won the fight as a 4-to-1 betting underdog -- and showcased every aspect of his game in doing so. The southpaw hit Pettis with one straight left after another and converted 9 of 10 takedown attempts, according to immediate Fightmetric cageside stats.
He opened a cut over Pettis' right eye in the second round and threatened to submit him with a kimura and rear-naked in the fourth. Pettis (18-3), considered one of the most dynamic offensive fighters in the sport, was forced to fight with his back to the fence for nearly the entire 25 minutes.
"He caught me with a left hand, that first left hand -- it closed my eye up and I couldn't see," Pettis said. "No excuses, though. No excuses."
The Dallas crowd provided a somewhat eerie atmosphere, one of mostly stunned silence. The loudest moment of the fight came during the fourth round, when Pettis escaped from a rear-naked attempt and turned into Dos Anjos. The surge didn't last, however. Seconds later, dos Anjos got back to his feet and took Pettis right back down.
Pettis scored at times with his quick left kick to the body, but Dos Anjos had an answer each time. His constant pressure had a clear effect on Pettis, who made for an extremely easy takedown target late. He also struggled at times to get back to his feet following a takedown, attacking dos Anjos from his guard to no avail.
Without question, the straight left was dos Anjos' most effective punch, but he didn't rely solely on it. He snapped Pettis' head back several times with the right hook and responded to Pettis' array of kicks with body kicks of his own. He took one elevated kick to the head from Pettis in the third round, but ate it with no problem.
Through five rounds, dos Anjos landed 144 strikes, 62 percent of 233 total punches thrown. Pettis landed 96.
A pupil of Muay Thai coach Rafael Cordeiro, dos Anjos moved to the U.S. from Rio de Janeiro in 2011 in search of better training. He's been on a complete tear since, winning nine of his past 10. In his past three fights, he's now dominated Pettis, Nate Diaz and Ben Henderson.
Pettis, 28, suffers his first loss since he dropped a unanimous decision to Clay Guida in June 2011. Coming into the fight, ESPN.com ranked the Milwaukee-based lightweight the No. 5 pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
After the fight, Dos Anjos revealed he suffered a knee injury prior to the championship tilt. The UFC had previously announced the winner of a May 23 fight between Donald Cerrone (27-6) and Khabib Nurmagomedov (22-0) would challenge for the title next.
White stated that is still the plan, pending Dos Anjos' health.
"I think that's what we're going with," said White, on the original plan. "We've got to see what happens with Rafael. Apparently, two weeks ago, he blew his MCL and fought tonight with a blown MCL."
Dos Anjos, 30, expressed optimism he would not be sidelined for long.
"I need to do MRIs to make sure, but if it's not bad I will not need surgery," Dos Anjos said. "I felt a pop, but I think I will not need surgery."
Jedrzejczyk dethrones Esparza
The UFC's newest weight division has crowned its second champion.
Polish strawweight Joanna Jedrzejczyk lifted the 115-pound title from inaugural champion Carla Esparza in dominant fashion, finishing her via TKO at 4:17 of the second round. It is Esparza's first loss since June 2011 and snaps a five-fight win streak.
Jedrzejczyk (9-0) was essentially flawless, stuffing a nonstop barrage of takedown attempts from Esparza (10-3). She allowed herself to be taken down just once, very early on, but worked immediately back to her feet. The end came mercifully, when Jedrzejczyk opened up with a flurry on Esparza, who didn't fall down but was clearly finished.
"I'm not a striker anymore, I'm a complete mixed martial artist," Jedrzejczyk said. "I still cannot believe that I'm the first European-based champion.
"After every fight I'm so happy on the inside and the outside, but after this one I'm more happy on the inside for my parents, for my boyfriend and for my country -- for everyone. I'm going to take my belt back to Europe and show everyone. I'm just so happy."
A longtime Muay Thai practitioner, Jedrzejczyk's striking proved to be far too much for Esparza to handle. The defending champion's only defense was to continually shoot on Jedrzejczyk. Any time she wasn't latched onto a single leg attempt, she was eating straight right hands.
The undefeated 27-year-old showed remarkable composure in thwarting Esparza's offensive wrestling. She kept Esparza on the end of her punches, forcing her to shoot from a long distance. When Esparza did coral her against the fence, Jedrzejczyk used it to her advantage and stayed upright.
