The Plight of Raphael Assuncao’s Title Quest
By Alex Conway
It was reported last week by MMA Fighting that a bantamweight rematch between Raphael Assuncao and Marlon Moraes is in the works to headline a fight night event in Brazil on Feb. 2. The fight, in a perfect world, would most likely be a title eliminator.
However, the UFC is anything but a perfect world when it comes to handing out title shots based on meritocracy. If it was, Assuncao likely would be receiving a shot against UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw next instead of re-matching an opponent he’s already beaten.
In fact, there are few fighters in the UFC not named Tony Ferguson that deserve a title shot more than Assuncao. But the chances of him getting one, even if does everything possible to help his case in his next fight, are slim to none.
In his last 12 fights Assuncao has gone 11-1 with his lone loss being a decision loss at UFC 200 to the current champ Dillashaw. While that might sound impressive in its own right, Assuncao also has a win over Dillashaw from back in 2014.
If you want to go really far back in the history books, the historic upset that Dillashaw pulled off against Renan Barao at UFC 173 was supposed to go to Assuncao but the Brazilian wasn’t ready to fight his fellow countryman on short notice and that missed opportunity is about as close as Assuncao has gotten to getting a crack at the 135-pound title.
That Assuncao is getting a crack at Moraes, a guy that looks like the traditional striker/knockout artist the UFC typically likes to give title shots to, is a little surprising, given that the No. 3 ranked fighter has fought Rob Font and Matthew Lopez his last two fights.
Font and Lopez are talented fighters but they aren’t the type of names that you beat and then get a title shot right after. It appeared that the UFC may have been keeping Assuncao away from the sexier contenders ranked closer to him in hopes that he would lose and take his own name out of consideration, while trying to prevent Assuncao from knocking off one of their preferred names.
Look, you have to understand the optics of why Assuncao never really feels like he’s in the discussion. His record looks great, but you can see a long string of decision wins and a guy who isn’t dynamic on the microphone and understand the temptation for the UFC to look the other way.
And as was mentioned before, he’s beaten the champ once before. Whose to say he won’t do it again? Assuncao-Cruz, Assuncao-Cejudo, Assuncao-Garbrandt and the like don’t light up the marquee the way Dillashaw’s name will.
Let’s take it a step further shall we. Let’s say Assuncao wins over Moraes. Let’s say he knocks him out, in the first round just for arguments sake.
He still won’t get the shot barring unforeseen circumstances that make him the last remaining option.
Keep in mind, Dillashaw is taking on flyweight champ Henry Cejudo for Cejudo’s flyweight belt. If Cejudo wins, you can already hear the cries for Cejudo to get a shot at the bantamweight title. Or that former champ Dominick Cruz should get a shot at Dillashaw (who Cruz beat in 2016).
Nothing is guaranteed in the UFC when it comes to getting a chance to call one’s self the best. Nobody knows that better right now than Raphael Assuncao.
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