A few days back, UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby revealed that former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos had come close to landing a welterweight title fight with Tyron Woodley at UFC 214.
“Dana made it public that Tyron is fighting on this card  and [Demian] Maia wasn’t initially sure if he was could do it,” Shelby said during the UFC 215 edition of ‘Watch List’. “Well the guy waiting there for that fight was ‘RDA’. He had already accepted the fight against Tyron, had Maia not been able to do it.”
It was quite a surprising revelation. Dos Anjos had, after all, only competed once as a welterweight, winning a decision over Tarec Saffiedine, and thus had done little to establish himself as a legitimate contender in the division. Not to mention that his previous two fights had ended in defeat down at lightweight.
On Saturday, however, Dos Anjos soundly established himself as a legit welterweight contender with a thoroughly dominant display against Neil Magny, who sat sixth in the rankings prior to the bout, and made those two losses at lightweight seem like distant flickering memories.
Looking solid and very healthy, something that we now know that he wasn’t during his final days as a lightweight, Dos Anjos came right at the lanky Magny and took the legs from underneath him with a sweeping low-kick. From there, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt patiently progressed his position – first from half-guard to side control and then from side-control to full-mount – before eventually locking on a tight arm-triangle choke that drew the tap from Magny with just 3:43 gone in the very first round.
— Ahmed (@ahmedMgi) September 10, 2017
At the post-fight press conference, Dos Anjos made an excellent point about the upper-echelons of the welterweight rankings and stated his own case for a title shot.
“The division is wide-open,” he said. “All the top five, top six guys in this division have lost to the champion or the last challenger – which was Demian Maia. [Stephen] Thompson lost twice to Woodley already.”
It’s true that 1, 2, and 3 – Thompson, Robbie Lawler and Maia – have all lost to Woodley. While 4 and 5 – Jorge Masvidal and Carlos Condit – have both lost to Maia in recent times.
“I’m new blood in this division,” added Dos Anjos.
Indeed he is and for that very reason ‘RDA’ might be most interesting candidate for a crack at Woodley. His aggressive fan-friendly style also makes him an attractive option for the promotion, as Woodley’s fights have frequently disappointed as of late.
“One thing you can be sure of, we gonna fight. I am not going to let him walk around. I am going to make sure to push the pace,” Dos Anjos said when asked to describe how a fight between he and Woodley might unfold.
“I’m not saying that I will not use my strategy – of course I will – but I walk forward. I have confidence in me, in my cardio and I’m going to make him work.”
There remains, of course, the possibility that ‘T-Wood’ might look to fight the winner of the upcoming middleweight title fight between Michael Bisping and returning former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. If that does happen, Dos Anjos will have to jump into that shark tank with Thompson, Lawler, Maia, Masvidal et al, and try to pick up another win.
One thing is for sure though, Rafael Dos Anjos is now a real force at 170lbs.