Two of UFC's most talented lightweight prospects will square off this Saturday night (May 18, 2013) as Rafael dos Anjos takes on Evan Dunham on the UFC on FX 8 main card in Jaraguá do Sul, Brazil.
Dos Anjos has quickly risen through the ranks after a rough UFC debut, putting on increasingly impressive performances in his most recent bouts, showcasing his stand-up and ground abilities. A victory over Dunham would cement his top 10 status at 155 pounds.
Dunham has always been a top prospect, but he's come up short when tested by the best. If he can rise to the occasion against dos Anjos, perhaps he could take the Brazilian's place inside the top 10 in the crowded UFC lightweight division.
Rafael dos Anjos
Record: 18-6 overall, 7-4 in the UFC
Key Wins: Mark Bocek (UFC 154), George Sotiropoulos (UFC 132), Terry Etim (UFC 112)
Key Losses: Clay Guida (UFC 117), Gleison Tibau (UFC 139), Jeremy Stephens (UFC 91)
How he got here: Rafael dos Anjos, like most Brazilians, got his start on the local circuit in his native Brazil. After a 2-2 start to his professional career, the Evolve MMA fighter went on a solid nine fight winning streak which brought him to the UFC.
His UFC career didn't get off to a great start record-wise, as he would lose his first two fights to Jeremy Stephens and Tyson Griffin, but he left an extremely good impression by having both opponents in serious trouble before allowing them to rally. Who can forget that vicious calf slicer he almost finished Tyson Griffin with?
Dos Anjos began to show his potential after the Griffin loss, winning three straight including an impressive "Submission of the Night" against Terry Etim at UFC 112. This earned him a bout against the always relevant Clay Guida.
In that fight, the Brazilian was in control before breaking his jaw and Guida capitalized, squeezing on his chin to force a tap. Once again, dos Anjos would bounce back, this time by absolutely massacring George Sotiropoulos at UFC 132 via knockout in the first minute.
After a hard-fought loss to Gleison Tibau, dos Anjos again showcased the improvements in his striking by completely working over Kamal Shalorus, knocking the Iranian import down before choking him out in just 100 seconds. In his last two bouts, he put on solid performances against the likes of Anthony Njokuani and Mark Bocek, proving he can hang with top strikers and grapplers.
Now on the rise, he's out to beat Evan Dunham this weekend.
How he gets it done: Dos Anjos has really looked solid in his recent bouts, showcasing improved striking, wrestling, takedown defense and pure grappling ability. He'll need all those tools to defeat Dunham.
Dos Anjos' biggest strength his still his tremendous ground game. He's very diverse in his submission attack and he's got a lot of weapons in his arsenal. If he can put Dunham on his back, he'll be in prime position to make big things happen.
If the bout stays standing, dos Anjos should keep his distance and utilize his length. He's got tremendous ability and can keep Dunham at bay with his jabs and potent kicks. He could definitely out-point Dunham standing as he's not too concerned with the American's power.
Record: 14-3 overall, 7-3 UFC
Key wins: Gleison Tibau (UFC 156), Nik Lentz (UFC on Fox 2), Efrain Escudero (UFC Fight Night 20)
Key loss: T.J. Grant (UFC 152), Melvin Guillard (UFC Fight for the Troops 2), Sean Sherk (UFC 119)
How he got here: A well-rounded fighter with much potential, Evan Dunham rose from prospect status to the next level in 2010, compiling a 2-1 record in three fights. He started the year by submitting Efrain Escudero with a nasty armbar at UFC Fight Night 20, followed that with a dominant split decision win over Tyson Griffin at UFC 115 and ended it with an impressive performance in a split decision loss against former lightweight champion Sean Sherk at UFC 119.
Even with the loss, Dunham's stock rose significantly and he now is being looked at as a fighter who can make a big impact in the division. In that fight, Dunham also showed he was able to fight back from adversity as Sherk opened up a large cut that bled heavily. Instead of retreating, Dunham got stronger.
Dunham has experienced inconsistencies since, losing to Melvin Guillard and T.J. Grant but putting on lively performances against the likes of Nik Lentz and Gleison Tibau. He can settle in at the top of the division if he can put away dos Anjos.
How he gets it done: Dunham has skills both standing and on the ground, but the Xtreme Couture fighter lit a tired Sherk up on the feet in a previous bout, although he doesn't possess that fight-ending power which can really make a difference.
Something Dunham could rely on here is his pure heart and determination. He's very scrappy, can take a shot and has a very good gas tank. He needs to keep going and going like that determined train trying to climb the mountain.
If he can keep coming after dos Anjos both standing and with his wrestling attack, he might be able to overwhelm him as the fight wears on.
Who will come out on top at UFC on FX 8? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!