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Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

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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Tim Heitman/USA Today

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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USA Today


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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USA Today

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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Joe Camporeale/USA Today

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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Getty Images

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.

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Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

After just five fights in almost four years, Anthony Pettis knew something had to change.

Injury after injury piled up, stealing important years from his prime.

He did not enjoy being known as a frail champion, as someone who constantly pulled out of scheduled fights.

He did not enjoy being the butt of jokes. Not when all he wanted was to defend his belt on a consistent basis and to make a lot of money. He wanted to be the UFC's king of pay-per-view, a must-see attraction. But he couldn't be the king of pay-per-view if he couldn't stop pulling out of pay-per-views.

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Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today

There’s nothing wrong with Rafael dos Anjos.

On the contrary, dos Anjos has been outstanding through more than six years in the UFC. He’s gone 8-1 dating back to May 2012 and no matter what happens during his lightweight title shot at UFC 185, he can boast a resume few 155-pound fighters can match.

So, why does it seem so hard to picture UFC President Dana White strapping the title around dos Anjos’ waist at the end of Saturday night? 

Maybe it’s a confluence of things.

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USA Today

LAS VEGAS — The first thing you notice about Joanna Jedrzejczyk is her name, of course, because you have to figure out how to spell it. She is a writer's worst nightmare. She is the reason copy and paste was invented.

But you also have to figure out how to say it, and, well, that's even more difficult.

"Young. Jay. Chick," she says, slowly.

I blink at her. My brain has absolutely no idea what sound she is making.

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Gregory Payan/AP Images

A minute or two into last week’s Bellator 134, a guy strolled out from behind a retractable 20-foot video monitor and began noodling a version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" on electric guitar.

On stage behind him stood a lineup of the night’s fighters, some of them taking his performance very seriously, some of them absolutely not. The monitors streamed pure Americana—shots of the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, a clip of wheat stalks swaying gently in a breeze.

Just as the guitarist wailed past the line about the perilous fight, cameras cut to a statuesque blonde woman in the front row wearing a black evening gown, one hand tucked somberly over her heart. At her right elbow, a guy with a full sleeve of tattoos slurped a cocktail out of a plastic cup and gleefully nodded along to the music.

Ninety seconds later, a bunch of fireworks went off indoors.