Battle-tested veterans Vicente Luque and Rafael dos Anjos will look to make the most of the main event spotlight when they compete at UFC Vegas 78.
— UFC (@ufc) August 7, 2023
It’s often forgotten just how competitive the UFC welterweight division truly is. It’s an easy mistake, with the star power at lightweight and the great depth at bantamweight one can relegate the contenders at 170 pounds to the background. Vicente Luque’s latest struggles are an example of this as he enters Saturday’s headliner after having dropped bouts to top ranked contender Belal Muhammad and the perennially ranked Geoff Neal. In hindsight, they were the kind of difficult bouts you’d expect from the aforementioned names. But in the moment, Luque was the one defending his position in the rankings amidst the jostling contenders eager to get closer to the title.
At 31 years-old, “The Silent Assassin” is entering the prime of his career where age and experience seem to reach the perfect point. His four fight win-streak going into 2022 where he bested the likes of Niko Price, Randy Brown, Tyron Woodley, and Michael Chiesa showed that he was ready for the next level. While his countryman standing across from him on Saturday has been the measuring stick for elite status for years, he is also on a skid himself and Luque could be catching him at the right time. Considering that he also had several more weeks to prepare after the fight was rescheduled and the stage is set for a bounce back victory for Luque.
— UFC (@ufc) August 8, 2023
If one entered the Hall of Fame for strength of schedule alone, then Rafael dos Anjos would be first ballot. The former lightweight champion has faced the best of the best at both lightweight and welterweight, with current or former title-holders at both weight classes dotting his resume in the past decade. While he has seen his share of wins and losses, he has also earned a distinction from the UFC President as being the litmus test for those who wish to prove they are at the elite level.
Going into 2023, the 38 year-old RDA has admitted that his time for going after championship gold is over as the competition has gotten more stern. Instead, he is in pursuit of the most exciting and big name opponents possible while he still has the ability to compete at a high level. With several veterans also in the twilight of their careers, that gives him a list of opponents should he generate momentum with a victory. Of course, the white whale of his pursuits remains a bout with Conor McGregor whom he was scheduled to face when “The Notorious” was at the height of his powers in 2016 before an injury took dos Anjos out of the bout.
— UFC (@ufc) August 11, 2023
A victory for Luque could see him attempt to hold off the surging Kevin Holland as the majority of the higher ranked contenders have already been booked or have had bouts against Luque already. For dos Anjos, the UFC could elect to have him face Ian Garry should the Irish standout best Neil Magny next week. The UFC could seek a litmus test for Garry and dos Anjos coming off a main event victory could be the perfect bout.