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Just six years separate Demian Maia and Ryan LaFlare chronologically, but in their chosen profession, that might as well be a lifetime. The gap between them, stylistically and in the cage, is nearly unfathomable. 

Maia is the last of a dying breed in mixed martial arts—the specialist. While most modern fighters come up in the sport perfecting, to various degrees, a number of disciplines and techniques, Maia is the master of just one. Brazilian jiu jitsu has, and always will be, his calling card. 

It's an art that led him to much early success in the UFC. Before LaFlare had even begun his own professional career, Maia was in the midst of five consecutive submission finishes. Almost five years ago, he made it to the top of the hill, only to have the king, Anderson Silva, send him plummeting right back down. 

Since that loss, Maia has pieced together a 7-4 UFC record. Not bad, but hardly the calling card of excellence. Is there a place in the sport for a 37-year-old man on a one-trick pony? Former UFC bantamweight champion and current Fox Sports 1 analyst Dominick Cruz joins me to discuss both Maia's fight against LaFlare Saturday on Fox Sports 1 and his long-term prospects in the volatile world of MMA .

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If recent reports from Brazilian outlet Tatame (h/t MMAJunkie) are true, we'll see UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey head to Brazil to defend her title on August 1 against Bethe Correia in the main event of UFC 190.

Rousey is almost certainly the UFC's biggest star. Thus far, the quick nature of her fights has not discouraged fans from buying what she's selling. The UFC never publicly discusses its pay-per-view numbers, but rough external estimates seem to indicate her solo drawing power has surpassed Jon Jones and other male stars.

Even when pitted against unheralded fighters with very little name value, Rousey seems to pull in a large number of casual fans.

That means that Rousey might have achieved a level of stardom that will allow her to draw a very good number of pay-per-view buys, no matter who she's pitted against. And if Tatame's report is correct, we'll soon have our chance to see if that theory is correct.

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Despite Saturday night’s UFC 185 drubbing at the hands of Rafael dos Anjos, Anthony Pettis still has some things going his way.

He’s still relatively young (28), a magnetic presence in the UFC landscape and will still look good flipping tires in a Reebok commercial. All things considered, the doomsday clock hasn’t quite reached zero for the recently deposed lightweight champion.

With that said, if such a thing existed, Pettis probably would’ve been first in line to ride a time machine following the Dos Anjos bout.

A week ago, the world was his eight-sided, chain-link oyster. He was the perhaps the odds-on favorite to become the biggest star among the UFC’s new crop of champions. He was being bandied as a potential top pound-for-pound fighter in the world. There were superfights resting just beyond his grasp.

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Another month, another UFC pay per view in the books. Saturday's UFC 185 was historic for several reasons, but the most important takeaway? In an era where championships don't trade hands all that often, UFC 185 saw the crowning of two new champs. 

Let's take a took at what we loved, learned and hated from the Dallas fight card. 


When 16 female strawweights entered the Ultimate Fighter house last year, they went with the pressure of trying to live up to the standards set by Ronda Rousey. Such is the nature of Rousey's personality, and such is her meaning to other women participating in combat sports, that an entire new division of fighters were constantly asked if they had what it took to be the next Rousey. Dana White publicly hinted that the house might contain the next Rousey, because being the next Rousey meant being the UFC's next big star and an anchor for a division.

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On Saturday evening, I watched UFC 185 with two friends who work for a highly respected social media company here in Las Vegas. They're up on all the latest and greatest tools and trends in the social world, which is expanding faster than I can keep track.

They told me about a new online polling tool called Wedgies that makes it easy to poll Twitter followers. And, look: I am a sucker for a good poll. I love making them, and I like watching the results come in. So I instantly made one asking readers who would win between Anthony Pettis and Rafael dos Anjos. Eighty percent of the respondents said Pettis, which meant they were just as wrong as the rest of us. Dos Anjos absolutely smoked Pettis to capture the lightweight title.

The next poll sought to determine who the UFC's handsomest fighter is: Luke Rockhold, Elias Theodorou or Lyoto Machida. Rockhold, as expected, ran away with that one and rightly so.

