Former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos proved he can hang with the big boys Saturday night.
He claimed his third consecutive win since moving up to 170 pounds, battering former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler for five rounds en route to a unanimous decision.
Dos Anjos won all five rounds on all three scorecards in the main event of UFC on Fox 26 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
“I’m so happy,” dos Anjos said. “I have been doing this for so long, and tonight was a real pleasure. Robbie Lawler is a legend, and my hands are hurting.”
Dos Anjos hoped to get a finish in a fight that had massive title implications, but settled for a one-sided performance in which he delivered crushing punches to the head and body in addition to rendering Lawler essentially immobile with a constant barrage of leg kicks.
Yet Lawler refused to go down.
Dos Anjos was left hoping he had done enough to warrant a shot against champion Tyron Woodley, who is expected to miss some time after undergoing shoulder surgery.
“In my opinion, I just beat the toughest guy in the division,” dos Anjos said. “I am 3-0 in this division and a former champion. I have earned my shot, and I will be champion of this division, too.”
Featherweight Josh Emmett took advantage of his opportunity to fill in for a former champion and claimed the biggest win of his career with a knockout of contender Ricardo Lamas.
Lamas was scheduled to face Jose Aldo, but Aldo pulled out to instead fight Max Holloway for the belt earlier this month.
Emmett took the fight in his place and landed a left hook square on the chin to knock out Lamas at 4:33 of the first round.
“I shocked the world, well, the world except my coaches, teammates, friends and family,” Emmett said. “They know how hard I’ve worked to get to this point, and none of them are surprised, but I certainly understand the magnitude of what just happened.”
Light heavyweight veteran Glover Teixeira handed Misha Cirkunov his second straight loss after eight consecutive wins.
The perennial contender knocked out Cirkunov with punches on the mat midway through the first round moments after it appeared Teixeira was the one in trouble.
“I felt his punches, and I didn’t think much of the power,” Teixeira said. “There was a good one that stunned me a bit but nothing too serious. I think people underestimate my jiu-jitsu and wrestling because they know I have the knockout power, but grappling is a real passion for me. So once I grabbed him, I was able to take the top position and flatten him out.”
Also on the main card, Santiago Ponzinibbio outlasted Mike Perry in a welterweight slugfest to earn a unanimous decision.
Las Vegan Julian Marquez highlighted the preliminary card with a submission of Darren Stewart midway through the second round of a wild middleweight bout that earned both fighters a $50,000 fight-of-the-night bonus.
It was the official UFC debut for Marquez, who earned his contract with a highlight-reel knockout on “Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series.”
“It feels incredible to get the win in my first UFC fight,” Marquez said. “As soon as I got punched, I said to myself, ‘OK, let’s do this.’ I didn’t feel enough power to knock me out, so I was determined to just keep swinging at him. He decided he didn’t want to stand anymore, and that’s when I was able to lock in the choke. It would’ve been great to knock him out in one of those wild exchanges, but I just wanted the win however I could take it.”
Chad Laprise, Nordine Taleb and Alessio Di Chirico won by knockout. Jan Blachowicz, John Makdessi and Jordan Mein won by decision.