Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight contenders Rafael dos Anjos and Colby Covington will collide for the interim strap this Saturday (June 9, 2018) at UFC 225 inside United Center in Chicago, Illinois.
Dos Anjos’ move to 170 pounds demonstrated what a great and well-rounded fighter he really is. The Brazilian remains a physical pressure fighter, but dos Anjos works in larger combinations and pushes an even heavier pace now that he’s facing a less-drastic weight cut. The result is a trio of excellent wins, enough to earn this title shot. Meanwhile, Covington was picked up pretty quick by UFC after just five professional fights. In the previous four years, Covington has won eight of nine bouts, including his previous five. Consistent success aside, Covington’s troll persona has earned him plenty of vitriol and likely helped secure this opportunity.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Rafael dos Anjos
Key Wins: Robbie Lawler (UFC on FOX 26), Neil Magny (UFC 215), Tarec Saffiedine (UFC Fight Night 111), 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: “RDA” has built up a pretty mind-blowing resume of excellent wins. The Brazilian is incredibly well-rounded: a dangerous Muay Thai fighter effective at any range, a high-level Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, and is more than capable of dumping fighters to the mat.
All that said, Covington is a dangerous match up for dos Anjos. The wrestler has the type of endless conditioning and excellent chain wrestling that has frustrated dos Anjos in the past, and that’s likely a strategy that will be even more effective now that “RDA” does not hold much of a size advantage.
For dos Anjos, the key is to wear down Covington. Realistically, Covington has to win a decision, whereas “RDA” is far more likely to stop “Chaos.” Dos Anjos should walk down Covington as usual, but with an extra focus on kicking the legs and body. When Covington does push back to shoot, dos Anjos should be looking to tag the American with counters and chip away at him.
Covington’s gas tank may be deep, but absorbing damage consistently will create leaks.
Key Wins: Demian Maia (UFC Fight Night 119), Dong Hyun Kim (UFC Fight Night 111), Bryan Barberena (UFC on FOX 22), Mike Pyle (UFC 187)
Key Losses: Warlley Alves (UFC 194)
Keys to Victory: A Division 1 All-American wrestler, Covington is one of the most relentless grinders to grace the Octagon in years. The Southpaw is reasonably effective on his feet as well, even if his purposely awkward stance opposite Maia drew criticism. Even in that bout, Covington quickly took over on the feet and battered Maia by the end.
In this bout, pressure is the name of the game. Covington does not want to end up on the end of dos Anjos’ punches and kicks, he wants to back the Brazilian into the fence. Dos Anjos is a capable counter puncher to be sure, but he’s far less damaging from his back foot.
Once dos Anjos is reacting to Covington’s punches, he can level change into a shot. He may not be able to get “RDA” down with the first shot, but Covington chains takedowns excellently and never gives his foe an inch of space. Once on top, Covington is in his wheelhouse and can begin to break down the veteran.
Bottom Line: It’s a very entertaining match up for the interim title.
Interim or no, this is a big moment for dos Anjos, who has an opportunity to become a two-division champ. Sure, there’s something of an asterisk there until he were to defeat Woodley — a very possible outcome — but history never remembers the asterisk. With a win, “RDA” will get a second belt in a second weight class, and that puts him on a shortlist of legendary fighters.
A loss is a definite setback for dos Anjos. At 33 years of age and 14 years deep into his professional career, it’s unlikely that dos Anjos will get much better, so it’s really now-or-never regarding a second title reign.
Covington, alternatively, is still young in his career. This is a major opportunity for “Chaos,” but it will not be his last one regardless of the result, especially since so many fight fans want to see him get beat up. Should Covington come out on top, he’s officially walking the walk to match his trash talk. It also sets up a grudge match with Tyron Woodley later in the year, which will be a very interesting contest as well.
At UFC 225, Rafael dos Anjos and Colby Covington will fight for the interim title. Which man will leave the cage with a new belt?