Following back-to-back losses at the hands of Eddie Alvarez and Tony Ferguson, former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos announced back in January that he would be moving up to welterweight amid claims that the UFC wasn't "paying him enough" to cut down to the class over which he briefly held dominion. This morning, the opponent and date for his welterweight debut was made official: former (and final) Strikeforce welterweight champion Tarec Saffiedine, at UFC Singapore on June 17th.
It's certainly a swift change of pace for Dos Anjos, who was topping off a five fight win streak with a first round destruction of Donald Cerrone to retain his lightweight championship less than a year ago. It was a win that ultimately sent Cerrone packing to the 170-pound division, and as luck would have it, one that also may hint as to the kind of success RDA may enjoy in the division as well.
So while some ma have already written off how far Dos Anjos might be able to go as a welterweight, it's worth exploring some of the relevant wins he already has – and the success stories of other lightweights who made the jump to 170 – to get a better picture.
As it just so happens, Rafael Dos Anjos has already scored a handful of wins as a lightweight over fighters who either fought at welterweight in the past or moved to welterweight after, and they are:
- Kyle Bradley
- Jason High
- Anthony Pettis
- Benson Henderson
- Nate Diaz
- Donald Cerrone
While the case can be made that many of these fighters were themselves natural lightweights, their combined record of 10-7 at welterweight in the UFC argues that they were not exactly outmatched when fighting up a weight either. That one of Dos Anjos' most dominant victories of the bunch came over Nate Diaz – whom Dana White will tell you is the biggest welterweight to ever step foot in the Octagon so long as he's fighting Conor McGregor – should only further inform you as to the kind of dominance he is capable of inflicting when he himself is weighing in at 170 pounds.
Like we said, a fighter finding success at a higher weight class than their "natural" one, while not common, isn't exactly unprecedented either. It was just last year, after all, that Donald Cerrone reemerged as a welterweight and styled on pretty much everyone in the division, scoring highlight reel wins over Alex Oliveira, Patrick Cote, Rick Story, and Matt Brown. While Cowboy's ass-kicking tour was recently cut short by the fists of Jorge Masvidal (as in, former Strikeforce lightweight title challenger Jorge Masvidal), that's not to say that Dos Anjos may not be able to enjoy a similar, if not even greater run in the division.
And of course, it's impossible not to talk about lightweights whose stocks only increased at welterweight without mentioning BJ Penn, who made the jump up from lightweight back in 2004 and submitted future Hall of Famer Matt Hughes in his welterweight debut at just 25 years old.
Like Alistair Overeem, Jake Shields, Randy Couture, and a ton of other names before him, Rafael Dos Anjos has a legitimate chance of enjoying a career rebirth in a higher weight class. Facing a fighter of Saffiedine's caliber in his debut, however, will surely be a sink or swim moment for the former champion.