A pair of former champions, Rafael dos Anjos and Tarec Saffiedine, will duel in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight division this Saturday (June 17, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 111 inside Singapoore Indoor Arena in Kallang, Singapoore.
Dos Anjos’ fall has been nearly as shocking as his rise. After his first title defense — a brutal shellacking of Donald Cerrone — “RDA” appeared to be fairly unstoppable. A pair of upset losses since has sent dos Anjos to Welterweight in pursuit of greener pastures, and this will be a tough first test for the former champion. Saffiedine will forever have a place in history as the final 170-pound Strikeforce champ, but his UFC stretch has been far less successful. Injuries have kept him from competing frequently, but even in the cage Saffiedine has struggled opposite top competition.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for both men:
Rafael dos Anjos
Key Wins: 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: Two defeats or no, dos Anjos is still a world-class fighter who can do it all. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with dynamic kickboxing, dos Santos puts serious pressure on his opponents and breaks them down with his constant offense.
With less of a weight cut wearing him down, he may be able to push an even harder pace.
Stylistically, this match up serves as a favorable introduction to Welterweight for dos Anjos. Saffiedine is a ranked fighter for a reason, but historically he has struggled with pressure and volume more than anything else. Pressure is the name of dos Anjos’ game, so he doesn’t have to change anything up to fight effectively opposite Saffiedine.
Aside from moving forward and cutting off the cage, dos Anjos would be wise to attack with his heavy low kicks regardless of which stance Saffiedine operates from. Rick Story used low kicks to trap Saffiedine in place and follow up with punches to brilliant effect, and that’s something “RDA” can copy to get into close range.
From that distance, punches in bunches and takedowns will get the job done.
Key Wins: Jake Ellenberger (UFC on FOX 18), Nate Marquardt (Strikeforce: Marquardt vs Saffiedine), Hyun Gyu Lim (UFC Fight Night 34)
Key Losses: Rick Story (UFC Fight Night 88), Rory MacDonald (UFC Fight Night 54), Tyrone Woodley (Strikeforce Challengers: Woodley vs Saffiedine)
Keys to Victory: Saffiedine is one of the most difficult men to take down in the division, meaning most of his bouts are stand up scraps. To that end, “Sponge” is a devastating kick with some really solid boxing as well, punctuated by the famed “Tristar jab.”
Range control will be everything in this battle.
Though the two fighters are pretty similarly sized, Saffiedine is the sharper man at a distance and will want to make use of his distance. In dos Anjos’ last appearance, he struggled to get past the rangy shots of Tony Ferguson and failed to work his pressure game as a result, which is precisely the outcome Saffiedine desires.
Saffiedine’s primary weapons — the jab, kicks and especially low kicks — are all great tools suited for maintaining range. However, it’s imperative that Saffiedine is willing to plant his feet a bit and really force “RDA” to respect his punches. Fighters have been willing to walk through his shots in the past, usually to disastrous results, so the pressure is on for Saffiedine to back the Brazilian off with the threat of real counter punches.
Bottom Line: It’s a huge bout for both men and interesting style clash.
Dos Anjos has to win this fight to become relevant at 170 pounds. Saffiedine is a tough but beatable foe, one who most of the elite at Welterweight can handle. If “RDA” is to join those ranks, his hand must be raised. If not, there’s no clear path moving forward. Does he continue to try his hand at Welterweight, or will he retreat back to the miserable weight cuts of his former home? It’s hard to say, and his path will be difficult either way.
As for Saffiedine, a loss would bring his UFC record to 2-4. Regardless of his level of competition and the fact this his most recent loss was a terrible decision, that’s hardly the situation the Strikeforce kingpin was hoping to find himself in a few years after joining the organization. A win, alternatively, maintains Saffiedine’s position near the Top 10 and sets him up for another tough fight moving forward.
At UFC Fight Night 111, Rafael dos Anjos will make his 170-pound debut opposite Tarec Saffiedine. Which man will emerge victorious?