Former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos will try to shake off back-to-back losses at welterweight when he takes on Kevin Lee later tonight (Sat., May 18, 2019) at UFC on ESPN+ 10 live on ESPN+ from inside Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, New York.
Despite his recent lack of success inside of the cage, which includes defeats to welterweight blankets Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington, RDA is still being counted on to hold down UFC’s trip to Rochester. It’s an indication of the promotion’s belief in dos Anjos and his ability to draw attention from fight fans even coming off a disappointing loss.
Standing in dos Anjos’ way is “Motown Phenom,” who is moving up from 155 pounds after a recent decision loss to Al Iaquinta this past December. While Lee is known for his ground skills and ability to control opponents with his wrestling, RDA is confident that he can outpoint Lee in the grappling exchanges and eventually score his first submission win since choking out Neil Magny back in 2017.
“(I predict) a win. Let’s say a submission one,” dos Anjos recently told Combate. “I’m in need of a submission win. I haven’t submitted anyone in years, I think it would be beautiful to score a submission in the second or third round. A win is always good. It won’t move me up the ranks, I’m already in third place, but I’m trying to forget about that for a little bit. A win is always good to recover your motivation. My last win was in December 2017, so that’s almost a year and a half ago. I want to win, that’s the main reason why (I took the fight).”
Dos Anjos, 34, is in a tough spot at 170 pounds entering tonight’s clash with Lee. The fact that RDA has lost to the current champion (Usman) and the No. 1 contender in the division (Covington) there’s little room for error. Another loss at welterweight could send dos Anjos all the way down the divisional ladder.
That’s why a victory over Lee at UFC Rochester is as crucial as any of RDA’s previous fights at welterweight. The Brazilian veteran understands that Lee brings a lot to the table, but he’s looking to pressure “Motown Phenom” at every turn and eventually make him fold.
“He’s a tough guy, good wrestling, good jiu-jitsu, he has decent striking, is strong and athletic,” dos Anjos said of Lee. “I know he’ll come out strong in the first rounds, but he better, because I’ll be ready. I’ll be pressuring him and ready to go five rounds. I think I’ll have the upper hand in a long distance fight, but that’s not my intention. I want no overtime in the Octagon, I want to get in there and do it as soon as possible, but I have a chance with my patience, tranquility and experience.”
If dos Anjos is able to get past Lee tonight it will certainly buy him some time atop the 170-pound division. If he’s able to finish “Motown Phenom,” whether it be a submission or knockout, RDA could launch himself back into contention entering the second half of 2019.
But if Lee should knock off dos Anjos in his welterweight debut it may very well bump RDA back down to 155 pounds.
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