Bad blood will be shed at UFC 272 when close friends turned bitter rivals Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal collide at UFC 272, but the storylines continue through the main card and preliminary bouts. There are plenty of meaty matchups to bite outside of Saturday’s main event.
A random booking, a changing of the guard and the emergence of a potential title challenger highlight the best fights out of the marquee. Former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos is making the best of a disappointing situation. Highlight finisher Edson Barboza is looking to roll back a hungry young athlete paving the way to UFC gold. And the prelims feature a ranked strawweight showdown that could move the division forward.
Let’s take a closer look at three fights worth settling at UFC 272.
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Rafael dos Anjos vs Renato Moicano
Talk about drama. Dos Anjos returns from a 15-month layoff looking to fend off Moicano, a well-rounded finisher who comes on less than a week’s notice after Rafael Fiziev contracted COVID-19. The fight will be contested at a catchweight of 160 pounds for a maximum of five rounds. This marks the first time in UFC history that a non-title main event and non-title co-headliner will both be contested for a maximum of 25 minutes on the same card.
RDA hasn’t had the most consistent career, going 12-7 since 2013, but his UFC career has been all killer with no filler. He fought Khabib Nurmagomedov, Kamaru Usman, Nate Diaz, Tony Ferguson, Colby Covington, Paul Felder, Michael Chiesa, Leon Edwards, Kevin Lee, Robbie Lawler, Neil Magny, Eddie Alvarez, Donald Cerrone (twice), Anthony Pettis and Benson Henderson during his run in the welterweight and lightweight divisions. Healed from injuries, RDA carries with him a diverse skill set, efficient gas tank, and defensive awareness that make him nearly unstoppable. The Brazilian hasn’t finished for over 11 years.
“We were looking for other fighters, other guys, maybe Michael Chandler or Tony Ferguson,” dos Anjos said of his initial booking. “Guys that make more sense to me, but he’s the guy the UFC brought me. I promised myself I wasn’t going to fight anymore just by looking at the rankings. He needs a fight, I need a fight. I’ve been out for 15 months. So yeah, let’s go. Back then, we didn’t have a ranking and everyone was fighting. So why not? A win is a win. It’s always good. I’m excited for that.”
Moicano underwent something of a career reinvention at lightweight, posting a 3-1 record with three submission finishes. The only loss in this streak goes to Fiziev, the man he replaces on short notice.
High expectations were placed on Moicano at featherweight. A thrilling fighter with a nasty rear choke (all nine submissions in his career use this technique), Moicano has come up short against the division’s elite: Brian Ortega, Jose Aldo and “Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung. Moving up a division and back in opponent quality has rejuvenated Moicano’s UFC career. Circumstances aren’t ideal, but here’s an opportunity for Moicano to earn a number next to his name in one of MMA’s deepest divisions.
Edson Barboza vs. Bryce Mitchell
Solid matchmaking evokes veteran super forward Barboza against undefeated submission specialist Mitchell. Barboza is 2-2 at featherweight after a 1-5 stretch in his long-term lightweight division. Mitchell is a perfect 5-0 since his UFC affair and even scored a rare twister submission against Matt Sayles. It’s a real fight at the crossroads. Don’t sleep on Barboza. The beating forward holds the UFC record for Fight of the Night Awards (tied with Nate Diaz and Frankie Edgar) and has the third-most knockdowns in promotion history. Mitchell is a strong contender worth watching, but it will take an impressive and decisive win over Barboza to determine if Mitchell is truly ready to tangle with the featherweight elite.
Marina Rodriguez vs. Yan Xiaonan
Many die-hard fans expressed their disappointment that a heavyweight clash between heavyweights Sergey Spivak and Greg Hardy received a main card slot on breakthrough female strawweight contenders Rodriguez and Xiaonan. The top five 115-pounders are 11-2-2 so far in their careers with the only losses to former champion and impending title challenger Carla Esparza. Rodriguez and Xioanan broke away from the pack as new faces in the top echelon of the strawweight division. Rodriguez beat names like Mackenzie Dern, Michelle Waterson, Amanda Ribas and Tecia Torres while Xiaonan took down Claudia Gadelha, Karolina Kowalkiewicz and Angela Hill, among others. Look for this fight to cement Rose Namajunas’ next challenger, should she beat Esparza, especially if Rodriguez can extend her winning streak to four.
“I think her advantage is that she’s taller than me and longer,” Xiaonan told CBS Sports through a translator. “Her combinations are really good. It’s a dangerous thing for me. My advantage is speed. I’m faster than her. I can get in, get out really fast. My footwork is better than hers.
Xiaonan will have Alpha Male team coach Urijah Faber in his corner for the first time.
“After my last fight, my last loss, I set my goal more concretely that I have to train in the United States with a good team, good coaches and good teammates who can improve my skills,” Xiaonan said. . “I needed to leave my comfort zone, leave my home and go abroad to learn from the best.”
“I learned almost everything about MMA from him. He told me a lot about striking, jiu-jitsu and grappling. He’s the kind of person who stays in the gym from start to finish of the day Another thing I learned from him is just his passion for MMA.”