Rafael dos Anjos’ reign of terror in the lightweight division was so dependent on his ferocious advance that his move to welterweight looked like an iffy prospect. Could a man who thrived by imposing his strength on opponents be elite against bigger men?
His first two fights at the weight were inconclusive, as Tarec Saffiedine is notoriously tough to look good against and he submitted Neil Magny without even having to beat him up on the fence. Robbie Lawler is a whole different animal, though, and his resilience, power, and scrambling ability presented a potent threat on paper.
Rafael dos Anjos absolutely dominated him.
It’s not just that dos Anjos moved up in weight to hand the former champion a one-sided loss. It’s that he did it by applying the same sort of gameplan he used so well at lightweight, making up for the newfound physical discrepancy with excellent technique and range management.
When lighter fighters try their hand at a higher weight, the expectation is that their speed and elusiveness will be the key to their success. Instead, dos Anjos got right in Robbie Lawler’s face and tore him up, battering the lead leg early and putting together one of the best collections of clinch knees and elbows you’re likely to see.
Even more impressively, Lawler fixed the output issues that had plagued him in recent fights; up until his leg could no longer support it, he was hurling fireballs at dos Anjos’ head and landing quite a few of them. And it still wasn’t enough. Even when he backed dos Anjos to the fence, the Brazilian was constantly drilling the body with knees and matching any attempted seizing of the momentum with heavy flurries of his own.
Just beautiful stuff.
dos Anjos now finds himself in a bit of a logjam with Colby Covington, Darren Till, and Santiago Ponzinibbio. While I’d love to see him fight Tyron Woodley due to the contrast in styles, I wouldn’t complain about a matchup between RDA and any of those other three contenders, either.
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