The UFC heads to Winnipeg this Saturday (December 16th) for UFC on Fox 26. Robbie Lawler and Rafael dos Anjos, both former UFC champions, headline the event. Neither fighter is capable of a boring fight, so the main event itself should be enough to carry the night.
A featherweight clash between former champ José Aldo and former title contender Ricardo Lamas had been booked, but Aldo was pulled from the card and thrown to Max Holloway as a replacement for UFC 218. Lamas will now face an overmatched Josh Emmett.
The main event is where the fireworks will be, so let’s focus our attention on that. Here’s a breakdown of the headliner with odds courtesy of Bovada.
Robbie Lawler (-105) vs Rafael dos Anjos (-125)
Robbie Lawler (28-11) and Rafael dos Anjos (27-9) meet in what Dana White promised to be a welterweight title eliminator. I think by now we all know better than to take White at face value, but still, a win for either fighter makes a compelling case for a shot at the welterweight crown.
Tyron Woodley, the current champ, is taking some time off to undergo surgery and would prefer a career payday against Georges St-Pierre, another fighter who’s on hiatus, so it may be a while before either RDA or Lawler are granted a title shot. Nonetheless, this is one of the most exciting match-ups available in the welterweight division.
Tale of the Tape
Since re-signing with the UFC in 2013, Robbie Lawler has fought exclusively at welterweight. He’s a standard issue 170 pounder, standing at 5”11’ with a reach of 74 inches. Rafael dos Anjos isn’t so tailor-made for the welterweight division. He stands at just 5”8’, which places him at a severe height disadvantage against almost any opponent in the weight class, with a reach of 70 inches.
RDA earned his chops in the lightweight division, rising through the ranks to become the champion in 2015. But as he got older, making weight became increasingly difficult, and after back-to-back losses against Eddie Alvarez and Tony Ferguson, he decided to make the leap to 170.
Both fighters have quite a bit of mileage on them. Lawler is 35 years old and has 40 professional fights under his belt, including 11 losses and countless all-out brawls. At 33 years old, dos Anjos is edging past his physical prime as well. His aggressive, high-pressure style of fighting is one that doesn’t age particularly well.
Lawler claimed the welterweight title in late 2014 with a contentious split-decision victory over Johny Hendricks, and held onto the belt with two successful title defenses. Then Tyron Woodley came along and finished him inside of the first round. He’s had one fight since, a win over Donald Cerrone in a back-and-forth slugfest.
Dos Anjos lost his lightweight crown to Eddie Alvarez last year and later succumbed to the current interim champ, Tony Ferguson. Cutting down to 155 pounds almost killed him, so he made the wise decision to move up in weight. He made his welterweight debut against former Strikeforce champ Tarec Saffiedine, winning comfortably, and went on to submit Neil Magny, a top-ten welterweight with a seven-inch height advantage.
Of the two, RDA has been the more impressive fighter of late. Lawler’s last two fights suggest that he’s on the decline. He scraped out a win over Cerrone, who is now long past his prime, and completely capitulated to Woodley’s power. Despite being at a size disadvantage, RDA has looked at home in the welterweight division. His recent wins over Saffiedine and Magny suggest a bright future for him at 170.
Moneyline Pick: Rafael dos Anjos (-125)
Lawler and RDA have a lot in common. They’re both high-pressure fighters, most comfortable when the tempo is high; they’re in similar stages of their careers; and they are both former champions who want another shot at a UFC title belt.
Lawler has the size and power advantage, while dos Anjos is the technically superior fighter with the larger gas tank. Lawler will spring out of the gate, and RDA will be tested multiple times in the opening rounds. But if the fight enters the championship rounds, Lawler’s bursts and flurries will be far less effective, and that’s when dos Anjos will take over.
Method of Victory
Dos Anjos by KO, TKO, or DQ: +187
Dos Anjos by Decision: +350
Lawler by KO, TKO, or DQ: +200
Lawler by Decision: +333
With two aggressive fighters who love to move forward and apply constant pressure, it’s easy to see why the odds favor a finish. But if you look at the recent record of both fighters, you’ll see that most of their recent wins have come by decision. Three of RDA’s last five wins have been through the judges, as have four of Lawler’s last five.
Plus, let’s not forget that both Lawler and dos Anjos are both on the other side of 30. They’re not as explosive as they used to be, but they’re wiser and more mature. There’s value in picking this fight going to the judges. RDA by decision at +350 is a steal.