The Morning After: Breaking Down Rafael Dos Anjos’ Welterweight Debut

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How Did Rafael Dos Anjos Fair Against Tarec Saffiedine?

UFC Smart Bro

After enduring three main card bouts that went the distance, many people would probably remember Holly Holm’s third-round head kick KO of Bethe Correira as the highlight of UFC Fight Night Singapore. While it’s hard to argue against that, perhaps a lot of you would agree that Rafael dos Anjos’ welterweight debut against Tarec Saffiedine was the most intriguing of the main card bouts. A former champion moving up or down in weight is always an interesting prospect. The perennial question of whether they retain their speed or power, among other attributes, could be glimpsed during their debut in the new weight class. And so, here’s our breakdown of RDA’s welterweight debut performance.

Many critics point to the size differential between lightweights and welterweights in general as an obvious disadvantage for Dos Anjos. Saffiedine in particular enjoys a significant height advantage over RDA, and he is not shy about using his range to maim his opponents with kicks. Last night, we saw RDA neutralize Saffiedine’s range by cutting the Octagon and making Tarec fight in the clinch. Dos Anjos would move forward and use his signature left body kick and right leg kick to keep Saffiedine in the pocket. He would then slug with the Belgian to get close enough for the clinch. Inside the clinch, RDA fires powerful knees that visibly bucked Tarec’s midsection. Dos Anjos’ inclination to target the body paid dividends as Saffiedine showed incredible agility whenever RDA went headhunting, but could not escape the Brazilian’s left body kick which repeatedly found its home throughout the three-rounder.

That said, Dos Anjos’ ability to take any lightweight down at will did not materialize with the welterweight Saffiedine. Whether it be a diminished size advantage (RDA was HUGE at lightweight), the longer limbs of his opponent, or part of his game plan to not push for the TD as much, the Brazilian had less-than-optimal success in taking the fight to the ground. If Dos Anjos cannot plow through his welterweight opponents as he did so easily at lightweight, he can either develop his repertoire with trips and technical takedowns, and/or continue to work on his clinch game so he could take minimal damage without having to expend too much energy on takedowns. Since developing a new skill set takes more time, RDA can rely more on his clinch while he continues to work on his TDs against longer, heavier opponents.

The main thing left unanswered from last night’s fight is the issue of power. Saffiedine is known more as a technical striker than a power puncher. RDA has shown vulnerability in the past, most recently in his title loss against Eddie Alvarez. Not to say that his next fight should be against a heavy-handed welterweight, but that seems to be the most interesting puzzle Dos Anjos has to solve before we could definitively say that he can be a serious welterweight contender.

Should RDA stay at welterweight? Well, I don’t think he has a choice. He did say in the post-fight interview that his ageing body forced him to move up in weight. Should that be the case, we’re expecting one more fight before RDA gets thrown in with the Top 5 of the division. While Time is not his friend, RDA being forced to stay at welterweight is a blessing in disguise because he’s left with just two choices: Evolve or perish.

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John Hudson Go is the Editor-in-Chief of MMA Philippines.

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