In a bit of surprising matchmaking, surging lightweight contender Rafael dos Anjos is not getting a top 10 opponent for his next bout. According to Fox Sports' Damon Martin, the Brazilian will instead be paired up with Rustam Khabilov at UFC 170 in Las Vegas on February 22nd. Verbal agreements have been made but the UFC has not made the booking official.
Dos Anjos (20-6) is ranked #6 at lightweight and has won 5 fights in a row, including an impressive decision win over Donald Cerrone, which included a 1st round knockdown of "Cowboy". Perhaps the biggest reason for his rise to the top of the division is his vastly improved striking, thus adding another offensive tool to his skill-set in addition to his high level Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Khabilov (17-1) has won 6 in a row himself and is 3-0 in the UFC. The 26-year-old Dagestani made a spectacular UFC debut when he suplexed Vinc Pichel anywhere from 4 to 173 times in the first round before Pichel was ultimately KO'd. His win over Yancy Medeiros was a bit on the unfortunate side as Medeiros broke his thumb, but Khabilov's last fight saw him beat Jorge Masvidal and win FOTN honors in the process. While Khabilov was unable to ragdoll Masvidal like he did with Pichel, he nearly knocked him out with a spinning kick in the 3rd round.
While it is interesting that the UFC is not booking dos Anjos against another top 10 guy, this is by no means a bad fight. In fact it's an excellent one that could turn out to be a thriller. If dos Anjos wins then he's in the clear for a "#1 contender" type of fight and if Khabilov can pull off the upset then he becomes another contender in the 155 lbs division.
UFC 170 does not have a main event yet, but we do know it will be at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.