The UFC heads back home to the UFC Apex in Las Vegas this weekend with a welterweight headlining bout between two Brazilian stalwarts at UFC Fight Night: Luque vs. Dos Anjos. Former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos has moved back up to the welterweight division after having mixed results in his most recent run at lightweight. This will be his second fight in a row at welterweight after submitting Bryan Barberena in Dec. 2022. Luque is in desperate need of a victory this weekend, as he has dropped two straight fights after putting together a four-fight winning streak. The winner of this clash will find himself in position to face a top-ten opponent in his next fight and potentially make one last run towards title contention.
In the co-main event, longtime featherweight contender Cub Swanson gets back to action against Hakeem Dawodu. Swanson has a 3-2 record over his last five fights, but, prior to that, he had been struggling, losing four in a row. Closing in on his 40th birthday, Swanson may be past his prime, but he is sure to put on an action-packed showdown against an exciting opponent like Dawodu. “Mean” Hakeem Dawodu has dropped two of his last three fights, both coming by decision. He has gone the distance in five consecutive fights, showing discipline, but also not being shy about engaging in extended exchanges against dangerous opponents. With these two both looking to make a statement about their relevance in the featherweight division, this co-main event is poised to be a fan favorite.
Also on the main card is a light heavyweight tilt between Khalil Rountree Jr. and Chris Daukaus. Rountree enters the fight after being awarded a split-decision win over Dustin Jacoby that most educated viewers thought should have gone the other way. This will be Daukaus’s first UFC appearance at light heavyweight after competing at heavyweight for the entirety of his tenure with the promotion.
UFC Fight Night: Luque vs. Dos Anjos airs live in its entirety on ESPN+ and ESPNstarting at 4 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Dan Kuhl and Matt Petela preview the action in this week’s edition of Toe-to-Toe.
Vicente Luque has lost his last two fights; can he defeat the former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos and right the ship?
Kuhl: I always forget how young Vicente Luque was when he was on The Ultimate Fighter: American Top Team vs. Blackzilians back in 2015. He was only 23 years old. Putting that into perspective, opposing castmate and future opponent Hayder Hassan was older on the show than Luque is now, eight years later.
In the years following TUF 21, Luque put a lot of miles on his chassis and found a great deal of success. Beginning with the season finale in Jul. 2015 through his last win in Aug. 2021, the Brazilian-American went 14-3 in the Octagon, which included two four-fight winning streaks and a six-fight winning streak. Of his three losses, one was to current welterweight champion Leon Edwards, and one was to former title contender Stephen Thompson. In that time, he finished much of the “who’s who” of UFC welterweights, including former champ Tyron Woodley, Michael Chiesa and Belal Muhammad. Needless to say, Luque spent most of his 20’s blazing a path of destruction across the UFC welterweight division and didn’t suffer a single finish loss in that time.
Since his knockout loss to Luque in 2016, Muhammad went on a 10-1-1 tear of his own, leading to a rematch in Apr. 2022, but this time, Luque got dominated in a five-round war. It appeared that the miles were catching up to him, even though he was only 30 years old. Four months later, in what was a pretty quick turnaround after a 25-minute fight, Luque faced Geoff Neal, and he was battered and beaten, until getting knocked out in the third round. It was a fight that resulted in brain bleeding, and he hasn’t fought since. The hurdle that is hard to get over at this point is Luque’s health. Two fights that were that close together, and did that much damage, can take years off of a fighter’s career, as well as his life.
Former lightweight champ, and one-time interim welterweight title contender, Rafael dos Anjos has many, many more miles on his chassis than Luque may ever have. By the time Luque made his UFC debut, dos Anjos was a seven-year vet. He has gone the distance 26 times in his career, as opposed to Luque’s nine, and he has been in some absolute wars against some of the best UFC lightweights and welterweights in history. However, there is a subjective difference that cannot be overlooked here – dos Anjos appears to be made of steel, while Luque is more technical, but possibly not as durable.
