Rafael dos Anjos is ready to fight for his second UFC title.
On Saturday night in Canada, dos Anjos put on a five round clinic to defeat former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler in the main event at UFC Fight Night from Winnipeg.
Dos Anjos, who previously reigned as lightweight champion, has looked unstoppable since moving to 170 pounds but there was no doubt that Lawler would be his biggest test by far, but he passed with flying colors after a picture perfect performance against arguably one of the biggest knockout threats in the history of the sport.
Dos Anjos definitely had the right strategy to stay on the outside early, staying away from Lawler’s power punches and then blasting the former champion with leg kicks.
The barrage of kicks actually began showing damage on Lawler’s lead leg during the first round with redness and swelling growing with each shot landed.
That didn’t slow down Lawler, however, as he pressed forward and did his best work against the cage where he trapped dos Anjos with his weight and started to pepper away with short inside punches and knees.
Lawler came out more aggressive in the second round, almost immediately opening up with a barrage of punches that pushed dos Anjos back again the cage.
The initial exchange got dos Anjos’ attention but he was able to weather the storm and slip away without taking too much damage. In return, dos Anjos tagged Lawler with a hard punch that seemingly wobbled the former welterweight champion, which signaled the Brazilian to go for the kill.
Dos Anjos came forward with a flurry of punches — targeting the body and then going back to the head — and he managed to throw an incredible 48 strikes over the course of that sequence. A second after dos Anjos finally slowed down, Lawler smiled at him before circling away from the cage before returning fire.
In the third round, dos Anjos altered his attack by taking Lawler to the ground with an early takedown before the fighters worked their way back to the feet, once again getting locked against the cage throwing strikes.
Dos Anjos never seemed phased when caught in those exchanges with Lawler, who was trying to blast away with punches to the body. When Lawler finally backed away, dos Anjos quickly pushed forward, managing to put Lawler on his back and he once again jumped to the ground.
Dos Anjos bludgeoned Lawler with a series of stinging punches and elbows that dropped like sledgehammers until time ran out as he seemed to wrap up yet another round on the scorecards.
Lawler’s legs were definitely bothering him as time ticked away in the fight because he wasn’t planting much on any of his punches and that opened the door for dos Anjos to come forward aggressively without fearing much retribution.
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Dos Anjos was dominant with Lawler trapped against the cage as he started digging to the body with punches and then going up high to the head with every combination doing damage. Late in the fourth round, dos Anjos even managed to land a huge jumping knee strike that tagged Lawler but somehow the former welterweight champion was able to absorb the shot and survive until the horn sounded.
With less than five minutes to go, dos Anjos knew he was in control but he wasn’t finished running up the score with a barrage of punches and knees from inside the clinch. Lawler showed incredible toughness but he just ran out of steam and couldn’t find a way fight his way out of a bad situation with dos Anjos absolutely pouring on the punishment round after round.
When it was all over, all three judges scored the fight 50-45 in favor of dos Anjos, who picks up a huge win over a former champion in Lawler.
Now dos Anjos has his sights set on welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, who he hopes to fight next following his third straight win in the welterweight division.
“On my opinion, I just beat the toughest guy in the division,” dos Anjos said. “I think I did enough tonight to deserve that title shot and I’m sure I’ll get that belt.”
Now the question remains who actually gets the next title shot. Dos Anjos certainly made his case with the win on Saturday night but fellow welterweight contender Colby Covington has made plenty of noise lately with rumors swirling that the UFC has approached him about coaching opposite Woodley, who is expected to be out for several months following shoulder surgery.
It’s not a bad spot for the UFC with two legitimate title contenders waiting in the wings with Woodley waiting to find out who his next opponent will be.