Rafael dos Anjos’ job likely wasn’t in jeopardy at UFC Rochester, but the former lightweight champion still wanted no part of the first three-fight losing streak of his professional career.
The 34-year-old Brazilian has had a trio of two-bout skids during his UFC tenure, the most recent of which came against Colby Covington and Kamaru Usman in five-round welterweight fights. Each time dos Anjos has responded in a big way, and Saturday against Kevin Lee was no different, as the veteran earned a fourth-round submission victory against and a young and talented opponent.
“My debut in the UFC, I lost two in a row,” dos Anjos said during a post-fight interview on ESPN+. “Before I moved up a division, I lost two in a row, and I’m not gonna lie to you guys. I was under a lot of pressure. But it’s good to be back in the winning path.”
Dos Anjos survived a fast start from Lee, who faded as the later rounds arrived. While “The Motown Phenom” was able to land six takedowns, he wasn’t able to use his wrestling consistently enough to dictate the tempo of the fight. Dos Anjos, meanwhile, blended his striking and wrestling nicely, and his four takedowns landed were the most of any Lee opponent in UFC competition. When Lee fatigued, dos Anjos found the right opportunity to lock an arm-triangle choke to get back on the winning track.
“I knew he would come out strong in the first rounds,” dos Anjos said. “I just used my experience and [coach] Jason Parillo told me a little adjustment to make in the fourth. I stuck him with my jab and didn’t load my punches as much. I was able to work my takedowns and I needed that victory.”
Dos Anjos began his 170-pound tenure with convincing victories over Tarec Saffiedine, Neil Magny and Robbie Lawler. That experience – along with the losses to Covington and Usman – was invaluable against Lee.
“I took my time and took his energy,” dos Anjos said. “I used my cage experience. My last three fights, I went 25 minutes with the best guys. It gave me a lot of experience for situations like this.”
He isn’t convinced Lee, who was making his welterweight debut after a stint at 155 pounds, is the victory that puts him back into title contention. Still, it was a step in the right direction. Dos Anjos has tasted UFC gold in one division, and he hasn’t given up on his dreams of capturing the welterweight crown.
“Kevin, he’s a tough guy, but he wasn’t ranked,” dos Anjos said. “He came up a division now and I think that was a good fight to put me on the winning path. I see the interim champion will fight the champion right now, probably. I’m just open. I’m not sticking too much with the rankings right now, but I have this desire in me.
“I want to be champion one day and if I don’t believe that I’m not gonna be a champion, I’m gonna stop fighting. I’m gonna quit this sport. I still believe I can make it and I’m going to work. I’m working hard on it.”