Rafael Dos Anjos had a fairly mediocre start to his UFC career; he lost his first two fights and won just four of his first eight. However, he's turned the corner in a big way and as we get set for UFC Fight Night 90 on July 7 he's expected to dominate challenger Eddie Alvarez.
Dos Anjos (-450) has won five straight fights to become the Lightweight Champion and he's now the UFC's No. 5 pound-for-pound fighter (Sherdog has him as the second-best in the world). He's fresh off a very impressive outing where he defended his Lightweight title against Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone at UFC 191. It only took him 66 seconds to finish him (with body kicks and punches), making it the fastest finish in UFC Lightweight Championship history. He's now registered 14 wins inside the Octagon, which puts him in a tie for second in UFC Lightweight history.
However, this won't be a cakewalk for Dos Anjos. Remember, his last loss was to Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is a skilled wrestler. He probably hasn't faced anyone who is as good in that realm since that fight, but Alvarez is comparable. Dos Anjos isn't as dangerous if opponents can take him down and get on top, and that's what Alvarez' game plan should be. Alvarez has shown to be skilled in this department as he had six takedown attempts in his bouts against Gilbert Melendez and Cerrone, and he succeeded every single time.
But it's not as if Dos Anjos isn't skilled in this department; it's just the slightly weaker aspect of his game (than standing). His 39 takedowns are currently the fourth-most in UFC Lightweight history. In his UFC 185 matchup with Anthony Pettis where Dos Anjos claimed the belt he shot for 10 takedowns and succeeded on nine of them, so he's more than capable of dominating in that realm too.
Alvarez comes in having won two straight and five of his last six, but a lot of people will wonder if he actually deserves a shot at the title. The fact that he does speaks more to the fact that this is a weak division rather than his strength as a fighter.
The way that most people handicap these matches is by looking at common opponents, and that doesn't bode well for Alvarez. Alvarez, like Dos Anjos, also has a win over Anthony Pettis, but Dos Anjos' was the more impressive. Alvarez' win over Pettis at UFC Fight Night: Dillashaw vs. Cruz was his most recent bout but it was a split decision. Dos Anjos thoroughly dominated Pettis. And both fighters have also fought Cerrone but Alvarez lost to Cowboy whereas Dos Anjos crushed him. As mentioned, the fight barely lasted more than one minute.
The bottom line here is if this is a striking affair, Dos Anjos should take care of business. He's become one of the UFC's most dangerous while standing. However, if Alvarez can take him down, get on top and make this into a wrestling match, this contest should be much closer than the oddsmakers are suggesting.