The timeless Rafael Dos Anjos steps inside the Octagon for his 29th UFC bout this weekend when he takes on Michael Chiesa in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 166. Despite losing three out of his last four, Dos Anjos is still ranked #5 in the welterweight division and a win over Chiesa would prove he can still compete at the highest levels.
Very few fighters are still relevant after a 16-year career, but Dos Anjos is a great exception. He enjoyed a career resurgence in 2014 after moving his camp to Kings MMA gym to train under the legendary Rafael Cordeiro. RDA was always an aggressive striker, but his move to Kings MMA allowed him to perfect his pressuring style as Cordeiro taught him the classic Chute Boxe style that dominated the early days of the sport. The Chute Boxe style revolves around constant pressure, routinely ripping the body, and always looking to tie the opponent up in the clinch. Cordeiro’s students have never had the deepest bag of tricks, but they learn to dominate by perfecting the basics and overwhelming opponents with pressure and astute grappling if it hits the mat. Dos Anjos has since left Kings MMA to train under Jason Parillo at the RVCA gym, but the techniques and tactics he learned under Cordeiro are still a major part of his game today and arguably saved his career.
Notice the last clip in the compilation above of Dos Anjos throwing one of the most intense flurries I have ever seen. He backed Lawler to the cage with a flying knee and threw a 20+ punch combo that lasted for nearly 50 seconds. What’s equally impressive about this flurry is that Dos Anjos didn’t slow down one bit after this and went on to win a dominant unanimous decision.
Dos Anjos is usually the leading man but with this constant pressure comes an elite pressure countering game. Most counter strikers work off their back foot and rely on the opponent to be the leading fighter so they can step back to create space and unload with a counter. This constant pressure is great for leading attacks, but it can also be used to fluster opponents into coming forward with something desperate and reckless which allows Dos Anjos to step back and counter. He can get a bit aggressive when trying to draw a reaction out of the opponent, but overall his defense has been exceptional throughout his career.
Since Dos Anjos has become a striking based fighter in recent years, people forget that he came into the UFC as a linear submission specialist and can still finish the fight on the ground if needed. Half of his first 14 wins came via submission and it wasn’t until his fight with Cowboy Cerrone in 2013 that proved how dangerous he can be on the feet. And recently Dos Anjos relied on his grappling to take out top young contender Kevin Lee in arguably the best performances of his UFC career. Chiesa is also an elite grappler with 11 of his 16 wins coming by submission so only time will tell if Rafael Dos Anjos is confident enough in his ground game to try to take Chiesa down.