Former welterweight champion “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler and former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos met in an explosive matchup tonight (Sat., Dec. 16, 2017) at UFC on FOX 26 in a welterweight showdown inside Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The next welterweight title shot was potentially on the line for either man with an impressive win. Lawler had bounced back from his KO loss to Tyron Woodley with a split decision over Cowboy Cerrone, while Rafael Dos Anjos had jumped up in weight after losing to Tony Ferguson, winning two fights straight over Tarec Saffediene and Neil Magny. It was Dos Anjos who would cement his title claim, with a dominant win over the incredibly tough Robbie Lawler.
Lawler came out calm, taking the center of the Octagon. Rafael Dos Anjos landed a leg kick, then a body kick. They traded combinations, both men landing hard. Rafael pushed forward, looking for an opening. Lawler took another two leg kicks, narrowly missed a right hand. He swung hard on dos Anjos, but when he ended up in the clinch dos Anjos landed almost a dozen unanswered knees to the body from the Thai plum. They separated, Rafael landing his low leg kicks again. Lawler pushed forward into the clinch again, this time landing some dirty boxing. They traded knees. Lawler looked for double underhooks, then landed a couple nice knees before he broke away.
In the second round, dos Anjos landed a leg kick, but Lawler got him to the cage and opened up with heavy hooks, drawing a roar from the crowd. Rafael swung back and got Lawler to back away for a moment. He landed a heavy body kick. Lawler backed him up with a jab and looked for a right hand. Dos Anjos looked for a combination, staggering Lawler slightly. He threw a flying knee and backed Lawler to the cage, landing an unending stream of punches! After taking probably fifty punches on his shoulders, head, and body, slipping and ducking for 23 seconds straight, Lawler just grinned and backed Rafael up again. That was insane. Dos Anjos tried to catch a couple kicks, but couldn’t get Robbie down. Lawler kept a jab in Rafael’s face. He got him to the cage and let a combination loose. Dos Anjos grabbed the clinch. Lawler repeated the feat a minute later, again ending up in the clinch after his combination.
Lawler pressured again in the third round, keeping his jab popping. He ended up in the clinch again, eating knees but landing short punches. Dos Anjos turned the clinch around on Lawler and ducked for a surprise takedown, getting Lawler to the mat. Lawler worked his way to a sitting position on the cage and eventually stood up, turning the clinch around again. Dos Anjos landed a short elbow in the clinch. Lawler was using head pressure to keep the Brazilian against the cage. Lawler landed a knee and short uppercuts, while Rafael looked for knees to Lawler’s sides. Lawler backed away and opened up with a combination, but dos Anjos landed an elbow and a right hand, then a push that off-balanced Lawler! Dos Anjos took top position and landed a series of huge elbows from the top! Top control is dos Anjos’ best phase of the fight, and he was taking full advantage. Lawler was calm in his corner between rounds, saying his foot got caught in a bad spot on the Octagon floor. It was either this, or the leg kicks, perhaps both, but his leg wouldn’t be the same for the rest of the bout, gradually taking away his ability to move on it at all.
Lawler opened the next round looking for a heavy combination as he pressured. Dos Anjos looked to slip and find space, pressed forward and landed two left hands. Lawler connected on a right hand. Rafael pressed forward now, looking for a takedown, but couldn’t get it. Dos Anjos landed a hard elbow and a jab on the break. Dos Anjos landed another straight and grabbed the clinch. Lawler looked to counter off the cage,and eventually landed a hard couple hooks. Dos Anjos was unfazed, pushing foward again and landing elbows in the clinch. He ripped Lawler to the body, then landed a flying knee to the head! Lawler was having a really hard time moving on his lead leg at this point.
The fifth round opened with Lawler clearly unable to move well, stumbling on his damaged leg. He refused to go away, exchanging with dos Anjos in the pocket. A big hook was his best shot at winning now. Rafael dos Anjos took Lawler down, Lawler clamping down on dos Anjos’ back until Herb Dean stood them up. Dos Anjos got right back in the clinch, looking for hard knees, and landing hard punches on the break. Lawler was just leaning up against the cage as dos Anjos went to work, unleashing uppercuts, elbows, and smothering Lawler’s attempts to create space and swing back. Rafael leaned back to avoid a swinging Lawler. Dos Anjos went back to the clinch, landing slap elbows to close out the fight. That leg of Lawler was the difference, preventing him from keeping up a pace. Rafael dos Anjos showed incredible cardio to stay on Lawler for five rounds, keeping up a crazy pace with all kinds of offense. Lawler showed off his incredible chin to absorb it all and hang in there till the final bell.
Rafael dos Anjos said “My hands are hurting because I hit the guy in the head. He’s got a pretty tough head.” He said he just beat the toughest guy in the division, he deserves a title shot in the division, and he’s sure he’ll win the belt. One thing is for sure- there is no way he will let Tyron Woodley cruise to any kind of boring decision. Rafael dos Anjos unfailingly brings the pressure.
Official result: Rafael dos Anjos def. Robbie Lawler via unanimous decision (50-45x3)
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