clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Rafael dos Anjos sets sights on Tyron Woodley after UFC 215: ‘The division is wide open’

Rafael dos Anjos defeated Neil Magny via first-round submission at UFC 215.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Rafael dos Anjos’ welterweight experiment appears to be a success.

The former UFC lightweight champion made a thunderous statement on Saturday, submitting 170-pound contender Neil Magny with a first-round arm-triangle choke in a one-sided performance to vault himself into instant title contention in the UFC’s welterweight division. Dos Anjos is now 2-0 in the weight class, having also decisioned ex-Strikeforce champion Tarec Saffiedine this past summer, and with the 170-pound class currently lacking a clear No. 1 contender, it may not be long before dos Anjos finds himself locked in a cage against UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley.

“The division is wide open,” dos Anjos said Saturday night at UFC 215’s post-fight press conference. “All of the top five, top six guys in this division have lost to the champion or to the last challenger, which was Demian Maia. (Stephen) Thompson lost twice to Woodley already. And I’m new blood in this division. I was getting ready to fight Woodley if Maia didn’t take the fight (at UFC 214), but he ended up taking the fight, but I was getting ready for it and so here I am. I’m coming. Former lightweight champion looking forward to being two-division champion.”

Dos Anjos, 32, is already established as one of the greatest lightweights to ever compete in the UFC. From 2012 to 2015, “RDA” embarked on a masterful tear in the division, racking up a 10-1 record while dispatching a litany of celebrated names like Nate Diaz, Donald Cerrone (x2), and Benson Henderson en route to capturing the 155-pound title.

Dos Anjos’ momentum was ultimately halted in 2016 when he lost back-to-back fights against Eddie Alvarez and Tony Ferguson, but now the hard-charging Brazilian has reestablished himself as a name to watch at 170 pounds, and he is setting his sights squarely on Woodley — a champion who dos Anjos has criticized for playing it safe in his past title defenses.

“One thing, I can be sure: we’re going to fight. I’m not going to let him walk around, and I’m going to make sure I push the pace,” dos Anjos said of a potential fight against Woodley.

“I’m not saying I would not use strategy — of course I will — but I walk forward. I have confidence in [myself], in my cardio, and I’m going to make him work.”

Much of dos Anjos’ success at 170 pounds can be attributed to the Brazilian fighter’s newfound weight cut, or lack thereof.

Throughout his title run, “RDA” was a massive lightweight who would nearly kill himself to get down to 155 pounds. That weight cut gradually became worse and worse as dos Anjos aged, to the point where it reached dire straights in dos Anjos’ last two fights at lightweight. Now, however, dos Anjos is able to fight closer to his natural weight and not destroy his body trying to shrink down to 155 pounds. And in the afterglow of his dominant win over Magny, “RDA” admitted that his welterweight move is a decision he now wishes he made earlier in his career.

“My plan was the gain the title, the lightweight title, defend it once then go up a division,” dos Anjos said, “because I was looking for the fight with Robbie Lawler. He was the champ at that time. But the opportunity to fight Eddie Alvarez came up, I was about to fight Conor (McGregor) and then I broke my foot, and I said, ‘okay, I’ve got to fight one more time in this division.’

“When I lost, it cost me my title, and I was struggling so much to make that weight. I always had a hard time to make weight, but for the last two times, I felt like, ‘I’m going to die.’ And that was a very hard feeling. I don’t want to have this feeling anymore.”

Moving forward, dos Anjos said he plans to relax for awhile and take a European vacation with his family later this month. Once he returns, however, he’s ready to hurl himself back into the fray.

Dos Anjos indicated he would be open to a fight against Robbie Lawler if that’s the matchup that would propel him towards a UFC title shot. But ultimately, dos Anjos said his goal is singular — and if it were up to him, Woodley would “for sure” be the next man he faces.

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