The Film Room: Rafael Dos Anjos

By Kevin Wilson Jun 8, 2018
UFC 225 is now available on Amazon Prime.

Former Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos takes on surging prospect Colby Covington for the interim welterweight championship Saturday in the co-main event of UFC 225. Dos Anjos has had a career resurgence since moving up to welterweight and a win this weekend will put him in an elite company of fighters who have earned major championships in two different weight classes. Today we go over the techniques and strategies that make up “RDA.”

The Resurrection of RDA

William James once said, “Most people never run far enough in their first wind to find out they’ve got a second.” Dos Anjos has run so far in the sport of mixed martial arts that he is on his third wind. Early in his career Dos Anjos was a linear submission specialist with decent takedowns. It worked for a while but once he joined the UFC, he went 4-4 in his first eight fights and despite the hype, he turned out to be the one-dimensional fighter most expected. Then came a five-fight win streak, including a win over Donald Cerrone that earned him a fight with the highly-touted prospect, Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Nurmagomedov “rag-dolled” Dos Anjos just like he did to everyone else, and again Dos Anjos was left on the outside looking in.

In 2012, Dos Anjos moved to Kings MMA to train under legendary muay Thai coach, Master Rafael Cordeiro. Moving to Kings saved Dos Anjos’ career, as he has gone 13-3 since. Under Cordeiro, RDA developed the classic Chute Boxe style that dominated MMA in the early days. Constant pressure, ripping the body and always looking for the plum clinch. Cordeiro’s students don’t have the deepest bag of tricks, but learn to get by on perfecting the basics and overwhelming their opponent with pressure.

Dos Anjos has always been a pressuring striker, but working with Cordeiro allowed him to perfect this aggressive style. Lately we’ve talked a lot about pressure countering. Most counter strikers 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’s 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. Notice here how Dos Anjos is backing his opponent to the cage with footwork and one-twos, and as they move forward he steps back and counters before going back to pressuring.

In his most recent fight with Robbie Lawler, Dos Anjos threw one of the craziest flurries in UFC history. For nearly 45 seconds, Dos Anjos backed Lawler to the cage with a flying knee and then proceeded to land 20+ punches while mixing them to the head and body. The craziest part about this is RDA didn’t slow down one bit 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’re not making massive weight cuts.

Although known for his aggressiveness, Dos Anjos has a good mix of pressuring and knowing when to relax and pick his shots. Against Anthony Pettis and Lawler, it looked like he planned out when to be aggressive and when to slow down. In both fights he opened every round with his usual pressure and at the halfway point would slow down, walk his opponents to the cage and intelligently pick his strikes.

Dos Anjos isn’t known as a power puncher, but he had two knockout victories in a row after the loss to Nurmagomedov, including one over former champion Benson Henderson. Henderson had no answers to the pressure and was dropped with a left hook as he tried to get to his feet after a takedown attempt. The casual fan didn’t know much about RDA before this fight and just seven months later he destroyed Pettis from bell to bell to win the first championship of his career.

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.

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