And so the curtains close for the UFC in 2015, providing us with some much-needed answers to Rafael dos Anjos’ legitimacy as the champion at 155 pounds.
Not that his performance against Anthony Pettis at UFC 185 left that much doubt; we just wanted to see the man replicate his capacity as a dominant lightweight against at least one more contender before we officially wrote our praises down in ink.
Pick up your Pilot pens, folks, dos Anjos isn’t going away anytime soon.
But dos Anjos wasn’t the only fighter to see his hand raised on the UFC on FOX 17 main card Saturday night. Scroll down to see how the remaining three victors stack up against the 155-pound champ.
4. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
While a 30-27 score may be a bit too contentious for most to agree with, but Karolina Kowalkiewicz certainly did enough to have a few cards go in her favor on Saturday night. The Polish fighter constantly tagged Randa Markos, proving herself the better striker in this contest.
She showed a few signs of weakness in her inability to shake of Markos’ clinch control, but proved herself capable of grappling her way into dominant positions as well. The 30-year-old continued her undefeated streak to eight, and likely secured a bigger name for her sophomore appearance inside the UFC’s strawweight division.
3. Alistair Overeem
This fight had all of the big-fight feel boxing fans attached to pre-Wladimir Klitschko vs. Tyson Fury. Like that infamous bout, this felt like it had a chance of going the distance without much action. Neither man seemed overly eager to engage.
Until they did.
Overeem landed a staggering counter left hook against the former UFC heavyweight champion that forced dos Santos to come crashing down. The stoppage didn’t come without a teensy bit of controversy for JDS, who didn’t think he was completely out of the fight when referee Dan Miragliotta waved his hands.
Quite possibly Overeem’s biggest victory inside of the Octagon, the win offers the elite kickboxing heavyweight greater leverage in his contract negotiations moving forward. Whether he decides to stick around the UFC and make a run at the title or take his talents elsewhere, it’s safe to assume the heavyweight striker will be paid handsomely moving forward.
2. Nate Diaz
It’s hard to think of any other UFC fighter that looked quite as good as Nate Diaz did after taking a year off from the sport. Ring rust often follows fighters into the cage after such an extended layoff, but not Diaz. Not against Michael Johnson in Orlando.
Diaz brought his traditional “Stockton Slap” approach into the contest, tagging Johnson with jabs and straight rights for a majority of the night. Typical of that approach, few of his punches came with enough conviction to actually end the bout, but did enough damage to frustrate a smaller, less-rangy opponent.
A victory certainly pushes Diaz closer inside the top 10 of the UFC’s lightweight division. Unfortunately it doesn’t secure a matchup with Conor McGregor — the man he called out immediately following his victory on Saturday (or, at least I think he did; a majority of his post-fight interview on national television was muted because of his profane language).
1. Rafael dos Anjos
Take a gander at Rafael dos Anjos’ performance against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and you may find yourself wondering if he’s the most dominant champion in the UFC right now. RDA stormed past former titleholder Anthony Pettis for five rounds to become the champion, and he crushed “Cowboy” in just over a minute to cement himself as such.
It’s strange to say, but even in the deep waters at 155 pounds, there may not be a single fighter who has what it takes to stop the King’s MMA Brazilian. A high-profile match with McGregor may be on the horizon for RDA, but one has to consider if it’s a wise choice for “The Notorious” one.