Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight veterans Rafael dos Anjos and Bryan Barberena will throw down this weekend (Sat., Dec. 3, 2022) at UFC Orlando inside Amway Center in Orlando, Florida.
Dos Anjos’ last loss really changed everything. The former Lightweight kingpin was hoping for a final run at gold, but his back-and-forth battle with Rafael Fiziev ended in a rare knockout loss for the Brazilian. Given that defeat, he’s relocated back to Welterweight, doing away with brutal weight cuts and title aspirations alike. The 38-year-old is now here for fun fights, and “Bam Bam” is happy to oblige. Barberena has taken up a unique role at Welterweight, a consistently fun foil for fellow scrappy veterans and former champions alike. A Barberena title run isn’t likely either, but “Fight of the Night”-type action is promised.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Rafael dos Anjos
Key Wins: Paul Felder (UFC Vegas 14), Robbie Lawler (UFC on FOX 26), Neil Magny (UFC 215), Donald Cerrone (UFC on FOX 17, UFC Fight Night 27), Anthony Pettis (UFC 185), Nate Diaz (UFC on FOX 13), Benson Henderson (UFC Fight Night 49).
Key Losses: Rafael Fiziev (UFC Vegas 58), Michael Chiesa (UFC Fight Night 166), Leon Edwards (UFC on ESPN 4), Kamaru Usman (TUF 28 Finale), Colby Covington (UFC 225), Tony Ferguson (TUF LA3 Finale), Eddie Alvarez (UFC Fight Night 90), Khabib Nurmagomedov (UFC on FOX 11).
Keys to Victory: Rafael dos Anjos is a grinder. He’s not the all-time sharpest kickboxer, most dominant wrestler, or slickest submission fighter, but he’s damn good everywhere and pushes one hell of a pace.
There is an old adage in combat sports: brawl the boxer, box the brawler. In this match up, dos Anjos is aiming to do the latter. He’s not physically outsized and probably hits about as hard as Barberena, but that doesn’t mean he should be looking to slug it out.
Dos Anjos is the more skilled man, and if he brings all those skills into the Octagon, he should be able to win cleanly. Against the fellow Southpaw, dos Anjos’ calf kicks should be a huge weapon, especially since Barberena likes to plant his feet and trade. “RDA” also has the option to trade with Barberena just enough to get his feet set then change levels into a takedown.
If dos Anjos makes good use of his kicks, boxing, and takedowns, he should remain a step ahead of Barberena.
Key Wins: Robbie Lawler (UFC 276), Matt Brown (UFC on ESPN 33), Warlley Alves (UFC 198), Sage Northcutt (UFC on FOX 18)
Key Losses: Colby Covington (UFC on FOX 22), Leon Edwards (UFC Fight Night 115), Randy Brown (UFC on ESPN 1), Vicente Luque (UFC Fight Night 154)
Keys to Victory: Barberena is a brawler. He’s not a straightforward or sloppy puncher, but it’s hard to deny that Barberena is at his most effective when both men are fatigued, standing in front of one another, and trading big shots.
Referring back to the adage above, Barberena has to brawl the boxer. Time spent pot-shotting at distance is time lost for “Bam Bam.” He doesn’t want to trade kicks with dos Anjos or allow “RDA” to establish the jab: Barberena has to get in his face.
In general, Barberena wants this to be more of a close distance, phonebooth fight. He excels in the range anyway, particularly when able to string punching combinations into clinch exchanges filled with knees and elbows. Plus, that type of fight allows Barberena to impose his physicality, even if dos Anjos is no stranger to Welterweight scraps.
As much as possible, Barberena should be the man moving forward. Dos Anjos is an excellent pressure fighter, so flipping the script on him may end up forcing dos Anjos into the kind of firefight Barberena desires.
There may not be major implications, but this is a solid match up.
At 38 years of age, who knows how many more times dos Anjos will grace the Octagon? He’s really carved out a legacy for himself, the hard man who went on an unlikely tear to capture and defend gold. Before and after his reign, he’s been a constant contender, fighting nothing but the best.
He’s earned some slightly easier fights to hang his hat on.
Meanwhile, Barberena is on a nice win streak! He’s won three in a row, and all three fights have been quite fun. Dos Anjos is a step up in competition, and perhaps if he’s victorious yet again, Barberena will have earned a shot against a ranked opponent. Really though, it feels like a better use of his time to keep making match ups like this, in which the viewers are the ultimate victors.
At UFC Orlando, Rafael dos Anjos and Bryan Barberena will battle in the co-main event. Which man will earn the victory?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Orlando fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN/ESPN+) at 10 p.m. ET.
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