Post-Fight Thoughts: Rafael Dos Anjos -vs- Colby Covington
Well, in my pre-fight write-up I said that I would be genuinely sad of Colby Covington managed to secure an interim welterweight title, and I can now report that I do in fact have a case of the sads. In yet another instalment of Why We Can't Have Nice Things, the mouthy mid-westerner was able to pressure and wrestle his way to a unanimous decision victory over former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos. I have some reservations about the fight, and how it was scored, but I was not exactly shocked when the judge's scores were read aloud — just mightily disappointed.
The first round was probably RDA's best showing, as he was able to work Colby's body with punches, land leg kicks, and was mostly able to handle grappler's pressure. Covington, to his credit, came right at RDA full bore for the entire round. Covington looked to be working a clinch-heavy wrestling gameplan, though RDA's takedown defence was in top form for the first few rounds. The second round was similar to the first, though Covington's ceaseless pressure looked to be slowing RDA down as the round came to a close. RDA was still landing some good body shots, but nothing appeared to be slowing Covington down.
From the third round onward, it felt like the tide was really turning in Covington's favour. RDA was waning, showing less snap on his strikes and tiring in the clinches and defending the Colby's constant takedown attempts. After an accidental low-blow, the round continued and the fight's momentum looked to be shifting completely in Colby's favour. RDA wasn't completely defeated, but his offence had slowed and he was being stifled for most of the round. To his credit, RDA came out guns blazing in the fourth, and even managed to land a takedown of his own. Colby was winning the fight, but RDA was not going to make it easy for him.
The fifth round was somewhat difficult to score, with both fighters looking completely exhausted — as one would expect in a gruelling 20 minutes like we had just seen — and RDA landing better punches but Colby landing higher volume. I personally scored it for Dos Anjos, as I genuinely felt he landed better strikes but Covington's volume was impressive. According to Fight Metric, Covington threw 98 more strikes than RDA, even though he was outlanded by a very slim margin (6 punches). I can see the high level of activity — accurancy notwithstanding — being enough to sway judges. I had the fight scored 48-47 for RDA, giving him rounds 1, 2 and 5, in what was a very close fight that featured a lot of "wall 'n stall" which ate up a lot of time despite nothing really happening.
I can fully understand why Covington was awarded the fight, even if I disagree with it; the lone 49-46 scorecard was a little bizarre, but that's pretty normal for MMA judging. Dos Anjos was game throughout the fight, and I was impressed with how his takedown defence stood up even in the later rounds. Covington brought a good gameplan to this fight, and his stand-up defence was much improved from the Demian Maia fight. The 9-year age gap between the two fighters surely played a role, as Covington's stamina was unwavering until the very end of the fight, despite never taking his foot off the gas at any point. I don't like the guy's public persona, but he showed up to fight and passed the toughest test of his career; his job is to fight and get paid, not to make me like him.
I'm not overly enthused with the prospect of Covington and Woodley fighting, because there is a very good chance that fight is not very fun to watch. I actually give Colby decent odds to beat Woodley, as his pressure game really did impress me and I think it can be a huge problem for such a conservative wrestle-boxer like Woodley has morphed into recently. There is also a chance that it's 5 rounds of clinching against the fence, as the two of them explore new frontiers in boring a live crowd to death. I'm also dreading the smack-talk prior to their fight, and I'm expecting Colby to change his name to "All Lives Matter" and really bring out the best of the MMA community discourse on race relations.
As for Rafael Dos Anjos, I think he will bounce back. This was a debatable loss, and he didn't look completely outclassed, though Covington did acquit himself well and made it a close fight. Dos Anjos had been wrecking shop since moving up to welterweight, and Covington definitely pumped the breaks on that, absorbing all of his strikes with little-to-no ill effect. RDA is still very competitive, and I don't think he lost much in defeat. The welterweight title scene is pretty ugly right now, and depending on the outcome of Woodley / Covington, I would not mind seeing RDA thrown back in the mix provided he doesn't take — and lose — another fight in the interim.
Published: June 10th, 2018.