Following a successful run at lightweight, Rafael dos Anjos announced on Twitter Friday afternoon that he will be moving up to the UFC Welterweight Division.
After the news broke, it was time to play another round of matchmaker, but not for an event. Here are five welterweights who should welcome the former UFC lightweight champion in his divisional debut.
If Nick Diaz wants a big fight in his return to the Octagon, he should look no further than the 32-year-old Brazilian veteran.
Diaz has not fought in two years due to an 18-month suspension along with a $100,000 fine (originally five years, $165,000) for a failed drug test.
The 33-year-old Stockton native last fought in January of 2015, when he originally lost a unanimous decision to Anderson Silva at UFC 183. However, it was overturned to a no contest after Silva also tested positive, but for steroids.
dos Anjos may not be the biggest name, but his name is popular enough to fight Diaz. Both are former champions (Nick being a former WEC and Strikeforce champion) and the two have a history with dos Anjos beating Nick’s younger brother, Nate.
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Another interesting fight to make for RDA is fellow grappler Gunnar Nelson.
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“Gunni” has alternated wins and losses in his last five fights. The 28-year-old Icelandic fighter last fought in May at UFC Rotterdam, where he submitted Albert Tumenov via second-round neck crank. Nelson also owns three Performance of the Night bonuses in his young UFC career.
Both Nelson’s and dos Anjos’ strengths are in the grappling department, but their striking is very underrated. It would be a chess match if these two ever fight.
Gunnar Nelson pulled out of a main event contest with Dong Hyun Kim late in 2016. If he has healed from his ankle injury, then this fight is definitely an option.
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He may not be in the rankings, but Alan Jouban is arguably the best outside the elite in the UFC’s welterweight division. After his last fight, “Brahma” was asking for a big fight next. At this point, there is no one bigger than dos Anjos for him.
Jouban handed Mike Perry his first loss in his last fight. He picked “Platinum” apart for the unanimous decision last month at UFC Sacramento. The 35-year-old is on a three-fight winning streak with three Fight of the Night bonuses.
Striking has been the result of dos Anjos’ two-fight losing skid. Jouban would be the perfect fighter for RDA to face to see if he fixed that hole.
Like RDA, Robbie Lawler lost his UFC title during the summer. Both fighters are looking back to get in the win column and who better to face than each other?
At UFC 201 in August, “Ruthless” was knocked out by Tyron Woodley to lost the title in the first round in Atlanta. The 34-year-old heavy hitter had his five-fight winning streak snapped.
Prior to the loss, Lawler was a two-time defending UFC welterweight champion and was arguably in the Fight of the Year in 2015 and 2016. He also has four Fight of the Night bonuses and a Knockout of the Night since returning to the UFC.
Lawler and RDA are not getting any younger and if these two are going to fight, it should be sooner rather than later.
Before Carlos Condit considers retirement, he should consider welcoming dos Anjos into the welterweight division.
“The Natural Born Killer” lasted less than two minutes in his last fight after being submitted by Demian Maia at UFC on FOX 21 in Vancouver. The 32-year-old has lost two consecutive bouts and his winless in five of his last seven fights.
Despite the defeats, Condit is still one of the best in the game. Some may even say he should be the new UFC welterweight champion after fighting Lawler last year. So before Condit hangs the gloves up for good, he should give it one more go and start with RDA.