It comes but once a year fight fans. It’s international fight week, and once again the UFC are pulling out all the stops with three events in three consecutive days. The first of those cards is headlined by a fight for the UFC lightweight championship in Rafael Dos Anjos vs. Eddie Alvarez.
It feels like it’s been awhile since we’ve seen Dos Anjos. Originally scheduled to face featherweight champion Conor McGregor in a superfight back in March, that fight ended up getting scrapped after Dos Anjos suffered a broken foot in training.
After taking some time off to heal up, Dos Anjos has ended up on the biggest fight weekend of the year. Albeit not on the card he perhaps expected.
Dos Anjos vs. Alvarez has the odd honour of being the first title fight to be aired live on the UFC’s online streaming service Fight Pass. While some have made allusions to the fact that it’s perhaps an odd location for the lightweight champion to be appearing, it’s more likely the first of an increasing trend. Combine this with the Anderson Silva-Michael Bisping fight in February, we could start to see the UFC putting more and more high profile fights on the service.
Speaking of high profile, Dos Anjos is starting to appear on lists discussing the lightweight division’s ‘best of all time’.
Not so much for a lengthy run (ala Georges St-Pierre at welterweight) or Anderson Silva (at middleweight), but more due to the emphatic performances he delivers in the cage. His win over Donald Cerrone was, simply put, a mauling. The victory over Anthony Pettis to win the belt was an emphatic, furious beatdown.
Dos Anjos comes into his fights with bad intentions right from the opening bell, and drives forward with a combination of wild hooks and phenomenal wrestling. His changing of levels means he gets to dictate both the fights pace and the area in which the contest takes place.
His opponent, Eddie Alvarez was last seen in the Octagon in x earlier this year, where he achieved the biggest victory of his career over former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. Although that win was via split decision, the truth is Alvarez looked very much to have Pettis’s number, grinding the former champion against the cage.
In a sense it’s been leading to this.
Alvarez was the Bellator lightweight champion when he left that company, and came into the UFC seeking more gold. After an early wobble in a loss to game Cerrone, a victory over Gilbert Melendez (who failed a post-fight drugs test) showed Alvarez was sticking around.
Dos Anjos is the favourite, and for good reason.
Alvarez grinds out victories, often looking unflashy, but effective. Quite the contrast to the Dos Anjos highlight reel of smash. The champion has looked virtually unbeatable since his shocking defeat to Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2014.
Look for Dos Anjos to take the fight to Alvarez, and find himself a game opponent. Alvarez doesn’t take being bullied well, and don’t be surprised if after a few minutes of technical striking, the Pittsburg fighter throws hesitation out of the window and come right back at the champion with bad intentions.
In the co-main event, heavy hitters Roy Nelson faces off with Derrick Lewis.
Lewis actually requested the fight moments after spectacularly knocking out Gabriel Gonzaga in his last appearance, and once the fight suggestion got traction, Lewis finally got a shot at a top ten opponent.
Lewis has slowly but surely gaining attention as of late, both through a trilogy of knockout victories and the use of an exceptional social media game.
Nelson seems to be reaching an odd moment in his career. A recent victory over Jared Rosholt was preluded by three losses in a row, and at 40, it could be likely that Nelson is starting to near the end.
As for the likely winner, this is a pick-em fight. At heavyweight, men are throwing punches that could knock anyone out at any time, and while Nelson is the older and slower fighter, he still has advantages in technique over Lewis. Any right hand could end this fight at any moment.
UFC Fight Night: Rafael Dos Anjos vs. Eddie Alvarez will be aired on UFC Fight Pass this Thursday.
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