Ricardo Lamas thought he would get someone ranked in the top five — at least the top 10 — in his next fight. He had just taken champion Jose Aldo all five rounds and remained No. 3 in the UFC’s official featherweight rankings afterward.
Lamas had some ideas, too. He thought No. 6 Dustin Poirier or No. 10 Dennis Bermudez would be fine opponents. The UFC thought otherwise.
"They kind of flat-out told me no," Lamas said.
Well, Lamas isn’t the kind of guy to argue. So, he took the UFC’s offer — Hacran Dias at UFC Fight Night in San Antonio on Saturday night (FOX Sports 1, 10 p.m.) — with a smile.
If you’ve never heard of Dias, you’re not the only one. The Brazilian grappling ace has only fought twice since 2012 and is coming off a loss to Nik Lentz last year. Dias is also pretty talented, which is a 1-2 combo of bad news for Lamas. The former No. 1 contender has to deal with a guy who is good yet virtually unknown.
I’m kind of in a bad position. He has a ton of gain and I have nothing to gain.
"I’m kind of in a bad position," Lamas said. "He has a ton of gain and I have nothing to gain."
That’s OK, though, because what Lamas does get is a chance to do is prove to himself and everyone else that the guy who fought Aldo wasn’t really him. The gritty, nose-the-the-grindstone competitor that Lamas came to be known as was absent from that bout with Aldo at UFC 169 in February. In its place was a whole lot of reluctance and hesitation.
Lamas (13-3), out of character, basically let himself get picked apart and he knows it. He didn’t get the nickname "The Bully" because he stayed at distance against noted Muay Thai strikers.
"I just didn’t want to make any mistakes, because there was so much on the line," Lamas said. … "If I can go back and do it again, I would definitely put the pressure on a lot more."
Dias (21-2-1) is nothing like Aldo, but he does train with him at Nova Uniao in Rio de Janeiro. Dias is exceptional at Brazilian jiu-jitsu, is very strong and has a suffocating top game. Actually, he isn’t unlike Lamas in many ways.
Lamas, 32, wants to turn the tables on Dias and put him on his back. Unlike the Aldo fight, you probably won’t see Lamas engage too much in a stand-up battle. His plan is to impose his will.
"I don’t want anyone to make their name off me," Lamas said. "I’m here to win."
There’s probably a darn good reason why UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby didn’t want Lamas to fight Poirier or Bermudez. Lamas has had his title shot and the UFC wouldn’t want to burn another contender against a grinder like him.
This isn’t as high-profile as a co-main event on pay-per-view like the last one, but Lamas is not complaining. He’ll do whatever he has to in order to climb that ladder once more and get a chance to amend his mistakes against Aldo.
"There are no easy fights here in the UFC," Lamas said. "Every time you go out there, every guy you face is a top guy in the world."