The seemingly timeless Rafael dos Anjos will walk into the Octagon for the 27th time on Saturday in Rochester, New York, where he takes on Kevin Lee in the UFC Fight Night 152 main event at Blue Cross Arena. Dos Anjos has compiled a 3-4 record since losing the Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight crown to Eddie Alvarez but continues to show a desire to face the best of the best, no matter the division.
Now competing at 170 pounds, dos Anjos provides the material for this installment of The Film Room.
Dos Anjos has always been an aggressive striker, but his move to Kings MMA to train with Rafael Cordeiro revitalized his career and allowed him to go on his best run as a professional after being in the sport for nearly a decade. Under Cordeiro, he perfected his aggressive striking style and adopted the classic Chute Boxe approach: constant pressure, ripping the body and always looking for the Thai clinch. Cordeiro’s students do not have the deepest bag of tricks, but they learn to get by on perfecting the basics and overwhelming their opponents with pressure. Dos Anjos has left Kings MMA, but the tactics he learned under Cordeiro are still prevalent in his game today.
Against Robbie Lawler, dos Anjos threw one of the craziest flurries in UFC history. For nearly 45 seconds, he backed Lawler to the cage with a flying knee and then proceeded to land 20-plus punches while mixing them to the head and body. Moreover, dos Anjos did not slow down at all after the flurry and kept the same pace for three more rounds. Dos Anjos is the perfect case study for how much better your cardio can be when you are not making massive weight cuts.
Although he is always the aggressor, dos Anjos knows when to be the leading attacker and when to pressure counter. Most counterstrikers work on the back foot and rely on their opponents coming forward so they can step back and unload. Although it may look like dos Anjos is flailing forward with wild hooks, he is actually intelligently pressuring his opponents to the cage so they have no choice but to come forward. Flustered from the pressure, opponents will generally come forward sloppily, thus leaving themselves open for counters. Dos Anjos has been known to back his opponents to the cage with footwork and one-twos, and as they move forward, he steps back and counters before going back to pressuring.
Dos Anjos usually pressures forward, but he also knows when to just come forward with quick strikes before resetting at distance. One of his best leading strikes is a kick to the body that he throws with impunity since he is usually not afraid of being taken down. However, when he is fighting a grappling-based fighter, these kicks vanish and severely limit his options on the feet.
As a pressuring fighter, dos Anjos intelligently invests in leg kicks early on to slow down opponents. Something to notice about his low kicks is how he usually throws them when opponents are close to the cage. Since he does his best work with opponents trapped against the fence, landing these low kicks with them already close to the cage makes it easier to back them down and harder for them to circle away.
Since he can be such a dominant striker, many also forget how accomplished dos Anjos is on the ground. He has been training in jiu-jitsu since he was 9 years old and is a third-degree black belt under Aldo “Caveirinha” Januario. Many also forget that dos Anjos came into the UFC as a linear submission specialist and can still rely on his old tricks to get it done inside the Octagon.