Having recovered from a brain bleed that saw him out of action for a year, welterweight Vicente Luque made his return to action at UFC Vegas 78, paired up with Rafael dos Anjos.
RDA was making a return of his own — to the welterweight division. The former lightweight champ and future Hall of Famer had fought for gold at 170, and was returning to the weight class looking to extend his career.
While dos Anjos pressed forward early in Saturday’s main event, it was Luque landing to the body with a kick. RDA landed his right hand, fired a kick, then drove in on a takedown, putting on a body lock and firing knees to the thigh. Luque fought off the attempt, reversing along the fence, but RDA turned him right back around. Only for Luque to return the favor. Welcome to the spin cycle.
Coming off the fence led to more back-and-forth, with dos Anjos hitting the body and taking some swings, while Luque hammed the body with a kick. RDA closed the distance again, but it was Luque reversing and landing the takedown, only for dos Anjos to lock up a guillotine. A scramble ensured, and Luque took the back, landing some heavy shots.
A close round, and a sign of things to come.
RDA went to the body with a kick early in the second, then caught one of Luque’s own kicks. The ex-champ wasn’t able to do anything with it, and Luque pulled free. He would later take the fight to the fence, clinching dos Anjos, who came off the fence and landed an elbow off the break. At the midway mark, it was dos Anjos landing a takedown, but Luque was right back up. He’d later get on top, in what turned out to be another close, back-and-forth frame.
Another hotly contested round kicked off in the third. RDA was showing a bit of damage, with Luque pressing forward. dos Anjos went to the body with his jab, then ripped a kick to the ribs. Luque kicked the body in turn. Just as Luque was turning up the heat on the feet, RDA changed levels for a takedown. But Luque defended with a choke, threatening a d’arce, then employed an arm drag to reverse position. Luque wound up in on a single leg attempt, but the pair ended up in something of a stalemate. Luque grabbed the far ankle to complete the takedown — right at the horn.
Heading into the championship rounds, it was still anyone’s fight. Luque backed RDA to the fence, firing a combo early in round four. dos Anjos fired a left hand, then blocked a head kick. Luque changed levels for a takedown, but didn’t have it. Luque would later take things to the fence, leading to another positional battle. RDA fired some knees, Luque reversed; both men hit the body.
When they finally broke, RDA went on the attack but immediately changed levels after, only to be reversed again. Luque would get things down and hunt a rear-naked choke just ahead of the horn.
The dos Anjos corner was pushing for a finish ahead of the fifth round. The gruelling, grinding pace continued however, with Luque putting his weight on RDA against the cage. Luque couldn’t get dos Anjos down, however, and he freed himself, firing a head kick. That didn’t land clean, and a body kick was blocked. RDA pressed, backing Luque up, but he clinched up and reversed with two minutes to go.
Luque came close on a takedown, but dos Anjos was right back up. Another takedown attempt followed, and RDA was running out of time. He managed to reverse, but Luque turned him back around. dos Anjos turned up the heat late, but wound up getting on top, running out of time for the finish while dropping ground n’ pound.
The decision went to Luque, who after a year away looked solid and ready for more in the UFC’s deep 170lb division.
Official Result: Vicente Luque def. Rafael dos Anjos by unanimous decision (49-46, 48-47, 48-47)