Rafael dos Anjos got a statement win on Saturday night. | Photo: Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com
In the aftermath of his dominant unanimous decision victory over Nate Diaz at UFC on Fox 13, Rafael dos Anjos was the recipient of some very good news.
“Just for the record, [UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis] texted me after the fight and said, ‘Wow, [dos Anjos] murdered him,” UFC President Dana White said at Saturday’s post-fight press conference. “[He said], ‘I’ll be ready to go. I’ll fight whichever. If Khabib [Nurmagomedov] is healthy I’ll fight him, if not I’ll fight dos Anjos.’”
While Nurmagomedov vaulted to the front of the lightweight waiting list with his three-round verdict over dos Anjos in April, the unbeaten Dagestani is still healing from a knee injury suffered in July. According to White, his uncertain status means dos Anjos is likely next in line to get a shot at Pettis’ lightweight strap.
“I would say if Khabib was healthy right now, probably Khabib [would be next], but he’s not,” White said. “So it’s dos Anjos.”
The 30-year-old Rio de Janeiro native battered Diaz with vicious leg kicks throughout their co-headlining bout at the US Airways Center in Phoenix. That assault left the Stockton, Calif., native’s movement extremely limited, and the Brazilian continued to build his lead on the scorecards with takedowns and ground-and-pound as the bout progressed.
The lopsided final verdict gave dos Anjos his eighth victory in nine UFC appearances and appears to have set the stage for the biggest opportunity of his career to date.
“That was the best news that I had. I’m so happy. I’ve been working hard for the past six years in the UFC,” dos Anjos said. “That’s my dream. I think my hard work paid off. I fought a lot this year… I fought four times in eight months. I just need to take some rest and time off with my family and start getting back on track so I can get this belt.”
While Diaz drew much of the pre-fight attention for some memorable sound bites, he also missed Wednesday’s open workouts and failed to make weight on Friday. About three minutes into the fight, it was clear that Diaz had no answers for his opponent’s barrage of leg kicks.
“It wasn’t easy, but I’ve been training so hard. I watched his previous fight, and I noticed he does not block any kicks,” dos Anjos said. “So I [have] good kicks. That was the game plan. After the third kick, I felt him switch base and then I kept working on it.”
Dos Anjos was not pleased when Diaz tipped the scales more than four pounds over the allowable lightweight limit.
“I’m a professional. When I [get] a fight I want to do the best that I can, so I made weight and that’s my job. That’s how I support my family,” he said. “So I felt the disrespect when he missed weight.”
While dos Anjos said that he would like some time to rest following a hectic eight months that saw him best Jason High, Benson Henderson and Diaz after falling to Nurmagomedov, the lure of championship gold is more than enough to bring him back to the Octagon sometime early next year if necessary.
“For sure. For the title, I’ll fight now -- next week,” he said. “I’m ready to go.”