This weekend from Mexico City, we get a spectacular main event before former champion Rafael dos Anjos and rising contender Tony Ferguson. Ferguson needs this win to make his claim for a title shot and dos Anjos needs the win to get a shot at his former belt. Both fighters are two of the best in the division and here are five of their top UFC moments.
5. Dos Anjos vs. Benson Henderson (UFC Fight Night 49)
Dos Anjos had had mixed results in his first few UFC fights and was coming off of a TKO win over Jason High. He was in need of a dominant win over a big name to move up in the division. Benson Henderson was his opponent, headlining the fight card in Tulsa, Okla. Both fighters came out calm and composed, trading kick for kick. Henderson would land a wicked body shot and dos Anjos would follow up shortly with a brutal body kick. Dos Anjos would be the one to start applying the pressure and when Henderson placed his back to the fence, dos Anjos floored him with a flying knee. Henderson fell and dos Anjos swarmed him. When Henderson moved to stand back up, dos Anjos rocked him with a powerful left hand and Henderson went down again. Referee John McCarthy waved the fight off despite Henderson seeming to jump right back to his feet. Despite the controversy over the stoppage, dos Anjos showed that he had the ability to bring the fight to the 155 lb division’s best fighters.
4. Ferguson vs. Gleison Tibau (UFC 184)
Gleison Tibau has been long known as one of the toughest veterans in the 155 lb. division. Coming in on a three fight win streak, he would be one of Ferguson’s toughest opponents to date. Ferguson was on a four fight wins streak of his own and was looking to add another to his list. When the fight began, Ferguson immediately moved to keep Tibau at range, poking with the jab and circling out when Tibau came to strike. Tibau did land a few shots when Ferguson looked to move forward and looked to put forward pressure on Ferguson. Ferguson managed to catch Tibau with a quick right hand and stun the veteran fighter. Ferguson came after Tibau with punches while Tibau tried to survive and shoot a takedown on Ferguson. The takedown was slow and sloppy though, and Ferguson would spin Tibau into a D’arce choke attempt. When that failed, Ferguson kept the pressure on and continued to hurt Tibau with punches on the ground. Finally, Ferguson would spin around the back and lock in the finishing rear naked choke. Tibau tapped and the fight was waved off in the first round.
3. Dos Anjos vs. Donald Cerrone II (UFC on Fox 17)
Dos Anjos’ first title defense would be a rematch against the surging Donald Cerrone. The two had previously fought at UFC Fight Night 27 with Dos Anjos getting the underdog win by decision. Cerrone was on an eight fight win streak and was thought to be Dos Anjos’ biggest challenge. Cerrone’s biggest weakness was his tendency to start slow and dos Anjos immediately throwing strikes upon the opening bell. Cerrone got off a few punches and a kick before dos Anjos landed a brutal body kick and then rocked him with punches just a minute into the fight. Dos Anjos swarmed Cerrone, hurting him badly and never letting up on the pressure. The fight was waved off just over a minute into the first round with dos Anjos scoring his first title defense.
2. Ferguson vs. Edson Barboza (TUF 22 Finale)
Ferguson came into this fight on a six fight win streak and both men made it clear they were looking to put on a show. They did not disappoint with the fight gaining the Fight of the Night award and becoming a potential fight of the year. Both men came out striking and Ferguson would pull a risky roll technique to score a takedown. The two grappled and Ferguson would land an accidental kick to a downed opponent, losing him a point on the scorecards. Both men would come back striking with Barboza looking to land his dangerous kicks and Ferguson looking to close the distance and work on the inside. The first round was a crazy back and forth battle with both fighters landing a tremendous amount of brutal punches and picks. Both fighters made it to the end of the round and looked to keep the pace into round 2. The battle continued with Ferguson being slightly more efficient at mixing his strikes to keep Barboza guessing. Halfway through the round, Barboza would look for a takedown but Ferguson managed to roll and lock in a tight D’arce choke on Barboza. Barboza did his best to escape but the choke was too tight and Barboza would tap three minutes into the second round, giving Ferguson his seventh straight win.
1. Dos Anjos vs. Anthony Pettis (UFC 185)
Coming into this fight, Pettis was thought to become one of the long reigning UFC champions. He had a wicked highlight reel, he had captured the fans and he had beaten a laundry list of opponents. Dos Anjos was the underdog that many believed had no chance. Dos Anjos came into this fight with a solid gameplan that he implemented right from the first bell. He stalked Pettis down and immediately began working the straight left hand. By working intense pressure on Pettis, he gave Pettis no room and no time to land the brutal counterstrikes that had felled the challengers before him. When dos Anjos managed to get the takedown, he landed short punches and elbows from the top that kept Pettis from committing to any serious submission attempts. Dos Anjos was all over the champion, nearly catching him in a rear naked choke in round 3. From the opening bell to the end of the fight, dos Anjos never gave Pettis any ground and Pettis never was able to get any sort of real offense going. The fight was a solid 50-45 decision across the board and the Pettis era was over. Dos Anjos became the UFC lightweight champion and would go on to defend his title next against Donald Cerrone.
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(Matthew Peterson is an MMATorch contributor who has been a fan of MMA since he first watched UFC 100. He currently resides with his wife in St. Cloud, Minn. He believes that Chris Lytle was God’s gift to fight fans and Cowboy Cerrone comes in at a close second. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mattpete1088.)