This is going to be an interesting fight to watch. One one hand, Luque is a highly skilled and efficient fighter, who took some career-changing damage in his last two fights. Granted, he took a year off, but will that be too much time away? On the other hand, dos Anjos is a longtime vet who has never been submitted in 46 fights, and has only been stopped four times. The one additional factor is that, generally speaking, with an exception or two, dos Anjos has had a good cadence throughout his career, taking adequate time off between fights.
If this fight goes the distance, it goes to dos Anjos, as this is right in his wheelhouse. He is durable and will wear his opponent down throughout the fight. If the fight goes to the mat, I also expect dos Anjos to showcase his far superior jiu-jitsu skills. If this one gets stopped, I don’t expect a Luque win by submission, but I could see dos Anjos tapping the younger veteran. All of that said, I will take dos Anjos by decision in this one.
Petela: This one isn’t going the distance. Vicente Luque gets back on track after the year off and picks up a big win this weekend. I also don’t see this fight spending much time on the canvas. Both men are aware of the danger the other poses in the grappling realm, and that will inevitably make them both hesitant to change levels and end up being reversed and put on his back.
When it comes to the striking, while RDA might be a bit technically superior, he will find himself outgunned against the naturally bigger fighter standing across the cage from him. Luque hits hard, there is no doubt about that. He has 11 knockouts on his resume, and this will wind up being his 12th. This fight is going to start slow, and it wouldn’t surprise me to have many people in attendance, and watching at home, start complaining about how boring the early rounds play out. By Round 3, both men will know that they need to be more active if they want to be confident in winning a decision. Once they start opening up and engaging in longer exchanges, Luque will start getting the better of dos Anjos. Unlike his recent losses, Luque won’t be taking the career altering type of damage against RDA and that will allow him to continue to be more offensive and land a thudding combination, punctuated with a body shot that crumbles dos Anjos and earns him the TKO win.
Cub Swanson turns 40 in just a few months; can he notch one more win to an already stellar career by besting Hakeem Dawodu?
Petela: At this point in his career, Cub Swanson is a guy that everyone should be rooting for to win. No offense to Hakeem Dawodu, but Swanson is as fan-friendly as it gets, and I remember him as a young, exciting prospect who was must-watch TV back in the WEC days. It’s wild to see him now as an aging veteran on the back nine of his career.
All that being said, unfortunately, I don’t see Swanson getting his hand raised this weekend. He’s substantially slower than he was in his prime, both in his offensive striking and striking defense. With his unorthodox stance and style, that is going to cost him dearly against Dawodu. The crisp striking of Dawodu will start to slow Swanson down early, and he won’t be able to move his head off the centerline fast enough to stay out of danger. Seven of Dawodu’s wins are by knockout, and the other six have all gone the distance, which is what I expect this weekend. It’ll be a lopsided victory for Dawodu, but not necessarily one that fans are clamoring for Swanson’s corner to stop between rounds.
Kuhl: I agree with my colleague on this one. “Killer” Cub Swanson is just a shell of his former self, and it really doesn’t make sense for him to keep doing this. He had some epic battles back in the day, but he has to be at a point where he has made more than enough money to hang up the gloves. Granted, he and Hakeem Dawodu both are 1-2 in their last three fights, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of upside for Swanson to face a 32-year-old kickboxer with a ton of striking fights under his belt.
I mean, either guy could end this early on the feet, as the striking power is the last thing to go, but if it goes to the mat, Swanson would have the submission advantage, but Dawodu has the power advantage in terms of grappling. With Dawodu being the younger fighter who hasn’t had years drained out of his career in grappling wars, I see him having the deeper gas tank and pulling out the decision win.
What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?
Kuhl: I am legitimately worried about Luque in this one. You never want to see a fighter put in a position like he was last year, when he fought 37 minutes in just four months, and he took a ton of damage in those two fights. If he drops another, that makes three in a row, and, unless it happens early, a loss to dos Anjos could just pile on additional physical damage. It may not end his employment with the UFC, but hopefully, for his sake, Luque can pull off a win without taking too much damage.
