33-year old Brazilian star Rafael Dos Anjos has had the kind of mixed martial arts career most could only dream of. With 28 professional wins and nine losses, Dos Anjos is a former UFC lightweight champion and has been a staple of the UFC roster for a little under 10 years.
Despite all of his hard work a dedication, the last few years of his UFC career have seen him fall victim to bad luck on more than one occasion. Now, having moved up to welterweight in the pursuit of an elusive second title, he once again finds himself on the cusp of losing out on an opportunity he has worked hard for, again due to nothing more than bad luck.
Dos Anjos misfortune can be traced back to February 2016.
UFC 197 was set to be one of the biggest events the UFC had ever put together. The headline fight that evening was to be reigning UFC lightweight champion, Dos Anjos, defending his title against current featherweight king, Conor McGregor. Press conferences took place, building interest in the fight. McGregor behaved as only McGregor could. He left all of us with some memorable soundbites while rarely allowing Dos Anjos to speak uninterrupted.
Disaster struck for Dos Anjos in February 2016 when he suffered a broken foot in training. The announcement was made that the fight was off.
McGregor moved on to a fight with Nate Diaz at UFC 197 with Diaz stepping in at short notice to save the show. For now, at least, the big payday set to befall Dos Anjos for fighting McGregor had passed.
I expect Dos Anjos would have hoped for his bout with McGregor to be rebooked at the next available opportunity. Again, bad luck stepped in. In a twist, very few anticipated, Mcgregor lost to Diaz. The MMA world was left in a state of shock with the exception of Diaz who famously wasn’t surprised. The Irishman demanded an immediate rematch. The UFC was only too willing to oblige considering the financial success of the first fight. Leaving Dos Anjos once again with an uncertain future.
There was little to do except move on from his hopes of silencing Conor. The next logical move was to turn his gaze back to the lightweight division and take on the next challenger to his crown. In this instance, that meant a fight with Eddie Alvarez.
Alvarez vs Dos Anjos was booked to headline UFC Fight Night 90 in July 2016.
Once again, things did not quite go to plan for Dos Anjos. Alvarez stunned the champion with a shocking TKO victory just under four minutes into the first round.
Dos Anjos had lost his payday fight with McGregor and now he had lost his belt.
Rubbing salt in the former champions wounds, Alvarez was booked to make his first title defence against none other than Mystic Mac. Alvarez ultimately lost that fight in spectacular fashion making McGregor a two-weight UFC champion.
Dos Anjos moved on to take on Tony Ferguson, in the hope that a win would put him back into title contention. He lost via unanimous decision.
At a crossroads in his career and with the lightweight title seeming a world away, Dos Anjos took the decision to move up to 170lbs. The welterweight division would be a fresh start for the former champion. A chance to rebuild his career.
The move went well. His first three fights at welterweight all ended with his hand raised. Dos Anjos took on an increasingly challenging list of opponents. He first defeated Tarrec Saffedine by unanimous decision. This was followed by a submission victory against Neil Magny. Most recently, Dos Anjos fought Robbie Lawler – a former welterweight champion who has delivered some of the most memorable fights in recent history.
At the end of a battle lasting 25 minutes, Dos Anjos was victorious. He was the number 2 ranked contender in the welterweight division. With the champion Tyron Woodley having already had two, less than exciting fights, with the number 1 contender Stephen Thompson, the stage was set for Dos Anjos to challenge for the title. He was next in line. Nobody could possibly argue otherwise. Surely it was only a matter of biding his time until Woodley was healthy and he would get his chance. Surely.
Now it seems, the UFC are intent on booking someone else for Woodley’s next defence. Woodley himself has been angling for a “money fight” for some time. The UFC appear ready to oblige. Who could they possibly want to put in front of Dos Anjos?
Step forward, Nate Diaz.
Woodley has gone on the record with ESPN stating that he thinks Diaz will be next.
“I think that fight will happen…it will happen this year. I think it’s way more likely than people realize. There are conversations about Nate and I fighting in July. The UFC has offered Nate that fight. They just have to make it worth his while. I think I’ll fight Nate this year, and I think it will be my return to the Octagon. If I had to bet the house on it, that’s my next opponent.”
There has arguably been no bigger beneficiary of Dos Anjos bad luck than Diaz. His broken foot gifted Diaz the fight against McGregor. That matchup and the subsequent rematch elevated Diaz to a level he had never previously achieved within the UFC. He was now an extremely wealthy man and a significant draw for the UFC.
He was once soundly beaten by Dos Anjos at lightweight. Now, it would seem, he is on the brink of leapfrogging him to take a shot at the welterweight belt. Despite all of his hard work, despite doing things the traditional way, Dos Anjos may once again miss out.
Bad luck can’t last forever, can it?
Lets hypothetically assume that Diaz manages to dethrone Woodley. Surely Dos Anjos will get a shot at him next. What other option would the UFC have? Will the UFC finally give him his shot at being a two weight champion?
Or would the UFC rather book Diaz vs McGregor 3, giving Conor a shot at being the companies first ever three weight champion?
It shouldn’t even be up for discussion. Should it?