clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Shots After The Bell: Robbie Lawler, Rafael dos Anjos, and the elusive ‘zone’

The main event at UFC: Winnipeg featured two fighters known for transcendent performances. But what recipe is needed to get them there?

MMA: UFC 215-Magny vs Dos Anjos Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

How long can an athlete maintain the kind of fighting spirit needed to stay at the top of the sport? It's a question that reveals itself in the careers of Robbie Lawler and Rafael Dos Anjos, two great fighters who have managed to put together phenomenal runs in recent parts of their careers that raised them to the next level.

For Lawler, he bounced back from a checkered record in Strikeforce to go on an impressive run in the UFC to take the welterweight belt. And there was a similar noticeable gear up we witnessed with Rafael dos Anjos when he took the lightweight title off Anthony Pettis. But since then both have fallen back to mortal status. For all their ability to be gods in the cage, how realistic is it to expect them to put on godlike performances in fight after fight?

I think there's a certain group of fighters out there with the ability to transcend themselves, but only for a certain amount of time. Guys like Jon Jones and Georges St-Pierre may be able to hold onto their top spots through raw talent and hard work, but others will experience windows where they're simply in the zone and everything clicks. Maybe it's laser like focus in the gym or maybe there's no conscious difference in mental game, but the results in the cage speak for themselves.

In this case, it was Rafael dos Anjos who looked like he had recaptured that lightning in a bottle while Robbie Lawler looked flat. Now the question becomes can dos Anjos maintain this level over the next year or two of fighting every 4-5 months? How hard is it for him to stay in that zone that allows him to dominate at the very top of the UFC?

No Gold For Platinum?

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Winnipeg-Ponzinibbio vs Perry Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

"Platinum" Mike Perry may be one of the most interesting up and comers on the UFC roster, but he's not ready to upgrade his status to UFC contender. Maybe Santiago Ponzinibbio will fight into the top five at welterweight and make this loss look less bad in retrospect, but there's no doubt the UFC was hoping Perry would continue to rise higher in the rankings than this before struggling.

But what's wrong with having a guy like Perry around who can whomp fighters coming in and out of the top ten? That's basically what he's been doing for the past year, and we've been enjoying the show well enough. Does he really need to rise up to the very top of the ranks to keep our attention and become a star?

As someone who pays attention to a lot of MMA, I'd hope not. I'll watch guys like Perry fight every day and twice on Sunday over some of the more conservative athletes at the top of the division. But I'm not sure the UFC really knows what to do with guys like Perry.

Just look at another Perry-type, Erick Silva. He had the look and the fighting style to be a star in Brazil, but that style also sent him out on his shield as much as it earned him the win. Early on in his six year UFC career he ended up at in the main event of a UFC Fight Night against Matt Brown in a fight of the year candidate, but after a couple of losses he's been hanging on at the bottom of FOX Sports 1 prelims.

At this event in Winnipeg, he fought Jordan Mein on the curtain jerker fight, the only match on UFC Fight Pass. Now maybe that's a sign that the UFC is still trying to put decent fights on Fight Pass, but I'd be more worried he's about to drop off the bottom of the UFC roster.

Guys like Silva and Perry are a valuable commodity, the type the UFC often under-appreciates until Scott Coker picks them up and builds a league around them (oh hi, Robbie Lawler).

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Mania Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Mania