Rafael dos Anjos made Donald Cerrone’s eight-fight winning streak seem like a distant memory at UFC on Fox 17, as he unceremoniously dispatched the fan favorite in a mere 66 seconds.
In a year of emerging superstars and newly-crowned champions, it was easy to forget how good dos Anjos has become in the past few years. After all, it had been nine months since the Brazilian authored a five-round beatdown of the flashy Anthony Pettis in Dallas. No matter: dos Anjos doesn’t need long to make a statement.
“We knew that I had 25 minutes to win the fight, but on the way to the Octagon I was talking to my coaches,” dos Anjos said at Saturday’s post-fight press conference. “They said we have 25 minutes to win the fight, but don’t miss an opportunity. I felt when I threw a knee to the body on him it was the beginning of the end.”
That knee had Cerrone reeling, and dos Anjos capitalized by unleashing a barrage of punches on a fading “Cowboy” near the fence. The WEC veteran attempted to stall the inevitable by shooting for a takedown, but dos Anjos easily stuffed the try, spun to his foe’s back and forced the stoppage with a series of unanswered shots on the canvas.
“Hat’s off to the sumbitch. He did what he had to do,” Cerrone said. “... He did a great job overwhelming me and knew what he had to do to remain champ. Sometimes you just don’t show up. In our profession, that’s a bad day.”
All told, dos Anjos landed a whopping 26 significant strikes in little more than one minute, yet another testament to the Brazilian’s growing striking aptitude. Once upon a time, dos Anjos was regarded as little more than a grappler with a limited striking repertoire. Lopsided efforts against the likes of Cerrone, Pettis and Henderson have changed that perception.
“I started in the UFC as a jiu-jitsu fighter. Since I moved to California [to Kings MMA], it’s been four years now. I’ve been training so hard with master Rafael Cordeiro. He knows how to train fighters and he’s been helping me a lot,” dos Anjos said. “Standup fighting is something that I like to train. I enjoy training boxing and muay Thai, and that’s why I think I’m able to improve all the time. I just turned 31 years old. I feel that I can improve everything more. I think it’s just the beginning.”
Dos Anjos didn’t get much time to bask in the glow of his latest victory, however. Conor McGregor taunted dos Anjos about a potential move to 155 pounds at the UFC’s “Go Big” press conference earlier this year, and he reiterated those plans following a 13-second knockout of Jose Aldo at UFC 194 last week. As a result, the Irishman loomed large over the lightweight championship fight all week. Finally dos Anjos was able to address the issue without overlooking a more immediate obstacle.
“Since I won the fight against Pettis I had my MCL injury. It took me maybe four months to get better. And finally here I am defending my belt. I didn’t have any injuries,” he said. “I’m looking forward to coming back soon as possible. Conor McGregor has been saying he wants to come to my division. I think it will not be a smart decision for him, but if he wants to come I will be happy to welcome him.”