After losing back-to-back fights to Colby Covington and Kamaru Usman, it was easy to see why so many media members and fans were down on Rafael dos Anjos. The former UFC lightweight champion had a quick rise to the top of the welterweight division with three straight wins over Tarec Saffiedine, Neil Magny and Robbie Lawler. But after back-to-back losses to Covington and Usman, it appeared as though RDA was not an elite welterweight, being too small to compete with the division’s top wrestlers.
When Kevin Lee decided he couldn’t make the lightweight limit of 155lbs any longer, he joined RDA as a former lightweight who made the move up to welterweight. With Lee coming off of a decision loss to Al Iaquinta in his last fight at 155, and with RDA on a losing skid himself, it was sensible matchmaking for the UFC to book Lee against RDA in his welterweight debut. With Lee being a quality wrestler, the oddsmakers listed him as the betting favorite in the fight, despite the fact he had no prior experience at 170lbs. It turns out the oddsmakers had the wrong man favored.
After three competitive rounds, RDA turned up the heat in the fourth round of his UFC Rochester main event fight against Lee, finishing him by submission via arm-triangle choke. It was a poor performance by Lee, who didn’t have the conditioning to dig deep late in the fight. Despite being 34 compared to 26 for Lee, RDA was able to outlast his younger opponent and win the fight once it hit the championship rounds. The win snapped RDA’s two-fight losing skid, while for Lee it gives him his own two-fight losing skid. This was a big win for RDA, who needed to show he is still a viable contender in the UFC’s stacked welterweight division.
The win over Lee shows that RDA is still one of the best welterweights in the world. Not only did RDA win, but he finished Lee, which is something only Tony Ferguson and Leonardo Santos previously did. This was a statement win for RDA, who showed the MMA world that he still has plenty left in the tank despite being in the second part of his career. The win over Lee shows that RDA is still a contender at 170lbs.
The victory at UFC Rochester won’t earn RDA a title shot, but it should absolutely earn him another date with a top-10 opponent in his next outing, such as Santiago Ponzinibbio, or perhaps a money fight against Nick Diaz, whom RDA said is interested in fighting him. Basically, the win keeps RDA highly relevant in one of the UFC’s most competitive weight classes. He will obviously have to wait a little while longer to get that title shot, and perhaps another win or two would elevate him to such a position, but either way, beating Lee is a solid win for RDA.
It’s amazing to see how much RDA has accomplished in the UFC considering he lost his first two fights in the Octagon back in 2008 to Jeremy Stephens and Tyson Griffin. At that point, the UFC would have been in their right to release him and let him go back to the Brazilian regional circuit and improve his game. But the UFC stuck by him and RDA has been rewarded over the years, first becoming a champion in the lightweight division and now remaining a contender in the welterweight division. Over 10 years after making his UFC debut on the Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Couture card and RDA is still out here winning fights. He’s had a tremendous career, and this latest win over Lee shows that his time at the top is not quite over just yet.