Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight veterans Rafael dos Anjos and Michael Chiesa will throw down this Saturday (Jan. 25, 2020) at UFC Fight Night 166 from inside PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Times have been rough for dos Anjos, as the former Lightweight kingpin has lost three of his last four bouts. That statistic can be a bit misleading however — all three of the men to defeat him are currently ranked in the Top 5! He’s simply faced an incredible level of competition, and while he may not be in the title hunt anymore, “RDA” is still a killer. Meanwhile, Chiesa’s move to Welterweight has proven fruitful thus far. He’s picked up a pair of dominant wins against older veterans, but this co-main event slot opposite dos Anjos will serve as a major test of his 170-pound ceiling.
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), Kevin Lee (UFC Fight Night 152), Neil Magny (UFC 215), Anthony Pettis (UFC 185), Ben Henderson (UFC Fight Night 49), Donald Cerrone (UFC on FOX 17, UFC Fight Night 27)
Key Losses: Kamaru Usman (TUF 28 Finale), Colby Covington (UFC 225), Leon Edwards (UFC on ESPN 4), Eddie Alvarez (UFC Fight Night 90), Tony Ferguson (UFC Fight Night 98), Khabib Nurmagomedov (UFC on FOX 11)
Keys to Victory: It’s really not fair that dos Anjos has a reputation of struggling with wrestlers. It’s not his fault that he faced Khabib, Usman and Covington — each of that trio is among the best wrestlers to ever compete in mixed martial arts (MMA). In truth, dos Anjos is plenty skilled everywhere, damn tough, and has an excellent gas tank.
One serious flaw of dos Anjos’ is that he doesn’t fight well from his back foot. The Brazilian likes to be on the advance, where his pressure kickboxing flows into his takedowns. When dos Anjos is the man moving forward, he’s very difficult to stop.
Chiesa is likely aware of this, and will likely try to spam takedowns from the first bell like most of dos Anjos’ recent foes. However, as Kevin Lee found out, it’s rarely that simple: dos Anjos can scramble and wrestle just fine with all the the absolute best. More important, he can do it for a hard 15 minutes, whereas Chiesa has slowed down in the past.
As such, dos Anjos’ strategy is fairly clear: move forward when possible, defend takedowns, and rip body shots. Chiesa may be able to keep up early, but eventually dos Anjos will find an opening or merely outlast his foe.
Key Wins: Carlos Condit (UFC 232), Beneil Dariush (UFC on FOX 19), Al Iaquinta (TUF 15 Finale), Franciso Trinaldo (UFC 173), Diego Sanchez (UFC 239)
Key Losses: Kevin Lee (UFC Fight Night 112), Anthony Pettis (UFC 223), Jorge Masvidal (UFC on FOX 8)
Keys to Victory: It’s a testament to just how silly Chiesa’s 155-pound cut was that he’s still a rather large man at Welterweight. Chiesa’s game is roughly the same as ever, as he’s awkward and dangerous enough to survive on the feet until forcing his clinch takedowns.
Eleven of “Maverick’s” past victories come via submission.
Again, the best comparison for Chiesa here is likely the Kevin Lee fight. Luckily, Chiesa can watch that bout and avoid making the same mistake as “The Motown Phenom.” For one, Chiesa is already at an advantage in that this bout is only 15 minutes rather than 25, which gives dos Anjos far less room in forcing a rally.
Beyond that, Lee really tired himself out by trying to jump into back mount. Dos Anjos proved excellent at countering Lee’s back take attempts, often spinning into guard immediately. Not only did all of Lee’s takedown energy go to waste, but he ended in a bad position and had to work even more.
In short, Chiesa must be more judicious with his attempts to advance position. If he can score takedowns and rack up control time without rushing, it’s very possible that he can snag two rounds.
It’s a fun fight likely to tell us a good bit about each man.
For “RDA,” it’s a step back in competition, and I don’t mean that as an insult to Chiesa — dos Anjos has simply been fighting the best of the best. If dos Anjos is victorious here, he can return to facing Top 10-ranked opposition, though I don’t think anyone is rushing to see rematches with the men who did defeat him.
A loss would be pretty devastating, likely proof that dos Anjos is no longer at his peak form.
Alternatively, it’s a big opportunity and step up for Chiesa. “Maverick” has some solid scalps on his resume, but he’s still looking for that breakthrough win that really announces him as a threat to the title. Defeating dos Anjos would be exactly that, a huge victory that would propel Chiesa far up the Welterweight ladder.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 166 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+“Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the main card portion that will also stream on ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Fight Night 166: “Blaydes vs. dos Santos” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.
At UFC Fight Night 166, Rafael dos Anjos and Michael Chiesa will battle in the co-main event. Which man will have his hand raised?