In mixed martial arts, you have to take what is given to you. After all, huge opportunities aren’t handed out on a daily basis. A change of plans, even though it may not seem like a great move at the time, can turn out to be worthwhile in the long run. Take the current predicament of Brazilian UFC veteran Rafael dos Anjos, for example.

Dos Anjos was expected to fight Rustam Khabilov at UFC 170 on Feb. 22, but after Khabilov was forced out due to injury, the lightweight was called on to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is undefeated at 21-0, on April 19. There is an undeniable hype that is attached to Nurmagomedov’s name. After four wins inside the Octagon, “The Eagle” is soaring towards the top of the division and is already considered one of the most dangerous guys in the promotion.

Why, then, is it a good thing for dos Anjos to take on Nurmagomedov?

Although it is a very difficult match-up for the Brazilian, a fight with Nurmagomedov offers more upside than a bout with Khabilov. Nurmagomedov is ranked seven spots higher in the rankings than Khabilov. With a win over a fighter who has proved to be a future top contender, dos Anjos has a chance to finally reach the top of the heap.

Dos Anjos has been in the UFC since 2008, compiling a record of nine wins and four losses inside the Octagon. The Brazilian has won nine of his last 11 fights. The guy is on a roll with a five-fight winning streak, but didn’t get the credit he deserved until he knocked off Donald Cerrone on Aug. 28 at UFC Fight Night 27. Now that he is getting more of the spotlight, it would be very difficult to deny dos Anjos a title shot if he is able to defeat Nurmagomedov at UFC on Fox 11.

What would a loss do for dos Anjos?

Obviously, it would hurt his standing in the promotion. He would fall down the ladder a few rungs, but don’t forget that dos Anjos is still young. Though he has 26 career fights under his belt, dos Anjos is just 29 years old and won’t hit the big 3-0 until October. It’s easy to assume dos Anjos has passed the prime of his career after making his debut back at UFC 91, but he is actually in the middle of it. Yes, a defeat would end his streak, but he’ll still be sitting in the mix, just as he has been throughout the last two years, and he will have another run left in him.

Another advantage for dos Anjos is the chance to extend his training camp by a couple months. Even with an opponent change, however, he shouldn’t have to alter much. Khabilov and Nurmagomedov share a similar background in sambo and are virtually the same height. So, even though the match-up of dos Anjos and Nurmagomedov was just made, the Brazilian has a leg up on his opponent in terms of preparation.

Dos Anjos has been the favorite in four of his last five bouts, and the odds were basically even in his fight with Cerrone. However, the Brazilian could be pegged as the underdog against Nurmagomedov. If he can beat the odds and halt the hype train, dos Anjos will have put together a run that features victories over such significant names as Mark Bocek, Evan Dunham, Cerrone and Nurmagomedov. That should be enough to make him the next challenger at 155 pounds.

About The Author

Corey Adams
Staff Writer

Corey Adams didn't grow up watching mixed martial arts, considering the UFC was just getting started the year he was born, but in his teenage years, witnessed the action and has fallen in love with the sport. Corey was the first to join The MMA Corner staff -- other than founder Josh Davis -- and has been writing for the site ever since. Corey attends Austin Peay State University, where he majors in Communications with a focus on journalism. When he's not covering MMA, Corey is still writing on many sports with both local and campus newspapers. His favorite sports teams are the Atlanta Braves and Denver Broncos. Follow him on Twitter at the link below.