Cerrone, who has become a fan-friendly scraper of epic proportions during his tenure in the UFC was making his tenth appearance in the Octagon and was looking to add some career momentum after his recent win over K.J. Noons at UFC 160.
Dos Anjos was riding a UFC career best four-fight winning streak, and certainly wasn’t interested in seeing “The Cowboy” render all of his previous victories moot.
Round one saw the 28-year-old Brazilian open with visible confidence. Light on his toes and employing textbook lateral movement, Dos Anjos came out looking to outstrike the striking specialist.
For the majority of the opening frame, Dos Anjos surprised many, perhaps Cerrone himself, as he peppered the Team Jackson stalwart with effective body striking and powerful combination punching.
At the two-minute mark of the first round, Dos Anjos floored Cowboy with a crushing left hook that put him flat on his back. Looking to finish, the Brazilian leaped into Cerrone’s guard.
Cerrone withstood the onslaught and used slick ground control and wary submission attempts to survive the round.
Round two was more of the same as “RDA” came out with body kicks and splendid head movement. Cerrone seemed visibly frustrated by this point and was getting picked apart at will by the tricky striking of the King’s MMA product.
Cerrone eventually shot for a takedown, and after seven or so collective minutes of getting beat up on the feet, who could blame him? Cerrone’s takedown was rather ineffective, and Dos Anjos won the round on most pundits’ scorecards with a takedown of his own later in the round and his effective display of varied strikes.
In between the second and third rounds, Cerrone’s corner explained that a finish might be in order, and he opened the final frame at a frantic pace.
Cowboy unleashed his striking prowess with authority as the third round began. He used front kicks, leg kicks, counter punches, and even tried some takedowns, but this was a textbook case of “too little, too late.”
Cerrone won the third round as the combatants battled back and forth until the final bell sounded, but in the end, it wasn’t enough, as Rafael Dos Anjos earned a unanimous decision victory (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) and handed Cowboy his second loss in his three fights.
For Dos Anjos, this signifies a remarkable career rejuvenation. The Brazilian made his debut all the way back at UFC 91 in a losing effort to Jeremy Stephens. In fact, from 2008-2011, Dos Anjos fought eight times for the UFC, and went an unremarkable 4-4 over that time. Many wondered if he would ever be a viable threat to the 155-pound crown.
Now, the surging lightweight is on a five-fight winning streak with victories over some heavy hitters in the division, and talks of a possible title shot are beginning to surface.
Not only is Dos Anjos a viable name in the divisional landscape, but he may also be next in line for a shot at UFC gold.
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