Rafael dos Anjos rejoined the ranks of the UFC’s top lightweights at UFC 132 with a 59-second clubbing of George Sotiropoulos, and the Brazilian credited his first knockout win to skills honed far from home.
After undergoing surgery to repair a broken jaw sustained in an August 2010 loss to Clay Guida, dos Anjos traveled to Singapore, where he spent time developing his striking technique at Evolve MMA.
“I underwent surgery in August, then recovered in Brazil and moved to Singapore in October,” dos Anjos explained to Sherdog.com after his July 2 win. “There, I worked hard to fix some holes in my standup game and focused only on my muay Thai and boxing. When I returned to Brazil, I kept working with my boxing coach, Cesario Figueiredo, and it showed in the power of my punches.”
A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Aldo “Caveirinha” de Olivera, dos Anjos surprised fellow ground specialist Sotiropoulos with his striking, but confessed that it wasn’t in his game plan to score such a fast finish.
“I didn’t expect to win that quickly,” dos Anjos admitted, “but, as I said, I work on every martial art. I entered the fight as I always do, feeling out my opponent, since my strategy was to trade on the feet if I had the advantage. If it was a case of him punching me, I would have tried to take him down and pull guard. However, thank God, I knocked him out.”
Dos Anjos had a rough start to his UFC career with back-to-back losses, but had been on a three-fight win streak before running into Guida. Even after his shining performance at UFC 132, the Roberto “Gordo” Correa student doesn’t think he is ready to enter the lightweight division’s top five this year.
“It’s the most difficult division in MMA. I’m just getting back from a tough time and I need to get my fight rhythm,” said dos Anjos. “I’m doing my work, and I believe I’ll fight again this year. For me, I need about two or three more years to enter the top five.
“I’m only 26 years old. You can see how different I was when I joined the UFC, and how I’ve developed my game. I believe, in a couple of years, I’ll be in top condition, stronger and even more developed. Most of the champions are 29, 30 years old, or even older, like Anderson Silva. Only phenoms like Jose Aldo and Jon Jones are young champs.”
And who does dos Anjos see as the top-5 UFC lightweights at current?
“Man, that’s a question that I need to sit down, think hard and write down on paper so I don’t forget anyone. For now, I can say Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard are at the top, followed by a bunch of guys seeking the belt, like Clay Guida, Melvin Guillard and Dennis Siver. But I’m sure there are a lot of good guys to list.”