Back in 2008 when Dos Anjos started his UFC career, he was actually pretty average sized for the lightweight division. But as the sport grew in popularity and the roster swelled, the average height of the lightweight top 10 went north of 5′ 10″ with a reach to match. And despite having a career that was one or two title defenses away from “best lightweight ever”, anyone who watched a drained Dos Anjos struggle for five rounds against Tony Ferguson knew that his time at the weight class was over.
But how could a man who was a small lightweight do anything at welterweight? Especially when that division featured freaks of strength and stature like Dong Hyun Kim, Robbie Lawler, and Tyron Woodley? His debut against Tarec Saffiedine gave fans some worry; Dos Anjos seemed to have trouble getting Saffiedine to the ground and keeping him there, and the mixed attack that had made him a terror at lightweight wasn’t doing the type of damage as per usual.
Worry no more, because he’s a contender.
Rafael Dos Anjos is for real
It’s not just that Rafael Dos Anjos won his second fight at welterweight. It’s not just that he did it over an enormous, dangerous, top flight contender like Neil Magny. It’s that he did it in more dominant fashion than any of Magny’s UFC opponents had.
Magny specializes in taking his opponent’s best blows, tiring them out and then overwhelming them on the ground. Standing 6’3″ with an 80″ reach, he had the potential to test whether or not Dos Anjos was physically able to hang with welterweights. And he did test Dos Anjos’s physicality; just not in the way he would have hoped. The ex-lightweight champion took Magny off his feet with the first leg kick he landed and then held him down (no small feat) until he could get an arm-triangle. Demian Maia, the most terrifying submission artist in UFC history, choked out Magny in the second round.
Dos Anjos did it in the first.
He didn’t look chubby for welterweight, nor was he excessively bulked; he looked, for lack of a better word, healthy. He was ripped without having the franken-hulk look of his lightweight days, yet even Joe Rogan commented that Dos Anjos appeared to be around 190 lbs (!) in the ring. And rather than relying on a strategy to offset his supposed (and now disproved) size disadvantage, he is the same mixed attacker he was in the lightweight division.
A #1 contender match with Robbie Lawler would be ideal. Both he and Dos Anjos are coming off wins against top-flight opponents, and a win for either one over the other would cement their claim for a crack at the belt. Dos Anjos is immensely more well rounded, while Lawler is a technical power hitter and possibly the best boxer in the UFC. Dos Anjos has the leg kicks to hurt Lawler (who doesn’t check well), while Lawler’s compact counters are perfect for dissuading a pressure fighter like Dos Anjos.
And we should respect Dos Anjos in that match up because just like everyone’s ex says, it seems size really doesn’t matter.
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