The UFC has twice booked Rafael dos Anjos to fight Rafael Fiziev, but circumstances conspired to cancel both of those bouts. Finally, the two lightweights appear primed to meet in a main event showdown on Saturday night in the main event of UFC on ESPN 39.
Oddsmakers see the younger Fiziev as the favorite, with DraftKings Sportsbook listing him as a -190 favorite over dos Anjos (+160).
dos Anjos eying one more run at lightweight title
Since winning the UFC Lightweight Championship back in 2015, dos Anjos (31-13) has seen his fortunes rise and fall over the years. Currently, he’s back on a two-fight winning streak, beating Paul Felder by split decision in the final fight of his career, then earning a unanimous decision victory over Renato Moicano at UFC 272.
Those wins have pushed dos Anjos back up to No. 7 in the UFC’s lightweight rankings. The 37-year-old now sees a path back to a late-career title fight, provided he can get past Fiziev on Saturday.
“That’s my goal man, come in here and make a big statement and throw my name into title contention,” dos Anjos told reporters. “All the guys who are ahead of me, they’re coming from a loss or they have a loss to the champion already, besides Islam…I have to think about Fiziev and put on a great performance and throw my name out there.”
Fiziev (11-1) has won fight straight bouts since losing his UFC debut to Magomed Mustafaev back in April 2019. Two of his last three wins have been knockouts, downing Brad Riddell via spinning wheel kick last December.
Five-fight winning streak leads to major test
Now ranked No. 10 in the division, Fiziev says that dos Anjos is the perfect test to see if he can move into the lightweight elite.
“I like the challenges and this guy is a big challenge,” Fiziev told reporters. “I’m more happy because he’s a former champion and I [get to] try my skills on a guy who already [had] gold on his body.”
At just 29 years old, Fiziev promises to be the faster and more active fighter. However, dos Anjos says he’ll return that aggression in an effort to keep Fiziev under pressure, which should limit his ability to mount sustained offense.
“You can expect a fight with a lot of action,” dos Anjos told Ag Fight ahead of the bout. “My plan is to pressure right from the start. I know he’s quick and I won’t be as fast as him, but I believe the pressure I’m able to put on will make a difference. I’ll try to land some hard shots, get some takedowns and give him no room to move.”
Just as dos Anjos acknowledged his opponent’s speed, Fiziev praised the former champion as a worthy test.
“He’s got good skills and that’s why I’m more than happy because this is a really big test,” Fiziev said. “I’m excited to test for my skills.”