Rafael dos Anjos suffered a KO loss to Rafael Fiziev in the fifth round of their lightweight main event last weekend. dos Anjos appeared to be attempting to make one last run at the lightweight title, but those hopes were likely extinguished after the loss.
dos Anjos is a former UFC lightweight champion that previously fought for the interim welterweight title. He has competed against some of the sport's biggest names, including Khabib Nurmagomedov, Nate Diaz and Kamaru Usman. However, his future is now unclear, as he is likely approaching the end of his career at 37 years old.
Another title run looks increasingly unlikely, but dos Anjos is clearly still competing at a high level, foreshadowing that he may look to one last retirement fight.
Here are five potential retirement fights for Rafael dos Anjos.
#5. Rafael dos Anjos vs. Damir Ismagulov
While Rafael dos Anjos is unlikely to make another run at the title, he remains a highly-ranked contender, sitting at No.8 in the 155 pound division. In this stacked weight class, there will be a number of fighters looking to improve their ranking by taking on the former champ.
The most recent addition to the lightweight rankings is Damir Ismagulov, who is ranked No.15 after a controversial split decision win at UFC Austin. Although his last fight against Guram Kutateladze was very close, Ismagulov has now won 19 fights in a row and is clearly ready for a big test next time out.
This fight would be a good way to test Ismagulov and raise his profile. As for RDA, it would provide him with a challenging, yet very winnable, matchup to close his career.
#4. Rafael dos Anjos vs. Jalin Turner
The logic behind a potential Ismagulov vs. dos Anjos matchup can be applied to the next entry on this list—Jalin Turner sits just one spot above Damir Ismagulov in the rankings at No.14.
Turner's latest performance, however, was much more impressive than Ismagulov's, so he is riding some serious momentum after his first-round submission over Brad Riddell.
The result was Turner's biggest test to date, and he passed with flying colors, finishing Riddell via guillotine inside a minute at UFC 276. He's still improving at just 27 years old and could be set to become a true star in the sport. With that in mind, the UFC would be smart to match him up with a big-name opponent.
Rafael dos Anjos would certainly provide that for him, which could create a fun matchup that suits both men. dos Anjos has fought against some of the biggest names in the sport, and with Turner seemingly set to be a top lightweight for many years, it would be fitting to see him join that company.
#3. Rafael dos Anjos vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov
It is very possible that Rafael dos Anjos will opt against cutting down to lightweight at this stage of his career, given that his pursuit of the 155 pound belt is likely over. He could very well not want to put himself through that grueling process anymore.
If he instead opts to compete in the welterweight division, there is no shortage of fun matchups to be had. While Shavkat Rakhmonov is not an opponent that fighters are lining up to compete against, dos Anjos has proven he's not one to back down from a challenge.
Rakhmonov has demolished all his opponents to date, and in truth there aren't too many fights that make sense for him. dos Anjos would be a significant step up in competition for Rakhmonov, which could create an intriguing bout without rushing the young star too soon.
#2. Rafael dos Anjos vs. Arman Tsarukyan
Two weeks prior to Rafael dos Anjos's loss to Rafael Fiziev, the UFC put on another big-time main event in the lightweight division. On that night, Mateusz Gamrot narrowly defeated Arman Tsarukyan via unanimous decision in an incredibly high-level bout between two future stars.
Tsarukyan may have been unsuccessful on that occasion, but his future still appears very bright at just 25 years old. He possesses incredible grappling skills, which would create a fascinating matchup given dos Anjos's own abilities
This bout is also appropriate when considering the rankings. Even if dos Anjos were to opt against retirement, this would still be a logical next fight for the Brazilian. Tsarukyan would also have the chance to bounce back in a big way if he were to lose, so this fight would not be too much of a risk.
#1. Rafael dos Anjos vs. Nate Diaz II
The previous entries on this list would be smart choices for the UFC if they wanted to build up new stars, but there is another approach to dos Anjos' potential retirement: putting on the biggest fight possible. Rafael dos Anjos and Nate Diaz have history, and with the latter desperate for a fight at the moment, this could be a great option.
The pair fought back in 2014 in what was effectively a No.1 contender's bout in the division. dos Anjos won on that occasion via unanimous decision and went on to capture the lightweight title in his next bout. While neither man is currently in title contention, a rematch would be an even bigger bout than the first one.
dos Anjos is an incredible competitor who deserves a proper send-off for his final bout. The UFC may find this fight is an appropriate decision for the UFC legend, as neither he nor Diaz would have much to lose should they be defeated. Only time will tell if they receive that opportunity.