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Why Rafael Dos Anjos Is Much More Than A ‘Bum Version Of Aldo’

Conor McGregor’s press conferences have become legendary throughout the last year but with comments as ludicrous as: “I’m cool with all the Gods, Gods recognise Gods”, if you fully believe everything he says at these media events you need to take a good, long look at yourself.

While blasphemous quips and borderline racial slurs from Wednesday’s UFC 197 press conference may have grasped the ire of mainstream media, McGregor calling the lightweight champion “a bum version of Aldo” can be seen as just as outrageous when you look at Dos Anjos’ accomplishments.

Turn the clock back 12 months. While McGregor disposed of Dennis Siver and put himself at the front of the queue for Aldo’s featherweight belt, lightweight champion Anthony Pettis was one of the biggest stars in the UFC.

Like McGregor, his knockout power and flamboyant striking had seen him ascend to the top of his division and he was on the edge of crossing over into the mainstream media. With victories over the best in the division including Benson Henderson, Donald Cerrone and Gilbert Melendez, there was no sign to the end of his reign.

Then Rafael Dos Anjos came along.

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 14:  Rafael dos Anjos, top fights with Anthony Pettis in the Lightweight Title bout during the UFC 185 event at American Airlines Center on March 14, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

While his rise to the top of the division had been equally as impressive, few picked the 3/1 underdog going into the fight at UFC 185, thinking he would be easily outstruck. Instead, the complete opposite happened.

Pettis had no match for Dos Anjos’ perfect double leg takedowns and brutal ground and pound. While he wasn’t able to finish the champion that had toyed with contenders both on his feet and on the ground in the past, Dos Anjos grounded Pettis and pummelled him for five rounds to take the belt.

A fight like this is proof enough that should McGregor underestimate the lightweight champion, he will do so at his own peril. Before the rise of “The Notorious”, it was Pettis that was considered the best striker in his game. Like McGregor, the theory was that one might be able to close the distance for so long, but it would only be a matter of time before an over-eager grappler would be caught by a punch or kick.

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 14: Rafael dos Anjos in the Lightweight Title bout during the UFC 185 event at American Airlines Center on March 14, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Dos Anjos has since debunked this theory, and proven that he is also a first-rate striker by knocking out acclaimed kick-boxer Donald Cerrone. These attributes, and the size advantage Dos Anjos is likely to have makes this probably McGregor’s biggest challenge ever, even more so than Aldo.

It has been established, though, that no matter what McGregor does, even if it is knocking out the world’s best pound for pound fighter in 13 seconds, he will always have doubters and questions to answer. While there is no doubting his status now as one of, if not the world’s greatest mixed martial artist, there still remains a lingering doubt over his wrestling ability after his fight against Chad Mendes.

Like Pettis vs. Dos Anjos, the bout saw the division’s most accomplished striker and decorated wrestler face off. For a round and a half, McGregor had no answer to Mendes’ double leg takedown and made little effort to get back to this feet, relying on mainly passive elbows from his back. While this game plan was ultimately proven right, cynics will still wonder whether McGregor would be the featherweight champion had Mendes not attempted the sloppy guillotine choke that allowed McGregor to get back to his feet.

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It would be foolish to think that Dos Anjos would not attempt to emulate Mendes’ game plan of nullifying McGregor’s knockout power by keeping him on his back for five rounds. This fight will ultimately be won or lost on McGregor’s takedown defence. So long as McGregor stays on his feet, few would bet against him becoming the UFC’s first two-weight champion. While McGregor himself would make you believe otherwise, that is likely to be easier said than done.

However, this is without considering whether or not Dos Anjos will choose to stand and trade with the featherweight champion, or if McGregor will simply be able to use his reach advantage to fend off any attempts to take the fight to the mat. Dos Anjos has done this in the past with the greatest of ease, but McGregor has shown how he is one of the best in the world at controlling the octagon and imposing his will on his opponents.

Something that will also have to be considered is the mental warfare in the lead-up to the fight, which has already began. In most other bouts, it’d be foolish to consider as a legitimate factor but when you see the world’s greatest fighter lunge in as recklessly as he did against McGregor, it’s impossible to deny Conor’s ability to affect his opponent’s mindset. Dos Anjos has already appeared visibly rattled by McGregor’s trash talk and will have to learn to dismiss such comments to avoid falling in the same fashion as his Brazilian counterpart.

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Nevertheless, it would be naïve to think that Dos Anjos’ only weapon in this super-fight is double leg takedown. Highly skilled in all aspects of the game, he is more than capable of putting up more than a fight. We’re still also yet to see whether McGregor’s abilities will translate as well to the lightweight division as he fights bigger, more imposing figures.

There’s no doubting McGregor will be many people’s favourite going into this fight and rightfully so. But his comments will lead thousands to believe that this will undoubtedly be another walk in the park. Make no mistake; Dos Anjos is not a “bum version of Aldo” and provided he doesn’t make the same mistakes as Aldo, he will be asking ‘The Notorious’ a lot of questions in March.

Daniel O’Connor, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.