After losing back-to-back fights at lightweight in 2016, Rafael dos Anjos has completely reinvented himself in 2017.
A former lightweight champion, dos Anjos (28-9) defeated Robbie Lawler in a dominant, five-round decision at UFC Fight Night in Winnipeg on Saturday. All three judges scored it a clean sweep for the Brazilian, 50-45, to improve his record to 3-0 on the year.
Immediately after the win, dos Anjos (28-9) called for the next title shot against Tyron Woodley, who is expected to miss some time in early 2018 because of shoulder surgery.
"In my opinion, I just beat the toughest guy in the division," dos Anjos said. "I think I deserve it because of my history, what I've done in the division, 10-year history. I think I did enough tonight to deserve the title shot, and I'm sure I'll get that belt."
According to Fightmetric, dos Anjos outlanded Lawler in total strikes 239-178. Many of those were to Lawler's lead right leg, which Lawler could barely stand on by the end of the fight.
Dos Anjos mixed up his offense beautifully on the feet. He pounded Lawler's legs with kicks and hurt him to the body with knees in the clinch. A trio of wide left hands appeared to stagger Lawler in the second round, and an elbow and left hand hurt him again in the third.
Lawler, 35, appeared to suffer from injuries to both of his legs. The right leg was chewed up by kicks, and his left leg appeared unstable in the later rounds as well. He had some success in the third round, walking dos Anjos down and boxing him on the inside, but dos Anjos took him down later in the round and scored with several hard elbows.
Fighting out of Southern California, dos Anjos has now defeated Tarec Saffiedine, Neil Magny and Lawler at 170 pounds. Before the fight, he told ESPN he would be willing to sit and wait for Woodley to get healthy in order to get a title shot.
Lawler, who trains under striking coach Henri Hooft in South Florida, suffered his first loss since he surrendered the UFC championship to Woodley in mid-2016.
"I've been in this game so long, it was a pleasure fighting a guy like Robbie," dos Anjos said. "He's a warrior, man. My hands are hurting. He's got a pretty tough head.
"I was confident in my conditioning. I felt he's got a pretty tough head, so I started working the body more. I'm just blessed to have [fought] a guy like that."
Late replacement Emmett knocks out Lamas
Emmett on the map with TKO of Lamas
Josh Emmett makes a statement in the first round, after connecting with a left hook to Ricardo Lamas' chin at Saturday's UFC Fight Night in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
A Team Alpha Male fighter, Emmett didn't waste the limelight. He pressured Lamas with left hooks and right hands on the feet, before catching him with a clean left in the pocket. Lamas, of Chicago, went out cold from the shot. Emmett did not land a follow-up shot.
The upset snaps a two-fight winning streak for Lamas. Emmett moves to 4-1 in the UFC. His only misstep of the week was missing weight; he came in at 148.5 pounds for the 145-pound fight.
Ponzinibbio keeps win streak going against Perry
Argentinian welterweight Santiago Ponzinibbio (26-3) outlasted a game Mike Perry (11-2) in a three-round unanimous decision, spoiling a potential fight between Perry and Darren Till. All three judges had 29-28 for Ponzinibbio.
Ponzinibbio outstruck Perry 81-51, according to Fightmetric. He kept the heavy-hitting Perry at bay with effective leg kicks and jabs. He also opened up with flurries along the fence in the second and third rounds.
Perry, of Central Florida, never looked close to going down, but the damage piled up over three rounds. He suffered a cut under his right eye in the second round and looked tired in the third.
With the fight on the line late, Ponzinibbio scored a couple takedowns and dropped Perry with a spinning shot. It improves his current win streak to six.
Perry was trending toward a potential fight against fellow rising prospect Till. Instead, he falls to 2-2 in his past four fights.
Teixeira rolls through Cirkunov
Teixeira flattens Cirkunov with TKO finish
Glover Teixeira uses his grappling to bring Misha Cirkunov to the ground and eventually flatten Cirkunov by landing shots to the side of his head and coming out on top with a first-round TKO.
Referee Dan Miragliotta stepped in at 2:45 of the opening round, after Teixeira took Cirkunov's back, flattened him out and landed hard shots to the side of the head.
Coming into 2017, Cirkunov, 30, was heralded as the next big thing at 205 pounds. It has been a free fall for the Latvian fighter since, however, and he has been finished in back-to-back fights.
For Teixeira, of Brazil, it's a nice rebound from a fifth-round TKO loss to Alexander Gustafsson in May. He absorbed several combinations from Cirkunov early, but was dominant on the ground.