July 6, 2018

UFC 226: Raphael Assuncao Deserves A Bantamweight Title Shot, But He May Never Get It

By Adam Martin

One of the most underrated fighters in the UFC is bantamweight contender Raphael Assuncao, who fights Rob Font on the preliminary card for UFC 226, which goes down this Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Assuncao is 10-2 overall in the UFC, and he is 10-1 as a bantamweight. He holds a win over current UFC Bantamweight Champion TJ Dillashaw, and he's currently on a three-fight win streak, but for whatever reason, no one ever talks about him getting a title shot. And it's possible that even if Assuncao beats Font this weekend, he still won't be considered for one.

It's kind of crazy that a fighter can win so much in the Octagon and never get the chance to fight for the belt, but that's the situation Assuncao is in right now. There have been different reasons posited over the years to explain why he has not gotten a title fight up to this point. One is that Assuncao is a bit of a quiet guy who refuses to call out opponents or speak his mind. Another is that many of Assuncao's wins -- seven to be precise -- have come by decision. Until his knockout win over Matthew Lopez in his last bout, it had been five years since Assuncao had scored a stoppage. That doesn't help matters, but at the end of the day, this sport should be about winning and losing, and Assuncao's record speaks for itself.

Even though Assuncao picked up a split decision win over Marlon Moraes last year, fans and media have already been speculating that he could be passed over for a title shot in favor of Moraes, because Moraes has picked up back-to-back flashy KO wins (over Jimmie Rivera and Aljamain Sterling) since then. Based on merit, it isn't fair that Assuncao would be passed over in favor of a fighter he beat head-to-head, but we all know that title shots in MMA are often based on who the most popular and flashy fighter is, and event though Assuncao is as steady as it comes in the UFC bantamweight division, that's probably not good enough for him to score a title shot.

Of course, before Assuncao can even think about getting a title shot, he has to go out there this weekend and defeat Font, and that won't be an easy task. Font is 5-2 in the UFC, with all five of his wins coming via stoppage, including a brutal KO over Thomas Almeida in his last outing. If Font beats Assuncao, that would pretty much eliminate Assuncao as a title contender for the forseeable future. But if Assuncao beats Font, he will move to 11-1 as a bantamweight, and at that point, it would be criminal if he didn't fight the winner of UFC 227's main event between Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt for the belt.

If I'm giving some advice to Assuncao, it's that he should be more vocal if he gets the chance to have a post-fight interview after a win over Font this weekend. He should show some emotion and demand a title shot, and he would be well within his rights to. No one likes a quiet fighter, and we know from the likes of Colby Covington that the squeaky wheel usually gets the grease in the UFC. We'll see what happens in this fight, but if Assuncao can beat Font, he should, based on merit, be the front-runner for the next bantamweight title shot. If he gets that chance, though, is anyone's guess at this point.






UFC 226: Miocic vs. Cormier takes place July 7, 2018 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.


Click HERE for more UFC 226 Pre-Fight Analysis


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