Former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos has made a lot of noise since moving up to 170 lbs. back in June. Now his title shot buzz is gaining momentum, thanks to his dominant decision win over former welterweight champion Robbie “Ruthless” Lawler.
Dos Anjos delivered a wire-to-wire beatdown for five rounds against one of the toughest competitors in the division. He started by chopping down at the legs of Lawler, which severely hurt Lawler’s ability to return fire.
Then he began to attack Lawler in the clinch. The critics that thought he wouldn’t be strong enough to compete at a heavier division soon realized they were wrong, when he controlled Lawler’s movement in the clinch and landed big elbows and knees to the body.
Another question he answered was his cardio. Some thought the move up in weight would hinder his cardio because he would be facing stronger opponents. That was not the case. In the second round, after landing a left hook that rocked Lawler, RDA seized the moment, pushing Lawler to the cage and unleashing a barrage of strikes.
It was 23 seconds of unleashed fury. Lawler was balled up, holding on for dear life. He made it out of the round, but it was then that everyone realized that dos Anjos was far superior on this night. Even after going off on an unhinged assault, RDA showed no signs of fatigue. He actually looked fresher than his opponent the rest of the way.
Dos Anjos showed his entire repertoire. He smothered Lawler in the clinch with elbows and knees, stood in the pocket and delivered confidently against one of the most intimidating strikers in the division. He hit Lawler with jabs, hooks, knees to the body and of the flying variety. He even scored two takedowns.
Even though his time in the division has been short-lived, dos Anjos has made a statement with his recent performances. His last two victories have come against ranked division opponents and in impressive performances. His fighting pedigree is clear, no matter the division RDA is a threat to be reckoned with.
Since the top contender, Stephen Thompson, has already had two shots at the champion, and because he easily disposed of the second ranked welterweight contender Robbie Lawler, the path to a welterweight title shot is about as clear as it gets in the UFC.
There are two things holding this back. The first is the champion’s health. Tyron Woodley hurt his labrum in his most recent title defense, and has been mulling over his options ever since. Now it appears he will have surgery to fix his shoulder.
That is alright with RDA, who has fought three times over the last six months anyways. Obviously he would like some time off as well to recover from his fights and the training leading up to those fights.
But what should concern dos Anjos title chances is the fact that Woodley has been flip-flopping on surgery in hopes of getting a big money fight, such as Nate Diaz or Georges St. Pierre. Both of those guys are a huge draw and are the elephants in the welterweight division.
If RDA doesn’t get his shot, he could be matched up against welterweight contender Colby Covington, who has already vyed for an opportunity to fight the Brazilian.
Either way, RDA’s meteoric rise in the division should come as no surprise, he has always been one of the most talented fighters out there. Time will tell if he has done enough to fight Woodley, but his resume stands up to any of the active fighters in the division right now.