Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight contenders Rafael dos Anjos and Kevin Lee square off last night (May 18, 2019) at UFC Fight Night 152 from inside Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, New York.
It was not a great year in the career of “RDA” in 2018, as dos Anjos faced the division’s two top wrestlers and found himself on his back for the majority of 50 rather frustrating minutes. The UFC offered him no stylistic reprieve with this match up, pitting the Brazilian opposite yet another excellent takedown artist. For Lee, this move to Welterweight was a potential fix to his conditioning issue, as well as an opportunity to focus more on training to improve rather than training to lose weight.
The two wasted no time in blasting each other with power kicks and trading punches, but an early slip from dos Anjos saw Lee dump his foe to the mat with a takedown. “RDA” bounced back up quickly, but Lee stayed on him with some heavy punches before dropping back down into another takedown attempt.
This time around, the takedown attempt would take minutes of the fight, as Lee drove dos Anjos into the fence and pushed hard for an opening. The two didn’t separate until there was about a minute remaining in the round, at which point the two went back to trading heavy shots. Lee targeted the body well with kicks and knees, but dos Anjos returned the favor with a brief takedown of his own.
It was a very active round, but Lee landed the biggest shots.
Lee pressured into the second round, but his early slam takedown was negated by a guillotine attempt from the Brazilian. When the two returned to their feet, Lee looked a little tired from his own pace, allowing dos Anjos to tag him with a left and land another very brief takedown.
Lee did not stay there for long though, fighting back to his fight and jamming “RDA” back into the fence. Though the takedown did not materialize, dos Anjos spent a lot of time with his back to the fence. He did create some separation in the final 30 seconds however, landing some big shots before the bell.
After 10 minutes of combat, the scorecard seemed to be tied.
Pressure and kicks continued to be Lee’s strategy into the third, but dos Anjos again slowed him down with a well-timed reactive shot even if he was unable to maintain control. When “RDA” attempted another double leg moments later, Lee very nearly countered with a back take, but dos Anjos was able to escape into top position.
With 90 seconds remaining, Lee was able to reverse position and jam dos Anjos into the fence with a double leg of his own. Lee finished the shot this time, but once more fell off the top in an attempt to take the back.
It was a very close round, but dos Anjos spent more time in top control.
Both men were fatigued in the fourth round, spending a little over a minute largely standing in front of each other and landing at will. Notably, dos Anjos’ low kick chopped at the inside of Lee’s leg, while Lee continued to target the body effectively with his own kicks. Lee broke ended the kickboxing with a strong blast double, sliding around to the back clinch and jamming “RDA” back into the fence.
With 90 seconds remaining in the round, Lee committed fully to a takedown, attempting to dump dos Anjos to the mat with a single leg takedown. When the shot failed, Lee collapsed to the mat, allowing his Brazilian foe to spin into top position. Lee’s energy was gone, and dos Anjos quickly climbed into the mount.
The arm triangle was locked in moments later (watch it).
Dos Anjos’ performance was not perfect, but it was a real example of veteran know-how. Lee attempted to overwhelm dos Anjos with constant activity and energy output. Rather than try to match the younger man’s output, “RDA” remained relaxed and picked his moments, using a lot less of his proverbial gas to stymie Lee’s offensive wrestling.
Of course, it helps that dos Anjos also has tremendous cardio.
Perhaps the single smartest adjustment dos Anjos made compared to his fights with Covington and Usman was to shoot himself. Lee willingly walked through dos Anjos’ counter punches when necessary, but you cannot simply walk through a nice double leg shot. Instead, dos Anjos’ offensive wrestling forced Lee to spend energy defensively — the absolute last thing Lee wanted to do.
It drained the tank even further and eventually finished the fight.
I understand that Lee wanted to copy Covington and Usman, but he’s a different type of athlete from those two. Lee’s cardio last night was definitely improved from his recent fights, but he looked like a sprinter in a triathlon. When it became clear that Lee could not keep dos Anjos on the mat, it was time for Lee to shift gears. He was winning the early kickboxing exchanges, punishing the body and keeping dos Anjos on his back foot.
Rather than force the grueling wrestling match, Lee would’ve been better advised to kickbox until an opening arose.
Last night, Rafael dos Anjos returned to the win column with an impressive submission. Who should the Brazilian face next?
For complete UFC Fight Night 152 ‘dos Anjos Vs. Lee’ results and play-by-play, click HERE!