Vicente Luque could have potentially never fought again after a terrifying brain bleed nearly ended his career but he fought his way back before earning a unanimous decision victory over Rafael dos Anjos in the UFC Vegas 78 main event.
Widely regarded as one of the most exciting fighters on the roster, Luque admitted on Saturday night that he was actually afraid to get hit after such a scary situation regarding his health. Luque eventually got past those nerves and put on a suffocating grappling display along with a punishing performance against the cage that dos Anjos just couldn’t escape.
The judges scored the fight 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47 with Luque getting the nod in his long awaited return to action.
“I’m a cold guy but I’m really emotional right now,” Luque said afterwards. “For me, it’s a miracle to be here. I never feared anything but I feared never doing this again. I came back, I worked my ass off. I got cleared. I came back stronger than ever. I came here and did work.”
Over five rounds, Luque secured eight takedowns while constantly grinding dos Anjos against the cage as he showed off a different variety of skills to get his first ever win in a five-round fight.
“The game plan was to do everything,” Luque said. “I was ready for everything.”
The action got started early in the main event with dos Anjos swinging hammers and Luque coming right back at him with the same kind of fire power. It was strike for strike throughout the opening round but a late guillotine choke allowed dos Anjos to look for the submission until Luque escaped and then delivered some stiff shots of his own until the fighters worked back to the feet.
With a potential grappling advantage, dos Anjos was then determined to close the distance and look for the takedown but Luque would just not hit the floor. In return, Luque happily stayed in the clinch, which is where he started connecting with short, punishing shots with a big elbow coming over the top just before he resetting in the center of the cage.
Despite looking to strike early, Luque eventually conceded to more grappling exchanges with dos Anjos as the former lightweight champion continuously shot for takedowns. Luque was more than holding his own, reversing positions and making dos Anjos play defense from his typical offensive mindset on the ground.
As the fight moved into the fourth round, Luque was getting more committed to his takedowns and grinding dos Anjos against the cage. Luque’s size and strength advantage also started pay dividends while taking on an opponent in dos Anjos, who has spent the majority of his career at 155 pounds.
Luque was consistently beating dos Anjos in the clinch and he just muscled his way into more dominant positions with the ex-lightweight champion struggling to find any kind of answer to reverse his fortune. Over five rounds, Luque was just the smarter, more tactical fighter while dos Anjos was once again struggling to deal with a bigger opponent, which was the same problem he faced during his previous stint at welterweight.
While it’s probably not the fight that he’ll add to his highlight reel, Luque did what needed to be done to get the victory, which is all that mattered to him after such a harrowing journey to return to the UFC. Now that he’s back with a win added to his record, Luque is ready to jump into the deep end of the welterweight division again.
“I’m eyeing to get in that [title] mix,” Luque said. “I definitely want a top contender, top five up there and then ready to go.”