- Two top-15 ranked welterweights meet in the main event of UFC on ESPN 4 (Sat. July 20th)
- Is this the fight that will earn Leon Edwards respect?
- Is Rafael dos Anjos a legit welterweight title contender
The UFC returns to San Antonio for the first time in more than five years for Saturday’s UFC on ESPN 4 fight card (July 20th, 9:00 PM ET).
In the headlining bout, former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos meets Leon Edwards in a 170-pound matchup. Dos Anjos enters the contest as the No. 4 ranked fighter in the official UFC welterweight rankings, while Edwards checks in at No. 12.
Dos Anjos vs Edwards Odds
|Rafael dos Anjos||-110|
Odds taken 07/16/2019
Dos Anjos vs Edwards: Recent Fights
Dos Anjos made the move from lightweight to welterweight in June 2017. He is 4-2 at 170 pounds. Dos Anjos’ setbacks came to current champion Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington. The loss to Covington was in a contest to decide the interim welterweight champion. Both of those bouts went the five-round distance. He is coming off a May submission win over Kevin Lee.
Dos Anjos’ setbacks [at 170 pounds] came to current champion Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington.
Edwards is currently riding a seven-fight winning streak. Only one UFC 170-pound competitor has a longer active winning streak. That man is Usman, who handed Edwards his most recent defeat in 2015. Edwards has five decision wins and two stoppage victories during his winning streak.
Dos Anjos vs Edwards: Skill Sets
Dos Anjos is accustomed to being the shorter man and he uses speedy counters to move into the range of his taller opponents. He tends to be a pressure fighter who tries to control where the fight takes place. He’s also good at getting into the clinch and working against the cage.
However, he’s struggled mightily with high-level wrestlers during his welterweight run. The former lightweight champ gave up 19 takedowns on 36 attempts in his fights against Usman and Covington, combined. He’s adept at working back to his feet and decent at attempting submissions from the ground, but he was only able to muster two submission attempts against Usman and zero against Covington.
In terms of endurance, the Brazilian has gone the five-round distance five times as a UFC fighter.
When Edwards joined the UFC, he was known as a striker. The Jamaican-born fighter is still an accomplished striker, but he has grown into a well-rounded competitor who can handle himself no matter where the fight goes.
In that way, Edwards matches up well against dos Anjos. The difference between them might be in the striking department. Edwards has a speed advantage as well as the benefit of a fast and long jab that can negate the forward approach of opponents who hope to close the distance. That jab has allowed the 27-year-old to absorb a ridiculously low 1.86 significant strikes per minute from his opponents.
As for the clinch, Edwards has shown himself to be capable in that position and he can land fast-yet-powerful strikes when separating.
Dos Anjos vs Edwards Tale of the Tape
|Rafael dos Anjos||Category||Leon Edwards|
|170 pounds||Weight||170 pounds|
|3.60||Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute||2.35|
|3.25||Significant Strikes Absorbed Per Minute||1.86|
|2.02||Takedown Average Per 15 Minutes||1.33|
|0.7||Submission Average Per 15 Minutes||0.5|
The Experience Factor
Dos Anjos has the experience edge in this matchup, but the seven additional years of MMA experience and the 20 additional fights might not be an advantage for the 34-year-old. His more than six hours of octagon time ranks him sixth all-time in total minutes spent inside the UFC cage. Dos Anjos has put a lot of miles on his body since he debuted with the UFC in 2008.
What’s At Stake?
For Dos Anjos, this fight is a test to see if he still belongs among the elite of the division. The losses to Usman and Covington did not hurt his overall standing as a welterweight and they shouldn’t have. Those fighters are two of the best the division has to offer right now.
Edwards represents the next generation of competitors on the come up. If Dos Anjos wins, he stays near the top of the weight class, if he loses he can expect a steady diet of young and hungry fighters who hope to make their names off of his back.
For Dos Anjos, this fight is a test to see if he still belongs among the elite of the division.
As for Edwards, this is his opportunity to shine. Despite his seven-fight winning streak and his wins over Donald Cerrone and Gunnar Nelson, Edwards is someone who the casual fan would struggle to recognize as an elite fighter. He hasn’t scored a fight-night bonus since his second contest under the UFC banner back in 2015 and he tends to go to the distance more often than not.
If Edwards beats dos Anjos and doesn’t have a breakthrough performance, he could find himself rising in the rankings, but still far away from a title shot. That’s not fair, but that is how the UFC sometimes works in crowded weight classes. Fighters need a performance the powers that be can point to as a promotional tool. Edwards needs to deliver that type of performance.
Edwards vs Dos Anjos: Prediction
Edwards looked excellent in shutting down Nelson in his most recent win. It was not the most exciting fight, but he outdueled Nelson in every aspect of the battle. He was well-coached before the contest and knew what to expect from his opponent. That solid coaching was also evident during the matchup when Edwards slipped from the game plan in the first round and engaged Nelson on the ground.
This is a hard fight to pick, but I think that Edwards’ height, reach, youth and his ability to use his jab to control the range will help him prevail.
Expect that level of preparation during this fight. Like Edwards, Dos Anjos can handle himself everywhere, but I’m not so sure his size allows him to do as well when he competes against the top-level of the welterweight division. This is a hard fight to pick, but I think that Edwards’ height, reach, youth and his ability to use his jab to control the range will help him prevail.
Pick: Leon Edwards (-120)