After nearly every stuffed attempt, Jedrzejczyk would land short elbows across Esparza's jaw. She hurt her with one early in the fight, a fact Esparza tried to hide but couldn't.
Immediate cageside stats told the story, as Jedrzejczyk defended 16 of 17 takedowns. She outlanded Esparza in total strikes 55-6.
A former strawweight champion at Invicta FC, Esparza suffered the first knockout loss of her career. She won the inaugural UFC title by submitting Rose Namajunas in The Ultimate Fighter 20 Finale in December. Jedrzejczyk moves to 3-0 in the UFC. Her previous two victories came via decision against Claudia Gadelha and Juliana de Lima Carneiro.
Hendricks churns out impressive performance
For the second consecutive year, a fight inside American Airlines Center in the month of March was good to Johny Hendricks.
"I was firing on all cylinders and I felt great but I'm disappointed in my performance," Hendricks said. "I don't know what it was, but I wasn't able to hit him with any crisp shots.
"Matt Brown, I knew he was a tough dude, but I was never threatened by any of his submission attempts. I slowly reacted to them because when you react too quick, that's when you get caught in something else he throws.
"I'm going to keep my body fat down and be ready after the Robbie [Lawler] and Rory [MacDonald] fight."
The win will likely earn Hendricks a shot at the winner of a July title fight between defending champion Lawler (25-10) and Rory MacDonald (18-2).
After surrendering the title to Lawler in a decision loss in December, Hendricks, 31, vowed to keep his weight in check between fights. In the past, he typically ballooned up to well over 200 pounds in the "offseason," but kept himself under 195 pounds ahead of the fight against Brown.
The dedication paid off, as Hendricks looked fresh and active during the entire three-round fight. While it wasn't a barn burner in terms of long exchanges on the feet, it was a strong showing by the former champion, who recorded nine total takedowns.
Brown (19-13) looked as if he knew the takedown was coming, but struggled mightily to prevent it. Late in the first round, Hendricks got low on a double leg attempt near the fence and lifted Brown clear off the ground. Brown avoided a violent slam by blatantly grabbing onto the fence, which went unnoticed by referee Kerry Hatley.
Despite facing a former NCAA wrestling champion, Brown showed a willingness to throw knees and kicks on Hendricks. He ended up landing the vast majority of them, but they came at a price, as Hendricks caught several strikes and used them as an opportunity to put Brown on his back.
Hendricks opened a small cut near Brown's hairline with an elbow from top position in the opening round. In the middle frame, he hurt Brown with a left hand in space and might have landed more shots after backing him to the fence, but chose to take him down instead.
In the third, Brown caught Hendricks with a right hand and a knee as Hendricks looked to shoot, but the durable Hendricks never appeared hurt. He moved into side control in the final round for a stretch, racking up points with hammerfists and elbows. Brown did well scrambling out of poor positions, but clearly lost each round.
Fighting out of Arlington, Texas, Hendricks had lost two of his past three fights coming into the bout, but both came via split decisions in five-round title fights. He missed a large portion of 2014 due to a biceps injury. Brown, a 19-fight veteran of the Octagon, suffers back-to-back losses for the first time since 2010.
Overeem outstrikes Nelson
Overeem (39-14) lit up Nelson for the better part of three rounds, but was hurt by a left hook with 25 seconds left in the fight. The veteran heavyweight recovered quickly, however, bouncing up to his feet and retreating to the fence. Exhausted, Nelson dropped for a takedown attempt rather than continue throwing punches.
"I felt very confident going into the fight," Overeem said. "At Jackson[-Winkeljohn MMA Academy], there's a lot of chemistry; we work together and everyone is there to help their teammates out. The environment over there gives me confidence, everyone is very friendly. Switching to that camp has really been the recipe to my success."
It marks a bit of a career turnaround for Overeem, who suffered three knockout losses in four fights starting in February 2013. Now fighting out of Jackson's MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Overeem has now won three of his past four.
As he's known to do, Nelson (20-11) came out stalking Overeem with a loaded right hand. Overeem negated Nelson's signature strike well, though, circling away from it and picking it off with his left arm any time Nelson moved into range.
In addition to shutting Nelson's offense down, Overeem did well establishing his own. He targeted Nelson's midsection with hard knees from the start, leaving large, red welts in the process. Nelson started to breath heavily from the shots, particularly a left kick to the body that caught his right side unprotected.
