Rafael dos Anjos (20-6) has been on a tear lately. The Brazilian lightweight has won five straight stretching back to 2011 when he dropped a close split-decision to Gleison Tibau. Before that, an injured jaw forced him to submit to Clay Guida.
For his next opponent, dos Anjos will take on Russian prospect Rustam Khabilov (17-1). This may sound like a step in the wrong direction with other top contenders such as Gilbert Melendez, Benson Henderson and Josh Thomson sitting atop the division.
The reason for this booking?
Dos Anjos told Brazilian news outlet Globo that when he signed the contract he thought he was fighting Khabib Nurmagomedov. One could see how the mistake could be made as a Portugese-speaking fighter has just the often similar sounding Russian names to distinguish between.
Now he faces a must win situation if he hopes to stay close to the top of the heap:
“My manager Ed Soares, he was telling me, said. ‘The UFC gave you the Russian.’ It was a lack of communication. I thought it was the Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is seventh in the rankings. Even though he was behind me, I thought it was a fight that might make more sense, and I accepted. Only two days later in a publication tagged me on Twitter and I saw it was Rustam Khabilov. Then I saw that something was wrong and called my manager, and he said: ‘Not Khabib [Nurmagomedov].’ But, then I had already accepted the fight. It was lack of communication. He also thought it was Nurmagomedov.”
Khabilov is no push over though. With six straight wins and an undefeated UFC record, Khabilov is only below dos Anjos on the ladder due to the level of competition defeated, no matter how dominant the wins.
They will fight at UFC 170 on February 22nd at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. The card is headlined by a light heavyweight bout between Rashad Evans and Daniel Cormier.