Our neighbors to the north have a chance to witness history at UFC 215 on Saturday, Sept. 9, when UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson goes for his record 12th title defense. Our Canadian brethren also finally get to see the highly-anticipated rematch between Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko for the UFC bantamweight title. This is common knowledge, right?
But there’s another fight on Saturday’s card that could have title implications. The rising Neil Magny meets former UFC lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos in a bout that could determine the next title contender in the UFC’s welterweight division.
Strengths: Magny has only lost twice in 13 fights since 2013, to two of the best welterweights in the world – Lorenz Larkin and Demian Maia. Almost half of his 11 victories in that timeframe have come via knockout or submission, including a third-round knockout of Hector Lombard that completed a miraculous comeback when Lombard almost finished Magny in the first round. Magny is tough, resilient and gets better with each fight. Magny also sought out his former opponent Maia for advice on improving his jiu-jitsu, which shows he’s a true mixed martial artist and a student of the game.
Weaknesses: Although Magny has only lost twice since 2013, as I said, those losses were to two of the best welterweight fighters in Larkin and Maia. It’s fair to wonder if Magny may not be able to overcome upper-level competition. Dos Anjos is a former UFC lightweight champion and has fought and defeated some of the best fighters around, including Donald Cerrone, Anthony Pettis, Nate Diaz and Benson Henderson. Dos Anjos has also only been finished three times in 35 career fights, so Magny shouldn’t count on his striking or improved jiu-jitsu to secure him a finish. Dos Anjos represents the third “elite” fighter Magny has faced in his career. Will third time be the charm for him?
Rafael Dos Anjos
Strengths: Dos Anjos is one of the tougher fighters that not many people talk about. His only losses since 2014 were to a pair of top contenders in Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov and a former champion in Eddie Alvarez, who defeated Dos Anjos for the UFC lightweight title. Dos Anjos is a tough, bruising fighter who can walk you down and look to finish you, as he did to Cerrone and Pettis. Though he didn’t knock out Pettis like he did Cerrone, Dos Anjos dominated Pettis from start to finish in 2015 and left no doubt who the new champion was going to be. On top of Dos Anjos’ high-level striking, he’s also one of the best jiu-jitsu practitioners in MMA. He has multiple tools in his toolbox to win this fight and stake a claim to a title shot in a new division.
Weaknesses: Although Dos Anjos has come on lately and has a title reign to his credit, he also seems to have trouble with elite trouble, given his losses to the aforementioned Ferguson, Nurmagomedov and Alvarez. Two of those losses came in his last three fights, so it might be fair to wonder if the grind of 35 career fights is starting to take its toll a little on Dos Anjos as well.
Dos Anjos has also only finished half of his 26 career victories, so if Magny can survive three rounds and use his 10-inch reach advantage, he can keep Dos Anjos at bay and perhaps be less susceptible to Dos Anjos’ striking and ground game.
This really is an intriguing fight that shouldn’t be overlooked when you watch UFC 215. There’s a bit of a void in regards to contenders in the UFC’s welterweight division. This is a perfect opportunity for Magny or Dos Anjos to step up and fill that void. I expect both guys to be hungry and put on one of the best performances of their career. Magny’s range will be an issue for Dos Anjos, who in turn has the advantage in the striking and ground game, I think. Magny is good enough and tough enough to take Dos Anjos the distance, but I think the former champion’s experience will be the deciding factor.
Winner: Dos Anjos by unanimous decision
Image Credit: YouTube