Thursday night was tough for Rafael dos Anjos. The Brazilian entered the day as the champion of the UFC's lightweight division, but finished as just a contender. Former Bellator lightweight kingpin Eddie Alvarez blasted dos Anjos, stopping him inside a round at 3:49 of the first at UFC Fight Night 90. It was to be dos Anjos's second title defense until it became his loss.
"No excuses, man," dos Anjos said at the post-fight press conference at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. "I was in the best shape of my life. I want to give all the credits for Eddie. He did a great job, but I was with my hands up when I got caught. I just saw the punch," he continued, "that's the fight game, man. It happens. I won ten of my last eleven. All the credits for Eddie. He did a great job, but I think I just got caught.
"I just remember the moment that I got caught," he said, arguing his loss proved Alvarez was better but perhaps part of a larger process of how MMA fights naturally play out. "I think I end up on top, but then I remember when I was standing and it was about 30 seconds left or something. The referee stopped the fight."
Dos Anjos seemed accepting of the loss and naturally forlorn, but not necessarily dejected. "It's a tough division," he noted when asked why no UFC lightweight champ ever has defended it more than three times. "It's one of the deepest divisions in UFC. I'm pretty sure I'll be back. I'll get my belt back."
Questions prior to the contest about whether the Brazilian's weight cut was becoming too tough are likely to linger, especially after the loss, but dos Anjos argued he has no intentions of going to welterweight. Lightweight, he claimed, is where he belongs and where he intends to continue his efforts.
"I will be back in the lightweight division. I think it's my division," dos Anjos said. "I'm 31 years old. I still have a lot to do, a lot to improve. I was speaking with my coaches after the fight, trying to figure out what I did wrong. When I got caught, my hand was up. I had good form at that time. It just happened. Unfortunately, it happened with me today, but let's move on. Congratulations for Eddie.
"I didn't feel him that strong, but I think the problem [is] most of the guys in my division look bigger than me." For dos Anjos, he might look small for lightweight, but looks can be deceiving, especially when his frame is compared to other lightweight contenders. "I think because I have heavy bones with my head too big. It's kinda heavy. I have heavy bones, but I didn't feel strength wise a difference with Eddie tonight."
As for the larger narrative about the decline in Brazilian champions, dos Anjos didn't bite. While there are no Brazilian UFC champs as this article is written, that could change by the end of the weekend. In terms of dos Anjos's perspective, if it's not this weekend, it's still an inevitability.
"I was the only one left, but I think Brazil, it's where everything started," dos Anjos claimed. "A lot of fighters come from Brazil. We've been doing this for long, long years. New champions will be coming. For sure, new champions will come."
All of this raises the question of what's next. If dos Anjos gets his way, he'll get a rematch. He argued he's won 10 of his last 11 fights, the only loss being the defeat at the hands of Alvarez. That win streak, he believes, is what should carry him to one more crack at reclaiming what he lost on Thursday.
"Of my last 11 fights, I won 10. I really like the rematch. It's something that I'm looking for," he noted. "He faced the best Rafael dos Anjos ever. I did everything perfect for my fight camp. Congratulations to him, but I think the rematch is what I would like."