Rafael dos Anjos returns to action this Saturday in the main event of the UFC's second card of the day. The Brazilian is 6-1 in his last seven outings and is looking to put his name among the other title hopefuls with a win on Saturday.
UFC Fight Night 49 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, plays host to Dos Anjos' bout against Benson Henderson. Dos Anjos comes in as the No. 5-ranked contender, while Henderson sits atop the contender's list at No. 1.
A win would do wonders for Dos Anjos.
While he is currently ranked No. 5, you will not find too many people in the world of MMA talking about the Brazilian. Take from that what you will.
Is he just an uninteresting character? Or does nobody truly believe he has what it takes to seriously contend with the best at 155 pounds?
The bottom line is a win over Henderson will have everyone talking.
Aside from last year's victory over Donald Cerrone, Dos Anjos has failed against the upper echelon of the division throughout his career. His last loss was to Khabib Nurmagomedov in April of this year, and it was not a close fight. Dos Anjos needs this win to show he is deserving of the No. 5 ranking.
One of the reasons Dos Anjos is not on everyone's mind is his lack of flash. Quite simply put, he is a well-rounded mixed martial artist who does not excite in any one area. Yes, he has a jiu-jitsu black belt and knockout power. However, he is not the exceptional striker that Anthony Pettis is and lacks the exciting jiu-jitsu game that people pay to watch.
Dos Anjos is just plain good—"plain" being the key word.
Plain or not, wins are all that matter. And a win over Henderson would make Dos Anjos a viable title contender for the winner of Gilbert Melendez vs. Anthony Pettis.
Can he get it done? Does it even matter?
Henderson enters as a minus-325 favorite, per Odds Shark. The belief in Dos Anjos is low, but he is good enough in every area to win.
In order to defeat Henderson, he must be on point with his striking and takedown defense. Henderson is a capable striker with a variety of unique attacks. He even throws punches to the thigh. But his bread and butter is a strong wrestling game.
Dos Anjos cannot allow Henderson to dictate this fight. The Brazilian will need to throw caution to the wind at some point during the contest. While his back is not pressed against the wall, this is his shot to make a name for himself in the lightweight division.
The time is now.
Truthfully, a competitive fight with Henderson should be enough to prove he is among the elite. If he can battle with Henderson in a close encounter, there should be no doubt as to where he stands in the division. The former UFC lightweight champion is as good as they come.
However, Dos Anjos will want to be more than just competitive.
This is his chance.
Dos Anjos has worked his way up the ladder to get to No. 5 in the division, but few truly see him as elite. His performance on Saturday will answer that claim once and for all—win or lose.