Rafael dos Anjos looked right at home on his return to the lightweight division where he was once king on Saturday night.

The Brazilian’s split decision victory against short-notice opponent Paul Felder signalled the end of RDA’s eight-fight stint at welterweight which saw him fight for the interim title at 170 pounds.

Game as they come, Felder took the fight with dos Anjos on just five days’ notice after Islam Makhachev pulled out of the contest with an undisclosed injury.

Despite having little time to properly prepare, “The Irish Dragon” made dos Anjos work for his victory.

Felder found success when he was afforded the space to let fly with his strikes at a distance. The Philadelphia native scored well with leg kicks and bursting with flurries of punches and he was able to land elbows when things got up close.

But as we have seen over the years, dos Anjos is more than a willing participant on the feet and he also fought well while standing in this gritty war, landing some bruising kicks to the body and crisp punching combinations.

Dos Anjos’ striking abilities are underpinned by his world-class Brazilian Jiu Jitsu game and the 36-year-old found his route to victory with these skills he honed well before he ever set foot in a cage.

The Rio de Janeiro native was able to largely nullify Felder’s offense in the clinch, while his takedowns looked on point as he looked to execute his top-tier ground game.

Rather than hunt for submissions, dos Anjos was more than happy to ground Felder and find dominant positions on the mat to unload heavy punches from on top in an attempt to finish the fight.

Felder was able to withstand any punishment thrown his way and looked comfortable despite being in multiple uncomfortable positions on the canvas as he tried to escape back to his feet.

However, the fight ended as dos Anjos was doling out punches from on top with Felder covering in a fetal position to the sound of the horn.

Two judges scored the fight 50-45 to dos Anjos, while the outlier scored it 48-47 for Felder after five rounds. Regardless of what you think of those scorecards, ultimate respect should be shown to both fighters.

Speaking to Michael Bisping in his post-fight interview, dos Anjos outlined what he wants next upon his return to the lightweight division and, to the surprise of no one, he would like a crack at old adversary Conor McGregor.

“If Khabib [Nurmagomedov] is really retired, it will leave the division wide open,” dos Anjos told the former UFC middleweight champion-turned co-commentator.

“If you look through the contenders, I think only me and Conor [McGregor] are the only real champions in that division. Everyone else is an interim champion.

“So I think if the division is really open, I think that me and Conor is the fight to make.”

For what it’s worth, McGregor stated that he was interested in dos Anjos’ eloquent proposal.

Dos Anjos was all set to put his UFC lightweight championship on the line against McGregor back at UFC 196 four years ago as “The Notorious” wanted to make his first attempt at becoming a two-weight champion. However, the Brazilian was forced out of the fight with an injury.

McGregor took on Nate Diaz as dos Anjos’ replacement and lost that contest, before winning the rematch later that year. McGregor eventually became a simultaneous two-division UFC champion when he defeated Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Alvarez was the man who dethroned dos Anjos as the 155-pound king of the UFC.


UFC Fight Night: Rafael dos Anjos vs. Paul Felder full results

Lightweight: Rafael dos Anjos def. Paul Felder Decision by split decision after five rounds
Catchweight: Khaos Williams def. Abdul Razak Alhassan by KO (punch) at 0:30 of round one
Women’s Strawweight: Ashley Yoder def. Miranda Granger by unanimous decision after three rounds
Catchweight: Sean Strickland def. Brendan Allen by TKO (punches) at 1:32 of round two
Women’s Strawweight: Cory McKenna def. Kay Hansen by unanimous decision after three rounds
Women’s Strawweight: Kanako Murata def. Randa Markos by unanimous decision after three rounds
Bantamweight: Tony Gravely def. Geraldo de Freitas by split decision after three rounds
Welterweight: Alex Morono def. Rhys McKee by unanimous decision after three rounds
Heavyweight: Don’Tale Mayes def. Roque Martinez by unanimous decision after three rounds