Today, I decided to get a little more serious. The UFC has (knock on wood) an incredible slate of title fights coming up between now and July's International Fight Week card, and I wanted to see which one my followers were looking forward to the most.

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Anthony Pettis is one of the best lightweights in the history of mixed martial arts.

This was hardly in doubt even before Pettis faced Rafael dos Anjos in the main event of UFC 185. His ability to finish the tough and durable top contenders in his division made him one of the UFC's brightest shining stars, a potential massive pay-per-view draw.

But injuries have derailed Pettis in recent years, preventing him from obtaining the kind of exposure that could increase his own personal brand. A recent change in his training methods, dialing back both the intensity and length of his training sessions and nearly eliminating weight training on days he sparred with a live opponent, helped keep him healthy and prepared to return to the Octagon just four months after his last fight.

Pettis brought a four-fight finishing streak into the Octagon, which is nearly unprecedented in UFC championship bouts. And he went into the fight as a significant favorite over dos Anjos, who was seen by most as mere fodder in Pettis' title reign.

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Nobody blames Carla Esparza for feeling a little left out right now.

If that is indeed how she feels.

So far, it’s kind of hard to tell. As the UFC’s first strawweight champion prepares to make the first defense of her title against Joanna Jedrzejczyk on Saturday at UFC 185, you get the impression Esparza is parsing her words carefully.

When she told MMAFighting.com's Marc Raimondi this week that she doesn't think her fight is "being promoted as much as it should be," she also added: "It is what it is. I'm gonna just keep winning fights and then those things will come. I'm not really too focused on that."

When she talked about her frustrations that a relative newb like Paige VanZant scored an individual sponsorship deal with Reebok—the UFC’s new exclusive apparel partner—Esparza said: “I'm never gonna hate on someone. I'm not gonna hate on Paige for taking an opportunity that was given to her."

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If you ask the casual UFC fan about the sport's top fighters, you'll typically get a pretty standard list in return. Jon Jones will be somewhere near the top. So will middleweight kingpin Chris Weidman, featherweight standout Jose Aldo and even women's bantamweight Ronda Rousey.

It's only after rattling off a string of other names that Anthony Pettis (18-2) tends to enter the mix.

Is that fair? Should the UFC's lightweight champion, a man who won the title from the king of close decisions, Benson Henderson, in a runaway romp, be considered among the elite? Should his every fight, not just Saturday's tilt against Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 185, be greeted with more fanfare than this?

Bleacher Report's lead combat sports writer Jonathan Snowden and Kenny Florian, former UFC lightweight contender and current Fox Sports 1 broadcaster extraordinaire, tackle the issue—but carefully. Kenny didn't want to muss his hair.

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This is Anthony Pettis' chance to really get his reign on a roll.

After his early UFC days were afflicted by injury and unforeseen circumstances, Pettis has been sublime during the last 18 months or so. If he can jet past Rafael dos Anjos on Saturday at UFC 185, it could go a long way toward establishing him as the breakout superstar nearly everyone believes he can be.

UFC 185 on the whole feels like a potential statement event. With a compelling main card and prelims temporarily moved off Fox Sports 1 and onto FX, this could be the organization's chance to begin putting the difficult first few months of 2015 behind it.

There is a lot to like about this fight card, but how exactly will it play out?

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This Saturday's UFC 185 fight card is good. It is very good. The preliminary card is deep, and the main card is full of interesting fights, including Henry Cejudo's return to flyweight.

It is true that Friday's weigh-ins are perhaps more interesting from a Cejudo perspective, but still, he's an interesting addition to the flyweight division, provided he can make the weight.

The other four main card fights are sublime.

Roy Nelson vs. Alistair Overeem will likely be violent. The same goes for Matt Brown vs. Johny Hendricks. We have Carla Esparza's first strawweight title defense against Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who has excellent striking and good takedown defense. Then there's the main event with Anthony Pettis, one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC defending his belt against an unheralded but tough challenger.