Anthony Pettis is a -400 favorite on the MMA odds board for his Lightweight title fight at UFC 185 against challenger Rafael dos Anjos. But dos Anjos isn’t a tomato can by any means. Can he pull off the upset?
He beat Benson Henderson. He beat Donald Cerrone. He is one of the very best fighters in the UFC today. We’re talking, of course, about Rafael dos Anjos. Yes, Anthony Pettis is the Lightweight champion, and Pettis also has victories over Henderson and Cerrone. But is there really enough difference between these two fighters for Pettis to be priced at around –400 on our UFC odds board for next month’s big UFC 185 title bout in Dallas? That’s what we’re here to figure out.
Boot to the Head
There’s no questioning Pettis’ credentials in the Octagon. The 28-year-old Milwaukee native has been practicing taekwondo since age 5, and held a third-degree black belt by age 18. He’s also trained in boxing, kickboxing, wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. It took less than 18 months for Pettis to become the Lightweight champion after making his debut for the local Gladiators Fighting Series promotion in 2007. Then he did it again in the WEC, where he upset Henderson (–300) in the Fight of the Year for 2010.
Three years later, Pettis (18-2 lifetime) completed the trifecta when he took the UFC Lightweight strap off Henderson (–130) via armbar in the first round at UFC 164, earning Submission of the Year honors. Then Pettis defended the belt against Gilbert Melendez (+235) this past December at UFC 181, and earned another bonus for Performance of the Night after submitting Melendez with a guillotine. When he isn’t making fools tap, Pettis is knocking them out and collecting even more bonus money – Cerrone (+120) and Joe Lauzon (+200) can attest to that.
City of Two Angels
It’s been a longer and less decorated road for dos Anjos (23-7 lifetime). From the mean streets of Niterói in Rio de Janeiro, dos Anjos started training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu at age 9, and can also throw down some mean Muay Thai. Dos Anjos (now 30 years old) racked up a record of 11-2 fighting mostly in Brazil before making his UFC debut in 2008 – and promptly lost his first two bouts.
There were some ups and downs after that for dos Anjos, but slowly, gradually, he worked his way into title contention. There were wins over the likes of George Sotiropoulos (–215) and Evan Dunham (+191), then his big breakthrough victory over Cerrone (+105) in 2013 at UFC Fight Night 27. And let’s not forget dos Anjos knocking out Henderson (–385) last August at UFC Fight Night 49. That was also worthy of a Performance of the Night bonus.
So where’s the love for dos Anjos? You could make the argument that Henderson was at the end of his run in the Lightweight division – moving up to welterweight certainly seemed to do him some good last week. And when dos Anjos defeated Nate Diaz (+250) last December, that was at catchweight after Diaz came in too heavy following a 13-month layoff. But dos Anjos dominated both those fights.
This could simply be a case of tortoise vs. hare. While Pettis was a well-rounded champion fighter by the time he got into the Octagon, dos Anjos has had to develop on the fly. Formerly a one-dimensional grappler, dos Anjos has added the striking component to his game over time, and his wrestling skills have improved with each passing fight. “MMA is a hard sport,” dos Anjos told USA Today before beating Diaz. “When you get better in one area, other areas can get worse. It’s hard to keep everything in balance, so my goal is to improve in all aspects.” We like the sound of that. And we like the price we’re getting on the underdog in this matchup, so back Dos Anjos with your UFC picks.
Free UFC Pick: Take dos Anjos