Petela: Chris Daukaus. He has lost three fights in a row and was knocked out in all three of those losses. He makes the move down to the light heavyweight division as a last ditch effort to salvage his job. If the former Philadelphia police officer doesn’t put on an impressive performance against an aging Khalil Rountree Jr. this is probably the end of the line for him.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Petela: Terrance McKinney vs. Mike Breeden. Win or lose, McKinney is hardly ever in a boring fight. He brings the pressure from the opening bell and in a short notice fight like this one I expect him to come out of the gate looking to nab a quick stoppage. Whether he gets caught by Breeden early, or if he is the one who lands the damaging blow, this fight will be an exciting one and likely steal the show on the preliminary card.
Kuhl: The main card battle between Polyana Viana and Iasmin Lucindo could prove to be a fun fight to watch. Both Brazilian women are finishers who put on exciting fights when they do go the distance. Lucindo is coming off a decision win over Brogan Walker last April, and Viana last fought in Nov. 2022, when she disposed of Jinh Yu Frey in just 47 seconds with punches. They are both looking to string a couple wins together to stake a claim in the UFC strawweight division.
Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?
Kuhl: Terrance McKinney is due for a win, and when McKinney wins, it’s always by finish. In fact, win or lose, every one of his fights has ended by finish. McKinney and his opponent Mike Breeden are both on two-fight losing streaks. That is a recipe for two guys looking for a finish, and I expect McKinney to win this one, as well as a performance bonus.
Petela: Montserrat Ruiz. Call me crazy. Dan has several times, but it just feels like this is a fight made for her to get a statement win. She dominated Cheyanne Vlismas in her UFC debut and threatened submissions constantly during that fight. After that, she got caught early by Amanda Lemos and stopped in less than a minute in her sophomore appearance. This weekend, she takes on a fledgling Jaqueline Amorim, who got handled by Sam Hughes in her first UFC fight. Amorim has notched five of her six wins by submission, so this one will probably involve a lot of grappling, and I expect Ruiz to snatch up a choke in a scramble that earns her a finish and her first post-fight bonus.
Pair this card with…
Petela: Miller Lite. This is a decent fight card from top to bottom but there’s nothing really special about it. No title implications for any of the winners nor does it put any of them one fight away from a title shot. All things considered, it should still be a fun fight card to watch and it’ll have a few standout moments. Just like Miller Lite, this fight card will get the job done but it won’t be the most memorable experience in the world.
Kuhl: I’m going with Miller Lite as well, but kicked up a bit. I do not believe this is going to be a forgettable card. With a lot of heavy betting favorites, this has the makings of a card with some really fun fights and some big surprises. So, I’m going to spruce up the Miller Lite with some Clamato juice, lime and a splash of hot sauce. It’s salty, tangy, malty and spicy, just like this card will turn out.
Main Card (ESPN+/ESPN, 7 p.m. ET)
WW: Vicente Luque vs. Rafael dos Anjos
FW: Cub Swanson vs. Hakeem Dawodu
LHW: Khalil Rountree Jr. vs. Chris Daukaus
Women’s StrawW: Polyana Viana vs. Iasmin Lucindo
MW: Tafon Nchukwi vs. AJ Dobson
MW: Josh Fremd vs. Jamie Pickett
Preliminary Card (ESPN+/ESPN, 4 p.m. ET)
BW: Marcus McGhee vs. JP Buys
LW: Terrance McKinney vs. Mike Breeden
FW: Francis Marshall vs. Isaac Dulgarian
HW: Josh Parisian vs. Martin Buday
Women’s StrawW: Montserrat Ruiz vs. Jaqueline Amorim
BW: Da’Mon Blackshear vs. Jose Johnson
Women’s FlyW: Juliana Miller vs. Luana Santos
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.