A card that fell apart and was saved by an Irish dragon ended with a former champion calling out an Irish phenomenon, as Rafael Dos Anjos returned to the lightweight division with a win.
Islam Makhachev withdrew from his fight with Dos Anjos six days before fight night due to injury and it was lightweight contender and commentator Paul Felder who stepped in on short-notice.
While he was rightly praised for his performance as the fight went a full five-rounds, he was largely dominated by Dos Anjos in a performance that will surely shoot him high up in the rankings quicker than expected.
He made his intentions clear post-fight too, in his interview with Michael Bisping. Dos Anjos made his case for a shot to get into the title picture, calling for a fight with Conor McGregor as they are “the only true champions of the division”.
He’s got a point too. If Khabib Nurmagomedov is really retired, the division is wide open. There are several top, top contenders all vying for a role with the crown and Dos Anjos has held that position before.
When Conor McGregor knocked out Jose Aldo in 13 seconds and moved up to lightweight, it was Dos Anjos he was supposed to fight for the 155lbs title to become the ‘champ-champ’. The Brazilian pulled out of the fight close to fight night with a broken foot though and McGregor ended up going back-to-back with Nate Diaz while Dos Anjos lost the title to Eddie Alvarez.
Since then, the only undisputed champions have been McGregor and Nurmagomedov. Tony Ferguson, Justin Gaethje and Dustin Poirier have all had interim belts in between but none made it official afterwards.
Felder was ranked number seven prior to this weekend’s fight, so the likelihood is Dos Anjos will jump up to around that number. McGregor is due to fight Poirier in January, Ferguson and Michael Chandler look likely to fight either in December or early in 2021 while Charles Oliveira, Justin Gaethje and Dan Hooker are all currently without a fight.
A fight (and a win) for Dos Anjos against any of the latter three would sky-rocket him towards title contention even further and potentially finally get him that ‘red panty night’ that UFC fighters get when they step into the cage with the Notorious one.