Perennial contender Rafael dos Anjos will take on rising English star Leon Edwards in the main event of UFC on ESPN 4, this Saturday night in San Antonio.
Both dos Anjos and Edwards are currently ranked contenders in the UFC’s welterweight division, though they’ve gotten to that point via very different paths.
Veteran dos Anjos Remains Dangerous to Opponents
The 34-year-old dos Anjos (29-11) is the former UFC lightweight champion, and has taken up a steady position among the top-order contenders in the welterweight division since moving up a weight class in 2017. Back at UFC 225 last June, the Brazilian even had the chance to pick up the interim welterweight belt, though he lost a unanimous decision to Colby Covington.
Since then, a loss to Kamaru Usman was followed up by a win over Kevin Lee, keeping dos Anjos comfortably in the welterweight landscape, though not seriously in the title picture. Currently, the No. 4 contender in the division, dos Anjos remains a difficult test for just about any opponent, something his coach credits to the fighter’s work ethic.
“He comes to the gym like a 20-year-old. Obviously, he has much more maturity and experience than a 20-year-old, but what I mean is how he stays hungry,” coach Jason Parillo told Yahoo Sports. “He has a great understanding that life is not going to stop after fighting, so you’ve got to keep plugging away and earn as much as you can. He also has goals. He wants to leave a mark on this sport.”
Edwards Eyes Usman Rematch
Meanwhile, Edwards (17-3) is just starting to work his way into the welterweight title picture. Currently ranked as the No. 12 contender, the 27-year-old is riding a seven-fight winning streak, most recently earning a split decision win over Gunnar Nelson at UFC Fight Night 147 in March. His last loss came to welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, and Edwards thinks that a win on Saturday could mean a rematch with the champ isn’t far away.
“The story is already made for me and Usman,” Edwards told MMA Junkie. “It’s the perfect scenario. He’s the last guy to beat me three or four years ago. I feel it’s the perfect story. Since that to win everything, beat everything, then get that rematch and beat him for the world title, that’s like a perfect fairytale story.”
Edwards’ winning streak comes on the back of an improved all-around game that has left him with few weaknesses for opponents to exploit. That includes the proven ability to go the distance without losing much steam, something that dos Anjos has struggled with in recent bouts. That makes it likely that dos Anjos will look to push the action early – something that suits his aggressive style anyway.
That dynamic should lead to an interesting and highly competitive fight. FanDuel Sportsbook has Edwards as the favorite, but just barely: he’s listed at -128, while dos Anjos can be backed at +106.
Also on the UFC on ESPN 4 card is a battle between heavyweight stalwart Alexey Oleynik (+132) and Walt Harris (-162), as well as a fight between two relatively unproven heavyweight prospects: former NFL star Greg Hardy (-106) and Juan Adams (-116).