The ESPN panel of Ariel Helwani, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim recaps the biggest stories from Saturday’s UFC Fight Night card, including a look at Rafael dos Anjos’ win over Paul Felder and its significance.
Helwani: Let’s make something very clear right away: Nobody actually lost this major event.
Yes, of course, in the record books it says that Rafael dos Anjos defeated Paul Felder by a split decision, but I don’t care about any of that: Felder didn’t leave the cage as a loser.
And not because I won the fight for Felder. On the contrary, I scored it for RDA. Five rounds to none. (Don’t get me started with this completely ridiculous 48-47 scorecard for Felder.) But when you consider that Felder accepted this fight just under five days ago, the fact that he’s with someone as good as dos Anjos is the distance has gone an impressive win in itself.
In other words, Felder has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. This would always be a big task.
I sincerely hope he’s not too fond of himself right now, and by the looks of his post-fight demeanor, he’s not. Felder looks and sounds like a rejuvenated fighter who suddenly has a few years left. Funny how you can sometimes win in this sport even if you lose.
You know, all week long this battle has been about fields that will save the map, and rightly so. As a result, the RDA – as well as its return to lightweight – was completely overshadowed.
And that’s pretty much the story of RDA’s career, isn’t it? The softly spoken Brazilian has been overlooked for years. He’s been underestimated time and again and has never received due credit for seemingly never turning down a fight.
I mean, just look at his record: the man has fought every top contender and rising star. He never chose his seats. I’ve never played the ranked game before. He just fought.
And mostly he won. Not early, though.
Amazingly, RDA’s UFC debut came 12 years ago. Sunday November 15, 2008 on a card headed by Randy Couture versus Brock Lesnar for the heavyweight title. You talk about longevity, don’t you?
Did you know he lost that fight by knocking out Jeremy Stephens?
And did you know he lost his first two UFC bouts? Also, did you know he started his UFC career with a mediocre 4-4? It wasn’t very early.
I’ll never forget when Clay Guida broke his jaw at UFC 117 dos Anjos in 2010. That was his third UFC loss in six fights. It was a brutal injury. I never thought that a broken fighter would become the man we saw on Saturday.
You know the rest of the story. RDA did wonderfully and eventually became the lightweight champion when he dismantled Anthony Pettis at UFC 185.
A year and a half later, he lost his belt when he was knocked out by Eddie Alvarez. He stayed at lightweight for one more fight (a loss of decision for a guy named Tony Ferguson) and then rose to welterweight. The weight reductions became too strenuous.
His run at 170 was nothing to write home about – that’s what happens when you fight Kamaru Usman, Colby Covington and Leon Edwards – and it stayed there for over three years until it triumphantly returned to 155 on Saturday.
And you know, I think we all kind of forgot how good the light version of RDA was.
Is he older? Yes. Was he around the block? Yes. In fact, he exceeded seven hours of octagon time for his entire UFC career with 30 fights on Saturday, which is simply amazing.
But RDA is a 155 player … again. And I’m happy to see it.
Many moons ago he missed Conor McGregor’s payday. That could have defined him, much like the broken jaw or one of its early losses could have defined him.
Instead, he is ultimately defined as a past champion, future Hall of Famer, and a man who stood up to some of the best fighters of all time.
And who knows, maybe it still has a title in it. Another chapter to be written under the radar.
Respect to both men who made this fight and event this evening possible.
I’m definitely there.
– Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) November 15, 2020
Nobody is really talking about him as a contender right now, and Lord knows many who giggled as he exclaimed McGregor in his post-fight interview.
But hey, if we’ve learned anything about dos Anjos in the past 12 years, it’s like he does his best job when we’re not careful.
– ESPN MMA (@espnmma) November 15, 2020
Raimondi: Khaos Williams spent exactly 57 seconds in the UFC cage. During this time he has two absolutely vicious knockouts. “The Oxfighter”, Abdul Razak Alhassan slept in 30 seconds with a blistered right hand on Saturday night. Back in February at UFC 247, Williams destroyed Alex Morono in 27 seconds with blows. At 26, Williams is absolutely the real deal.
People were talking about Khamzat Chimaev’s first two bouts in the UFC that summer. How about Williams? I would say Williams did it against better competition. And more violent. Khaos, whose real first name is Kalinn, somehow came out of nowhere. He wasn’t a prospect outside of the Midwest. Williams came from the unannounced WXC promotion in his native Michigan and is fighting his way out of Murcielago’s emerging MMA camp under coach Joaquin Rodriguez. Keep an eye on this man.
In refusing to panic, Cory McKenna became a legitimate prospect
Wagenheim: Sometimes a prospect shows up with dominance. In other cases – and this was the case with Cory McKenna – resilience is the most eye-opening insight.
McKenna appeared to be at her best when her positioning was worst. Kay Hansen had the Grappling Bona Fides and it was revealed when she threatened submissions in several places over the course of the three rounds. But each time McKenna found a way not only to survive but to turn the tide. This has never been more evident than in the last few minutes, when McKenna escaped Hansen’s full mount and an arm triangle choke attempt and ended the fight by dropping punches and elbows on a bloody Hansen.
In this fight, which was McKenna’s UFC debut, the young strawweight from Wales was repeatedly over-positioned and continued to cause undeterred damage. Hansen is a serious threat on screen, but McKenna was the one who landed the more revealing punches even when she was on her back.
That approach is becoming increasingly dangerous for McKenna as the 115-pound competition grows tougher. Still, it was a statement victory. When 21-year-olds collided, Hansen was the one who got into the cage with the label “Prospect”. McKenna was the one who came out of the cage with a fourth straight win and made an impression as a fighter.