“A Newbie Watches” is a new series here at MMASucka where I go back in time and watch a fight that happened before my interest in MMA sparked. The first ever MMA event I watched was UFC 200, due to my WWE fandom at the time and Brock Lesnar’s presence on the card. I didn’t start following MMA consistently until late 2017. Because of my late start, there are many great fights and performances that I have never seen. In this series, I will watch an old fight of a current fighter and give my thoughts on his performance.
Rafael dos Anjos vs. Nate Diaz
Rafael dos Anjos vs. Nate Diaz took place as the co-main event of UFC on Fox 13 in December of 2014. At the time, dos Anjos was one of the most feared lightweight fighters in the world. He was coming off of an impressive first-round knockout of former champion Benson Henderson. Dos Anjos came into the fight ranked number three and seemed to be one win away from a title shot. Diaz, on the other hand, came into the fight ranked number 14 in the world. He was returning from a year-long lay-off after knocking out the incredibly durable Gray Maynard. Rafael dos Anjos won the fight via unanimous decision, earning himself a title shot against Anthony Pettis. Diaz didn’t return to the octagon for another year.
With Rafael dos Anjos fighting Kevin Lee this coming weekend at UFC Fight Night 152, now is a great time to go back in time and look at one of RDA’s most impressive performances.
Incredible Grappling Performance
As a new fan, I had no clue that dos Anjos was capable of the high-level grappling he displayed in each round of this fight. Nowadays, it seems that RDA’s path to victory is by keeping the fight on the feet and leg-kicking and boxing his way to a win, like in the Robbie Lawler fight. In the Colby Covington and Kamaru Usman fights, dos Anjos didn’t look like the same grappler that he did against Nate Diaz. On top, RDA is a legitimate Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert, though he struggles off of his back.
Rafael dos Anjos got the fight to the ground with roughly two minutes to go in the first round with a beautiful sweep. He set the sweep up nicely by chopping Diaz’s front leg and knocking him completely off balance. From that point on, it was all dos Anjos until the horn sounded.
After Diaz briefly threatened a leg lock, dos Anjos adjusted his positioning and passed Diaz’s guard into side control. From there, RDA transitioned into north-south and held Diaz there for a while before Diaz managed to squeak out.
Despite losing the position, Rafael dos Anjos was landing shots in Diaz’s half guard. Dos Anjos postured up with just a few seconds left in the round and landed some big elbows. The elbows capped off what could have easily been scored a 10-8 round for RDA.
Halfway through round two, dos Anjos took Diaz down with a single leg while Diaz’s back was to the cage. For the next minute, dos Anjos brutalized Diaz with big elbows and punches on the ground. A huge cut was opened up on Diaz’s forehead. After about a minute, Diaz managed to get to the fence and make his way back to his feet. By that point, though, the damage had already been done. The second round was easily 10-8 for dos Anjos, thanks to his takedown and ground and pound as well as his nasty leg kicks, which we’ll cover soon.
In the third round, dos Anjos wasted no time getting the fight back to the mat. After semi-connecting with a head kick, RDA beautifully timed a level change and put Diaz flat on his back. The rest of the fight was uneventful, as dos Anjos just hung out in Diaz’s guard and landed some shots when he could. Overall, the grappling performance from Rafael dos Anjos was phenomenal in this contest. What made it even better was Joe Rogan‘s constant complimenting of Diaz’s jiu-jitsu off of his back throughout the entire fight. Diaz spent a lot of time on his back but never mustered up much offense, as he was completely shut down by dos Anjos.
Brutal Leg Kicks
The other thing that stood out in this fight (which is no surprise, even for a newbie like me) was RDA’s leg kicks. The southpaw vs. southpaw match-up made Diaz’s lead leg easy pickings for dos Anjos’s chopping low kicks. Especially with Diaz being very heavy on his front foot when he boxes, his legs were even more vulnerable to be chopped down.
Early in the second round, dos Anjos switched things up and went for an inside leg kick, as seen below. The kick landed clean, and the toll it took on Diaz was obvious. His right leg had been butchered throughout the entire first round. Then, a solid shot like that to his left leg gave him no base to stand on. You can see by the way Diaz moves after the kick that he had no base, and there was no way he’d be able to get any real power behind his punches.
Later in the round, after the doctor checked on Diaz for the previously mentioned cut, Rafael dos Anjos went back to attacking the lead leg. Multiple different times, he doubled up on the outside leg kick. In the clip below, he lands a very hard kick and Diaz stumbles, completely off balance. Again, this goes to show how much weight Diaz puts on his front foot when he boxes. Taking out his base was a beautiful strategy by dos Anjos. A guy as tough as Diaz is hard to finish. So, taking away his movement and his power is the key to victory, and that’s exactly what Rafael dos Anjos did.
Overall, this was one of RDA’s best performances to date. His kryptonite as of late has been his inability to deal with the pressure utilized by his opponents. Compared to some of the top welterweights, dos Anjos is undersized. Grappling against guys like Ben Askren or Usman is probably out of the picture. Taking on an explosive, athletic grappler like Kevin Lee, RDA should be looking to chop down his legs and take away his power and athleticism. If Rafael dos Anjos can do that, Lee will be a sitting duck in the striking exchanges, and RDA could find himself back to his winning ways.
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