UFC 205 is taking up lots of real estate right now, making this weekend’s excellent Mexico card fly under the radar. There are a few interesting fights on the card, but the real firecracker here—and I think everyone already knows this—is Tony Ferguson vs. Rafael dos Anjos. I’m a fan of great fights, and this one has all the ingredients to become a classic, so I’ve decided to break it down for my blog.
Rafael dos Anjos has just looked incredible for so long that you would think that he was unbeatable. Of course, Eddie Alvarez caught him with that big right hand and changed the course of the fight and of Rafael’s career trajectory. Now, Eddie is the champion, and Rafael’s got to get back on the horse, so to speak, and put himself back on the path to the belt.
The problem is, now is a bad time for him to face Tony Ferguson. Tony is a complete animal in there. He’s big for the weight class, he trains very hard, he hits hard and has great jiu-jitsu. His jiu-jitsu is well adapted to MMA and his transitions are so fluid.
That’s a key factor here, his jiu-jitsu and the way he employs it in fights. There’s a reason why guys are getting finished when they end up on the ground with Tony. Fighters that can incorporate a specific discipline into a working MMA skillset will always find success. High level collegiate wrestlers find the most success when they adapt their wrestling base to fit an MMA skillset. Tony’s done this very, very well.
He’s a fighter without fear, and that leads into our other big key factor: He’s prepared to take risks. When you’re able to get in there and take a chance for the ultimate prize—the win—that mindset sort of sets you apart from the rest of the pack.
Tony’s not careless here, though. He’s not going in there with his chin out and his hands down. He’s quite calculating, and has a good fight IQ. He takes an accurate measure of the fight as it’s happening, and sees the most opportune openings to take chances. That’s a hard quality to develop. That is mostly an instinctual thing that you either have or you don’t.
Ferguson is also a durable guy, so when he takes those risks and ends up eating shots, sometimes getting wobbled in the process, he bounces back quickly, and that’s going to make Rafael’s job even more difficult. Tony Ferguson is not a guy who’s going to be put away easily.
Dos Anjos is a very tough, very strong athlete. If this fight had happened last year, I’d probably be tempted to give it to him, but Ferguson has looked exciting and just so dominant, especially through adversity.
Tony’s getting Rafael at the best time, coming off a tremendous knockout loss. There are so many questions that need to be answered by dos Anjos here: Is it going to make him a better fighter? Is he going to learn from that fight with Eddie? Is he going to apply himself more in the gym? Or, will it be like it is for some people after a big loss like that—the beginning of the end?
There’s a lot of pressure on Rafael dos Anjos right now. Ferguson is riding an 8-fight win and looking for the biggest win of his career here. He’s high on confidence and high on ability. I hate to pick against Rafael dos Anjos because he’s a class act and I have a lot of respect for him, but I’ve got to go with Tony Ferguson on this one.