June 1, 2017

UFC 212: Marlon Moraes Flies Under Radar Before Biggest Career Moment

By Raphael Garcia

The conversation around MMA free agency usually involves a fighter that is leaving the UFC in order to seek more opportunities in other promotions. Although that’s usually the case, at UFC 212 we’ll see one of the top fighters outside of the promotion finally debut in the Octagon when Marlon Moraes steps into the Octagon against Raphael Assuncao. This is a fight that has flown under the radar, but is an important one for all parties involved.

Undefeated for nearly six years, Moraes was widely considered to be one of the best fighters in any division outside of the UFC. Since rising to prominence as a member of the World Series of Fighting promotion, the question for his career has always been how well he would do if he made the jump to the UFC. The pundits often stated that he could be a top ten fighter, but questioned whether he could break through to get a shot at the belt. Assuncao is the right test for Moraes as he attempts to answer that question, as Assuncao has been near the top of the bantamweight division for quite some time. 

Moraes faces a lot of pressure in this bout. He is the betting favorite, even though Assuncao has only lost one bout in the last six years. He also needs to get a win to “legitimize” what he’s done in other promotions. It’s not to say that those wins don’t count as much, but getting a win in his first appearance in the Octagon puts him in the best spot to call for bigger and better opportunities in the future. He was making six figures for his recent wins in the WSOF, but the jump to the UFC brings even more exposure and opportunity if he can turn it into long-term success.

Moraes’ debut on the UFC 212 FS1 prelims comes without a large amount of fanfare, which should be seen as a benefit. “UFC jitters” is a term that describes the elevated anxiety of walking into the Octagon for the first time, and many have expressed that it is a real factor. In addition, Moraes has an underrated team around him, a group that is very familiar with developing underdogs into contenders. Team Ricardo Almeida features names like Frankie Edgar, Edson Barboza, Eddie Alvarez, and Corey Anderson. That group brings a wealth of knowledge about these moments and has surely imparted that information to Moraes during his preparation for this fight. Whether or not it translates is yet to be seen.

The UFC’s bantamweight division is in need of a new name to intrigue opponents and fans. The current state of the top of the division is one that features an important fight between TJ Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt postponed due to the champion’s back injury. Then there’s the idea that “No Love” wants to drop down to flyweight to challenge Demetrious Johnson in an attempt to become a double champion, and Dillashaw has also expressed an interest in dropping. And don’t forget about former champion Dominick Cruz, another name waiting to pounce on another opportunity to fight for the title. Adding Moraes to that equation creates a number of compelling fights at 135 that can benefit all of the men involved.

Big debuts always add intrigue to a UFC event. Marlon Moraes adds his name to the roster this weekend when he walks into the Octagon in front of the Brazilian fans. This moment has been talked about for the last three to four years, and now it’s time for Moraes to prove that he’s belonged among the best at bantamweight this whole time.

UFC 212: Aldo vs. Holloway takes place June 3, 2017 at HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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