The helter skelter end to 2015 continues, with the 5th UFC title up for grabs in a little over a month as the lightweight belt is up for grabs.
In the last four fights the incumbent has been relieved of UFC gold 3 times out of 4; will this one be any different? Can dos Anjos show his defeat of Cerrone in 2013 wasn’t a fluke?
To check out my previous MMA rantings and ravings go here.
The UFC Lightweight title has largely been in a state of flux since BJ Penn was outclassed by Frankie Edgar in 2010. 3 different title challengers in a row got a rematch, setting up the embarrassing UFC tradition of immediate rematches for titlists. I get it, if there is a draw or some other amazing circumstance then fine, other than that – let the division roll.
Benson Henderson was the closest thing to a dominant champ, after seeing off Frankie Edgar twice he was able to defend the belt a further two times, before he himself was picked off by the mercurial Anthony Pettis.
The reign of the injury prone Pettis was not to be long, falling at the second hurdle to the underrated Rafael dos Anjos.
dos Anjos arrived at the UFC under extremely tenuous circumstances. After a solid 11-2 career in the regionals, he fell in his first two UFC fights – against tough veterans Jeremy Stephens and Tyson Griffin.
While two fights on the trot could see many fighters sacked, the UFC kept the faith and let the young Brazilian mature into the fighter he is today. To find a possible explanation for his shaky early performance let’s look at the combined records of his pre UFC opponents.
|Opponents records before and after UFC debut|
|Rafael dos Anjos|
As the table above demonstrates, his opponents prior to the UFC had a measly winning percentage of 54%, and were 1 from 8 in Major Fights**. Jeremy Stephens was easily the most experienced and decorated fighter dos Anjos had ever met up to that stage in his career, with a fight night record of 15 wins for 3 losses.
Cerrone has long been a mainstay of the UFC 155 pound division, racking up 15 in cage bonuses over the course of his 18 fight UFC career. Since February 2011 he has fought on average once every 3.2 months – a rate few (if any) other fighters could match. This is despite a long term stomach injury aggravated in 2012.
How do their records stack up?
Both Rafael dos Anjos and Donald Cerrone have been around the very highest level for a while now. As such, they not only have a wealth of statistical information for us to analyse, they also have six common opponents and have even faced off already.
|Fight Outcomes – Common Opponents|
|Rafael dos Anjos||Donald Cerrone|
|Benson Henderson||Win (R1 KO)||2 Loss (Dec, R1 Sub) 1 Win (Dec)|
|Evan Dunham||Win (Dec)||Win (R2 Sub)|
|Anthony Pettis||Win (Dec)||Loss (R1 KO)|
|Jeremy Stephens||Loss (R3 KO)||Win (Dec)|
|Nate Diaz||Win (Dec)||Loss (Dec)|
|Anthony Njokuani||Win (Dec)||Win (R1 Sub)|
As the table demonstrates, dos Anjos has the better of their shared history, with Cerrone only getting the better of Jeremy Stephens, where dos Anjos has wins over multiple fighters with victories recorded against Cerrone.
dos Anjos and Cerrone fought in an entertaining affair at UFC Fight Night 27 in August 2013, with Dos Anjos winning two of the three rounds to pull off a well-deserved decision win.
What will their game plans be?
dos Anjos will undoubtedly go into this fight confident after his win two years ago. However, two years is a long time in the fight game, and Cerrone has been on a tear ever since – racking up 8 consecutive victories over some of the biggest names in the game.
How did dos Anjos win the first fight, and what evidence is there to suggest the same thing won’t happen again?
Looking at the total fight statistics, it is clear that the ground game played a very small part in this contest, so I will just be looking at the statistics of the stand-up.
|Donald Cerrone||Rafael dos Anjos|
|% Sig of Total||96.4%||85.2%|
The table above makes for interesting reading, for a fight with such a clearly deserving winner in dos Anjos, the statistics are remarkably close. The round-by-round figures complete the image.
|KD||SIG. STR.||SIG. STR. %||TOTAL STR.|
|Donald Cerrone||0||11 of 22||50%||11 of 22|
|Rafael dos Anjos||1||17 of 40||42%||28 of 51|
|Donald Cerrone||0||10 of 18||55%||12 of 20|
|Rafael dos Anjos||0||15 of 37||40%||23 of 45|
|Donald Cerrone||0||19 of 40||47%||20 of 41|
|Rafael dos Anjos||0||7 of 32||21%||7 of 32|
If watching any Cerrone fight one thing starts becoming clear – he starts slow to find his range and build a rhythm and then uses his peerless cardio to punish his opponents down the stretch.
This fight was no different. After being beaten on his feet for round one and two, Cerrone managed to turn things around in the third – almost doubling his offensive output in terms of strikes landed and critically (especially in the case of dos Anjos) he managed to evade nearly 80% of strikes thrown at him.
Comparing the career statistics of both fighters to the records of fights they have lost helps to identify what strategies are successful in defeating each fighter, and what went wrong.
|Rafael dos Anjos||Donald Cerrone|
|% Sig of Total||78%||82%||90%||85%|
While you can expect any fighter’s performance to drop in a defeat, dos Anjos offensive record in defeats is startling. His respectable career accuracy of 41% drops 15% in fights that he loses – much like round 3 of their first fight. Cerrone was able to make him miss, while tagging him with a high volume of punches. I don’t believe that this is something the wizards at Jackson Winkeljohn MMA will have overlooked.
Since his loss against dos Anjos, Cerrone has been on an impressive 8-0 run. How did he fair against his opponents in the first round of their clashes?
|Significant Strikes landed in the 1st|
As the table can attest, even winning these fights Cerrone is still routinely out-struck in terms of significant strikes in the first round. If he gets tagged in the first round like he did in their first contest, will the five rounds be long enough for Cerrone to make his comeback?
Here I go again, making the tough call on two outstanding fighters.
Both fighters are excellent submission grapplers – so much so that I have deliberately left analysis of their grappling out of this article. I strongly believe the outcome of this fight will be decided on the feet.
Cerrone will start slow, but I believe his early objective will be to frustrate dos Anjos, and force him to take the offensive. By the time he warms up entering the championship rounds, Cerrone will have found his range and rhythm and will then start to pick Dos Anjos apart.
Donald Cerrone by Decision.
Who do you think will win?
** Major fights are defined (arbitrarily) as being against either a top notch competitor or in a top notch organisation as listed –
World Extreme CageFighting
Elite XC/Pro Elite/Affliction