Michael Maverick Chiesa has been making strides in the UFCs welterweight division. He faces veteran Rafael dos Anjos at UFC Raleigh. He has described it as his biggest challenge yet. It’s an interesting match and both fighters possess well-rounded skill sets. Both fighters have been respectful towards each other in the buildup. However, there is an interesting contrast between the two of them. It comes out more in their backgrounds.
Michael Chiesa is a relative newcomer to the welterweight division. It’s a crowded division which has plenty of competition. Sitting at the top is the champion Kamaru Usman. Circling him and coveting the gold around his waist are contenders Leon Edwards, Colby Covington, Jorge Masvidal and Tyron Woodley. Rafael dos Anjos (aka RDA) is also a contender currently ranked at number 4.
RDA is in fact a perennial contender for that strap. He has earned the “gatekeeper” moniker. It’s a moniker reserved for those who have reached a status near the pinnacle of the fight game, but haven’t quite achieved it. That’s not quite true for RDA. He won the lightweight champion against Anthony Pettis, but has not yet tasted gold in the UFCs 170 lb division. While competing in the lower weight class at 155lbs, RDA used his skills as a martial artist in conjunction with his size to dominate the division. While he has lost to the contenders above, RDA emphatically defeated Kevin Lee. That put Lee’s welterweight ambitions on hold.
Chiesa’s journey also began at lightweight. Chiesa also used his size in lightweight to his advantage. He first made his mark in 2015 when he beat Al Iaquinta in the inaugural season of the Ultimate Fighter:Live. Chiesa continued his martial arts journey at lightweight for the following years. Along the way, he picked up some significant victories against Jim Miller and Beneil Dariush, both coming by submission. However, he fell short to some of the bigger names such as Jorge Masvidal, Anthony Pettis, Joe Lauzon and Kevin Lee.
It’s interesting to note that Chiesa and RDA have some common opponents – namely, Kevin Lee and Anthony Pettis. RDA has emerged victorious against both, while the maverick has fallen short to both.
Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. While Chiesa has adopted the ‘Maverick’ nickname, his conduct on the other hand has been mostly conformist and traditional. The biggest exception was the brawl that took place at the press conference against Kevin Lee. When the infamous bus attack took place at UFC 223, Chiesa was collateral damage as he suffered shards of glass. On this occasion, Chiesa opted to take legal action. In more recent times, Chiesa has also appeared as an analyst for the UFC along with Gianni Karalis. Chiesa has proven on these occasions that he is an astute student of the fight game.
RDA is Chiesa’s third challenge at welterweight. The previous two were Carlos Condit and Diego Sanchez, both of whom like RDA are MMA veterans. The maverick emerged victorious on both those occasions. He has spoken encouragingly about the move to welterweight, stating that it is healthier for him. While the task ahead of him is daunting, a victory against RDA will help secure some much needed credibility for Chiesa’s quest for gold.