Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight pressure fighters Robbie Lawler and Rafael dos Anjos will clash TONIGHT (Dec. 16, 2017) at UFC on FOX 26 inside Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg, Canada.
Just one fight removed from his title loss to the current kingpin, Lawler is still very much in the mix. At the same time, Lawler has not been particularly active in the year and half since that defeat to Tyron Woodley, so it was hard to really get a bead on the bruiser’s current abilities. On the other hand, dos Anjos is a new addition to the Welterweight division, but his previous two performances have been flawless. This is undoubtedly the toughest bout of his 170-pound career so far, but it’s one that could also earn the Brazilian a title shot.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each man.
Record: 28-11 (1)
Key Wins: Rory MacDonald (UFC 189, UFC 167), Johny Hendricks (UFC 181), Carlos Condit (UFC 195), Matt Brown (UFC on FOX 12)
Key Losses: Tyron Woodley (UFC 201), Johny Hendricks (UFC 171)
Keys to Victory: Lawler is a beast. He’s been throwing heavy leather for a long time now, and the “Ruthless” fighter now has the technical kickboxing and defensive wrestling to force even elite opponents to trade with him.
Countering the Brazilian is Lawler’s best path. Dos Anjos lives and dies by pressure, and as Eddie Alvarez showed in his title-winning performance, that leaves openings. Few are better at finding such openings than Lawler, and the veteran probably hits far harder than anyone dos Anjos has faced before.
In this bout, Lawler has to be wary of being out-worked. Historically, he’s been willing to hang back and look for the perfect shot, letting himself get kicked quite a bit in the process. If that happens opposite dos Anjos, he’ll quickly lose some of the explosive spring he’ll need to stop RDA.
To avoid getting out-worked while waiting for the “perfect” moment, I’d like to see Lawler active from range. He has a great jab against Southpaw opponents, and this is the perfect time to use it. While his left kick won’t be quite as available as usual, he definitely needs to make an effort to kick with dos Anjos as well to encourage his foe to close the distance.
Rafael dos Anjos
Key Wins: Neil Magny (UFC 215), Tarec Saffiedine (UFC Fight Night 111), Anthony Pettis (UFC 185), Ben Henderson (UFC Fight Night 49), Donald Cerrone (UFC on FOX 17, UFC Fight Night 27)
Key Losses: Eddie Alvarez (UFC Fight Night 90), Tony Ferguson (UFC Fight Night 98), Khabib Nurmagomedov (UFC on FOX 11)
Keys to Victory: The former Lightweight kingpin brings a well-rounded game comprised of violent Muay Thai, a strong double leg, and stellar jiu-jitsu into the cage with him. A true pressure fighter, dos Anjos doesn’t just have his best moments while moving forward; those are his only moments until he scores a takedown.
Opposite Lawler, destroying the lead leg should be a priority. RDA doesn’t often get to square up opposite fellow Southpaws, but that opens up the outside low kick, a technique dos Anjos uses to great effect. For example, it’s been a couple years now, but he absolutely demolished Nate Diaz with low kicks.
To land those kicks, dos Anjos needs to feint and throw quick punches. The goal is to trick Lawler into throwing counter punches when out of range and leave his leg exposed. Additionally, Johny Hendricks found great success by throwing a combination, letting Lawler show off his great head movement, then punting his leg in the middle of a slip.
If dos Anjos can chop the leg and work some switch kicks, he has a great chance to control the flow of the kickboxing. Getting trapped on the edge of kicks is a historic problem for Lawler, and dos Anjos’ offensive wrestling will further help the Brazilian shut his opponent’s offense down.
Bottom Line: Depending on how the division shakes out, it’s a potential title eliminator.
Right now, the big rumor is the Colby Covington will coach The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) opposite Tyron Woodley and receive the next title shot. Weird trash talk or not, that’s a fair match up considering Covington’s win streak.
There are some prospects coming up quick, but otherwise the winner of this bout is next in line. As former champions on a solid win streak, the winner would have a strong argument to face “T-Wood” next. Dos Anjos would have the benefit of being undefeated and being a guaranteed exciting fight, whereas Lawler getting a chance to recapture the strap and avenge his most recent loss is promotion that writes itself.
A loss is not necessarily the end of either man’s title dreams, but it definitely hurts. Both men are well into their primes and unlikely to get much sharper, whereas the division is quickly heating up with a fresh batch of new contenders that are just as tough as the current top five while being far younger. This is a big opportunity, and it may not come again.
TONIGHT at UFC on FOX 26, Robbie Lawler and Rafael dos Anjos will square off in the main event. Which man will have his hand raised?