clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Rafael dos Anjos sees holes in champ Anthony Pettis’ game

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- It isn't by coincidence that Rafael dos Anjos is fighting Nate Diaz at UFC on FOX 13, just seven days after the lightweight title picture finally sprung back to life with Anthony Pettis' triumphant return from injury.

"The main reason that I accepted this fight was because I wanted to fight close to the shot for the title fight," dos Anjos said on Wednesday.

"I wanted to be in shape around this time. If I win this fight -- which I will, I have confidence in myself I will -- Pettis right now is the champion and he has enough time to recover, and I'm looking forward to getting my chance."

Though the 155-pound division is among the UFC's most talent-rich, dos Anjos (22-7) has used the second-half of 2014 as his own personal coming out party and separated himself as one of the frontrunners for Pettis' belt. A win against Diaz would make it three in six months for the Brazilian, who entered the UFC in 2008 predominantly as a grappler, but has since rounded out his game to rise into the No. 3 spot on the UFC's media-generated rankings.

dos Anjos' latest 6-1 run includes two of the division's most impressive wins among its contenders: a decision over Donald Cerrone and a stunning first-round victory over Benson Henderson this past August, the latter of which saw Anjos become the first man to knock out of the former champion -- with a combination that started with a flying knee, no less.

"I'm always the underdog, I know that," dos Anjos said. "But I didn't surprise myself. When I got the opportunity to fight [Henderson], I knew I could beat him. And that's what I did."

Considering his current momentum, dos Anjos now feels like a impressive showing against Diaz at UFC on FOX 13 would be enough to finally push him over the edge in the race for the next title shot.

"The only guy before me is Khabib (Nurmagomedov)," dos Anjos said. "But he's out, he has a problem with his knee. My focus right now is on the fight on Saturday, but if I beat Diaz, I really would love to get my chance. I've been in the UFC for six long years and have 16 fights. I'm really looking forward to getting my chance."

As for Pettis, the UFC's oft-injured lightweight champion returned from a 16-month absence at UFC 181 and barely skipped a beat, submitting Gilbert Melendez with a spectacular second-round guillotine.

It was just more of the same for Pettis, a world-class athlete who in limited action has polished off Henderson, Cerrone, and Joe Lauzon in similarly quick fashion. dos Anjos, though, is undaunted by what he's seen from "Showtime" so far.

"He's a really good fighter. He has good stand-up, a good submission game as well, so that's why he's champion. But I think I have weapons to beat him," dos Anjos said.

"He's a tough fight, but I always see some holes in his game and I'm looking forward to working on [them]."

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting