2017 Comeback Fighter of the Year: Rafael dos Anjos

January 4, 2018

Entering 2017, former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos had lost his crown and suffered back-to-back losses. He was no longer in the 155-pound title picture and his relevancy was fading fast. Once on top of the division, the Brazilian found himself at a carer crossroad. “RDA” decided to take a risky chance and move up a division to the 170-pound weight class.

In his welterweight debut in June, dos Anjos faced former Strikeforce champion Tarec Saffiedine. He snapped his two-fight losing streak and won his welterweight debut by unanimous decision. A third loss in a row would have put his fighting career in the UFC on life support.

In his next outing, dos Anjos faced top ten ranked Neil Magny at UFC 215 in September. He tapped Magny out in the first round. Magny had defeated former champion Johny Hendricks in his previous fight. With the decisive win, dos Anjos moved into a position to face a highly ranked welterweight in his next fight. He went up against former champion Robbie Lawler on Dec. 16 and dominated the former titleholder.

Dos Anjos entered 2017 as a back-to-back loser and emerged from the year ranked No. 2 in the welterweight division. His next fight could be for the 170-pound world title.

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Another fighter made an incredible comeback in 2017 that deserves an honorable mention. Former welterweight champion and top pound-for-pound fighter in the world Georges St-Pierre returned after four years away from the sport to capture the middleweight title at UFC 217 in November. In his debut at 185-pounds St-Pierre became a two-division UFC champion by choking Michael Bisping unconscious late in the third round. 

The 36-year-old Canadian announced 31-days after winning the belt that he would relinquish it.  Former champion Luke Rockhold and interim titleholder Robert Whittaker will fight for the world title on Feb. 11.