Rafael dos Anjos gave Kevin Lee a rude welcome to the welterweight division.
In the main event of UFC Fight Night: Dos Anjos vs. Lee at Blue Cross Arena on Saturday, it took “RDA” four rounds to wear Lee down, but when the time came to pounce, he capitalized with an arm-triangle choke submission that a drained Lee could not escape.
The win snapped a two-fight skid for dos Anjos and kept him in the thick of the welterweight title picture.
It wasn’t an easy win by any stretch.
“I knew he was going to be strong in the first round and he pushed through the third and I was just using my experience,” dos Anjos said. “[Coach] Jason Parillo told me to do a little adjustment in the fourth, make a huge difference. Stick to my jab, don’t load too much my punches, I started letting go more. I was able to work my takedowns. I needed that victory.”
Dos Anjos, 34, dedicated the win to his wife Cris and their three children, including his youngest son Roger who turned eight months old on Friday. He is now 18-9 in the UFC and 29-11 in his pro career.
The loss was Lee’s third in four appearances. Lee (17-5) was making his UFC debut at 170 pounds, but the move up a division did not yield an immediate turnaround for “The Motown Phenom” despite some early success.
Known for his fast starts, Lee came out with characteristic vigor and actually managed to catch an off-balance dos Anjos with a punch in the opening seconds to set up a takedown.
Dos Anjos’s defensive grappling allowed him to return the fight to the feet and Lee looked comfortable there, firing freely in the opening five minutes. Using a strategy similar to that employed by Colby Covington and Kamaru Usman in their respective wins over dos Anjos, Lee pressured dos Anjos against the cage to minimize dos Anjos’s output.
Rounds two and three saw a similar rhythm, though dos Anjos showed that he was more than a match for Lee in the wrestling department. While Lee had some success mixing in takedowns and strikes, dos Anjos was able to counter and put him on his back multiple times.
In the fourth, it was obvious that the pace of the grappling-heavy contest was taking a toll on both men. However, it was Lee who appeared to be more fatigued and after a takedown attempt was stuffed, he failed to recover and dos Anjos took his back. Lee turned over, giving up mount, and from there dos Anjos moved into position for the arm-triangle submission that had Lee tapping out at the 3:47 mark of round four.
Back on the winning track, dos Anjos declined to call for a specific name afterwards, but he made it clear that he still has his sights on UFC gold.
“I know that I have what it takes to be a world champion,” dos Anjos said. “I just want to be ready for the right opportunity and I’ll be ready to take advantage of it.”
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