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UFC on ESPN: Dos Anjos vs. Edwards - Predictions and Picks

Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST
Top 5 / Top 10
4.28K   //    15 Jul 2019, 23:00 IST

Rafael Dos Anjos faces Leon Edwards on ESPN this weekend
Rafael Dos Anjos faces Leon Edwards on ESPN this weekend

There’s simply no rest for UFC fans right now, as the world’s biggest MMA promotion presents its latest card on the ESPN network this weekend, live from San Antonio, Texas, as Birmingham, England’s Leon Edwards faces off with former UFC Lightweight kingpin Rafael Dos Anjos in a major Welterweight main event.

The card overall looks pretty solid, although having three Heavyweight fights on the main card is always a risk – there’s almost bound to be at least one sloppy fight on there! Hopefully, it’ll be a good show, at any rate.

Here are the predicted outcomes for UFC on ESPN: Dos Anjos vs. Edwards.

#1 Rafael Dos Anjos vs. Leon Edwards

Leon Edwards has improved to become one of the best 170lbers on the UFC roster
Leon Edwards has improved to become one of the best 170lbers on the UFC roster

The winner of this one likely won’t find themselves in line for a fight with current Welterweight champ Kamaru Usman any time soon, although, with a bit of luck, they shouldn’t be too far off. That probably applies to Edwards more than Dos Anjos, as the Brazilian, of course, lost to Usman in a one-sided fight last November.

I’ll cut to the chase here; Edwards – despite hailing literally a handful of miles from my hometown – is a guy I’ve underestimated time and again during his UFC run.

Currently the owner of an impressive 7-fight win streak, he’s 9-2 in the UFC overall with his only losses being a contentious split decision against Claudio Silva, and a loss to the current champ Kamaru Usman – a fight that saw Usman pushed harder than he’s probably ever been pushed in the UFC.

Despite all this, I think I’ve picked Edwards to lose at least 3 of his last 5 fights. Essentially, the issue I’ve had with ‘Rocky’ is simply that while he’s solid in all areas, he’s not truly ‘great’ anywhere.

He’s an excellent striker with knockout power, a strong wrestler and his ground game is ever-improving – to the point where he dominated the highly-touted Gunnar Nelson on the mat – but I still wouldn’t call him an elite-level fighter in any single area.

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The question here then is will Edwards’ overall skills give him enough to beat RDA? Dos Anjos’s run at Welterweight has been a bit of an up-and-down one. He debuted there in 2017 with an impressive stoppage of Neil Magny and then outstruck Robbie Lawler to put himself into title contention.

Losses to Colby Covington and Usman knocked him back out of contention, but he recently looked excellent in a win over Kevin Lee.

At his best, RDA is a threat everywhere in the fight; his striking is usually better coming forward rather than countering, and he simply overwhelmed Lawler in their fight with combinations and a swarming style based around sweeping hooks and low kicks.

He doesn’t necessarily need a lot of distance to succeed, either – he seems comfortable attacking from close range as well as from longer range.

On the ground meanwhile, he’s a genuine Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt capable of submitting opponents from all kinds of positions; his top game is probably better than his bottom but we have seen him catch opponents from the guard before, most notably Terry Etim, although that fight was back in 2010.

As far as his weaknesses go, RDA has displayed issues when opponents really push the pace; his cardio isn’t bad per se and he wore out Anthony Pettis when they fought and did the same to Lee recently, but he does struggle when an opponent forces him onto the retreat.

Covington and Usman also used their wrestling skill to dominate him, but Dos Anjos isn’t a poor wrestler by any means, he was simply up against two of the best in the division in that area.

For me, Edwards can win this fight for two reasons; firstly, he should be the bigger man when it comes to fight time, as he’s a natural 170lber rather than a blown-up 155lber as RDA is.

That means that – thrown in with Edwards’ excellent wrestling – he should be able to control where the fight goes, even if he can’t dominate in that area as Usman or Covington did. Maybe he won’t be able to take RDA down, but he probably won’t wind up on his back at any point either.

Secondly, he’s probably the best and most well-rounded striker Dos Anjos has fought since Tony Ferguson, who largely outworked him in their fight. Edwards won’t swarm and force RDA to retreat like Ferguson did, but he may well be able to avoid RDA’s own assaults and land heavy counters on him. He’s got a hell of a chin too, as we saw against Donald Cerrone.

Overall this is a tough one to pick and admittedly, Edwards is a similar fighter to Tarec Saffiedine, who was comfortably beaten by RDA. But I’m sick of underestimating the man from Erdington now and I just think this could be a coming-out party for him.

After all, I’m not sure RDA is an elite-level fighter in a single area at 170lbs – and Edwards beat one last time out in Nelson. It’s a winnable fight for RDA for sure but I think he gets outworked over five close-ish rounds.

The Pick: Edwards via unanimous decision

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