Michael Chiesa wanted a ranked opponent after his win over Diego Sanchez but did not expect to get a top-five opponent in Rafael dos Anjos.
Chiesa, who moved up to welterweight in 2018, is now 2-0 in the weight class and revealed it was dos Anjos who asked for the fight at UFC Raleigh.
“This is definitely a much higher-ranked opponent than I thought I was going to get. I know I could thank him for that as he asked for this matchup to my understanding. So, I’m really excited about the challenge ahead,” Chiesa told BJPENN.com. “He is a super tough guy and he’s fought and beaten some top dudes. A lot of people might think he is on a skid or a decline. But, in my eyes, I don’t look at it that way because he is only lost to the best guys. He is not going out here and totally getting smoked. He’s still relevant and this is a good test for me and there is no better time for this to happen than now.”
Chiesa knows how important it is to win this fight. The last six losses RDA has are against champions, former champions, or title challengers and Leon Edwards, who appears to be on the way to title contention. He knows this is his chance to be ranked and be a top contender by the end of the year.
Yet Chiesa also knows it isn’t just winning but beating the Brazilian more impressive than the rest to cement himself as a top contender.
“It would mean a lot,” he said. “His last six losses are to title challengers or current champions. I really have to go out there and I can’t just win. I have to be better than those guys and do better than they did. That’s no easy task, it is going to be a dog fight. I just turned 32, got two wins at welterweight and my confidence is high. The cool thing about this fight is that I’ve been in the UFC for eight years this March and a lot of people think of me as a veteran but for this fight, I’m the up and comer. I’m going against RDA who is ranked number five.”
With Michael Chiesa’s confidence at an all-time high, he believes he will get his hand raised in the co-main event of UFC Raleigh. Yet, Maverick says he doesn’t have a clear gameplan but is comfortable no matter where the fight takes place.
“This is an interesting matchup in a sense. Obviously the leg kick is a big weapon of his but I have some tools for that. Really, I’m just going to go out there and fight the guy. I don’t have a set game plan just because you don’t know what he is going to do,” he said. “Rafael dos Anjos sometimes may be a striker for five rounds or he’ll be a grappler. That is why I love the matchup because you don’t know what to expect. This fight I have no idea what RDA is going to do. I’m keeping an open mind as wherever it may go I’m ready for it.”
Chiesa feels that, if he can beat dos Anjos, he can finally put the losses he sustained against Anthony Pettis and Kevin Lee behind him.
“Here’s the thing, a lot of knowledgeable people in the sport know not to do MMA math and the matchups. It is stupid because a fight is going to be different every time. I love it because it is a chance for me because I view it as I’m fighting three people at once,” Chiesa concluded. “I’m focused on RDA but a win over him I can really put those two losses to rest. It is a cool feeling.”
Who do you think will win the fight between Michael Chiesa and Rafael dos Anjos at UFC Raleigh?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 1/21/2020.