rds-shuts-down-early-stoppage-talk:-‘he-won-fair-and-square’

Rafael dos Anjos and Rafael Fiziev was pretty much guaranteed to be a war from the moment it was booked, so much so that the UFC did its best to keep the ‘Battle of the Rafaels’ together after COVID-19 knocked the fight off its original March date at UFC 272.

Four months later and the fight lived up to the hype. It was a close affair, with Fiziev edging rounds on the judges’ scorecards by nullifying dos Anjos’ wrestling and having the more damaging strikes. And just after dos Anjos seemed to be gaining steam in the fourth round, a big left hook from “Ataman” dropped him to the canvas where the ref stopped the fight (watch the finish here).

In an interview with ESPN’s new roving reporter Charly Arnolt, dos Anjos detailed what he thought he’d done wrong in the fight.

“I think I was going to the fifth, I was like, ‘I have to put the pressure,’ like my style,” he said. “I thought he was tired, but he’s dangerous. He’s got heavy hands, and I should have been more careful at the beginning of the round.”

There was some controversy surrounding the stoppage. For a fighter as durable as dos Anjos, many were upset the referee didn’t give him a chance to recover before waving things off. But Rafael himself didn’t think it was too quick.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “I’ve got to rewatch the tape, but … I don’t think so. He won fair and square. I’ve got to rewatch it, and I was kinda still dizzy. But yeah it was a tough fight. Rafael was a tough opponent. I trained very hard for that fight, and I was really feeling I had my momentum. But that’s the game.”

Dos Anjos heaped praise on Fiziev.

“He’s a tough dude, I didn’t expect any less from him,” he said. “I knew guys from East Europe, they’re always tough and I knew it would be a hard fight. And actually his takedown defense impressed me a little bit.”

“But I got him down in the fourth, hit him with the flying knee, too. The fight was pretty close leading up to the fifth. I think I was probably a little bit ahead of him. But yeah, that’s the game … I got caught, unfortunately.”

Congrats @RafaelFiziev great win. It was a fun one…you caught me good on that one. Enjoy your victory.

— Rafael dos Anjos (@RdosAnjosMMA) July 10, 2022

As for the future, dos Anjos had no idea past taking some time off after taking two fights in the span of four months.

“Now, it’s time to go back home and enjoy my family a little bit and see what the future holds.”