Twice in the fight, Nelson managed to walk Overeem back to the fence and opened up with a series of five or six unanswered right hands. Overeem went into a shell defense and blocked the punches well, though, eventually firing back and rotating off the cage.
In the final round, Overeem moved as if he was basically running away from Nelson. As Nelson chased him, Overeem spun into a quick back elbow that nearly hit Nelson flush.
The loss is Nelson's fourth in his past five fights. He raised his arms in a sign of victory at the conclusion of the fight and shook his head when the shutout scores were read. Overeem, 34, is now an even 3-3 in the UFC.
Cejudo already plays the part of contender
As long as he continues to make the weight, Henry Cejudo looks like a legitimate title contender at 125 pounds.
Cejudo (8-0) earned his second win in the UFC, but first as a flyweight, in a lopsided decision against Chris Cariaso. All three judges scored it a shutout for Cejudo, 30-27.
An Olympic gold medalist in wrestling, Cejudo has a checkered history when it comes to making weight as a flyweight. He was forced to withdraw from a scheduled UFC debut in August, when he encountered health issues while cutting weight the day before the fight.
"I wasn't too impressed with my performance; there's a lot more I could've done," Cejudo said. "I hold myself to really high standards and I didn't live up to them tonight. He didn't hit me with one punch, and if he did, I didn't feel it -- and I know I heard him say 'ouch' a few times.
"This was only my second fight in the UFC and I fought a top-10 guy; he's tough, but I train to dominate. I want a top-five opponent next, but if they want to give me the title shot I'm OK with that, too."
UFC president Dana White forced Cejudo, 28, to move up to the 135-pound weight class for his promotional debut. He did so and defeated Dustin Kimura via decision in a bantamweight fight in December. After the fight, Cejudo stated he wished to make another run at 125 pounds.
Cejudo easily made weight for Saturday's contest, weighing-in at 125 pounds instead of the allowed 126. He made the fight against a former title contender look easy as well, repeatedly taking Cariaso down and beating him to the punch on the feet.
Cariaso (17-7) had very small bursts of success with kicks to the body, but other than that, he was pretty much lost during the fight. Cejudo relentlessly put him on the defensive, aggressively stringing together combinations and shooting for takedowns. Immediate cageside stats showed Cejudo out-landed Cariaso 111-to-41.
Cejudo scored a takedown in each round, although Cariaso did show an ability to work back to his feet. He failed to ever seize any sort of momentum once he got back up, however, and would knees and elbows as he wall-walked. Cejudo did some good offensive work from top position in the final round.
A former bantamweight, Cariaso drops to 7-5 in the Octagon. He fought Demetrious Johnson for the UFC flyweight title in September, losing via submission in the second round.
Pearson's hook downs Stout
Pearson (17-8) was extremely efficient in the lightweight bout, routinely slipping Stout's punches and firing back with counters. He eventually landed one perfectly, a left hook to Stout's jawline, which dropped Stout in the center of the cage.
Stout (20-11-1) fell straight back from the punch, but didn't go out. He sat up slightly after the knockdown, which unfortunately offered a free shot to the charging Pearson. Referee Dan Miragliotta stopped the bout after one hard follow-up punch.
"Once I was finally able to find my rhythm and my timing, I felt great," Pearson said. "In the first [round] I was really tense, I was stiff and I had a lot of hesitation because of the way some of my other fights have gone.
"In the second, I was able to relax, find my timing and land the shots that I wanted. Everything just fell into place.
"I feel like I am the best striker in the lightweight division; I'm healthy, I have no problems with my body and my mind is in the zone -- I want to test myself and fight the best in the world."
Four months ago, Pearson was on the receiving end of a second-round TKO against Al Iaquinta. The 30-year-old admitted to a lack of focus in that fight, but that problem appeared to be fixed on Saturday.
Pearson basically sprinted out of his corner on the opening bell. He was on point early, landing 44 of 73 strikes thrown, according to Fightmetric. Stout landed 36 of 115.
The left hook was truly Pearson's bread and butter. He buckled Stout's knees with it in the first, before dropping him with it in the second.
Pearson improves to 10-5 overall in the UFC. This was his seventh career win by knockout. Stout, 30, suffers his second knockout loss in a row.