One of the more enticing welterweight matchups of the year will unfold later this evening (Sat., Dec. 16, 2017) at UFC on FOX 26 from inside Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg, Canada, as former UFC champions Robbie Lawler and Rafael dos Anjos collide in a potential Fight of the Night main event.
This is an ultra-important fight for both contenders as Lawler tries to regain momentum after a title loss in 2016 and RDA attempts to extend his win streak to three after making his divisional debut earlier this year.
In preparation for the impending chaos, let’s take a closer look at what both “Ruthless” and dos Anjos need to do in order to leave The Great White North victorious.
1. Pace and preserve...
While Lawler has been in some ferocious five-round fights in the past, he hasn’t pieced together a performance where he controls the action each and every round. In most cases, Lawler starts out slow and comes on like a runaway locomotive in the later frames, creating last-second exchanges that put him ahead on the judges’ scorecards or land him a memorable finish.
Things will be no different tonight in Winnipeg as “Ruthless” is more than likely going to have to stomach the early barrage of offense put forth by RDA. Dos Anjos certainly hits hard and can mix it up from various levels, including takedowns, but it’s nothing that Lawler hasn’t seen before.
The former UFC welterweight champion should look to pace his output, defend when he can, preserve his energy for the later frames, and unload on a tired dos Anjos sometime in the third or fourth round.
2. Rely on takedown defense...
Even though Lawler leans heavily on his ability to punch and kick opponents in the face while standing, the 35-year-old veteran has done a lot of work in the past with his takedown defense. It’s a huge part why “Ruthless” has been able to keep fights standing, or at least get back to his feet when his butt hits the canvas, and give himself the opportunity to score damage with his hands.
So while dos Anjos is one of the best ground-and-pound specialists the lightweight division has to offer, he probably isn’t going to present Lawler with anything new. Instead, look for Lawler to utilize his bigger frame and heavier build to strong arm the Brazilian in close quarters, remain on his feet, and counter takedown attempts with knees, body shots, and combinations in close.
Rafael dos Anjos
1. Pressure early...
If dos Anjos isn’t on the attack and moving forward then he’s really not giving himself the best chance to succeed. Sure the former UFC lightweight champion has good counter punches and can feed off of whatever his opponent is dishing out, but RDA is a machine inside of the cage. He’s a chin down, hands up, walk forward type of fighter who dishes out insane amounts of punishment early to wilt opponents down the stretch.
While it’s going to be tougher for RDA to do this against someone like Lawler compared to the opponents he was facing at 155 pounds, there’s no reason for dos Anjos to abandon ship now. Instead, he should do what most fighters are scared to do, pressure “Ruthless” early, push his back against the cage, launch combinations in flurries, and look to catch him like Tyron Woodley did.
2. Stay unpredictable...
There’s no denying that RDA’s biggest strengths entering this main event bout is his ability to launch punches in bunches, put his nose to the grindstone, pressure with takedowns, and stick on Lawler like white on rice. That’s all well and good, but dos Anjos may have to mix in a few more attacks to out-pace and outmaneuver a certified beast like Lawler.
In order to remain unpredictable opposite the former UFC welterweight king, RDA should look to change levels with his kicks. Lawler is already going to be playing back in the pocket to defend the takedown and counter with punches so the window of opportunity should be there for the Brazilian to attack the lead leg. If he can do that, everything else will follow much more smoothly.
Prediction: Lawler via fourth-round TKO
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 26 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 5 p.m. ET, before the FOX main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.