It’s an Brazilian affair in this weekend’s main event from Fortaleza, Brazil as Raphael Assuncao and Marlon Moraes run it back in a pivotal match up at 135lbs.
The first fight between the pair of bantamweight bangers had promised so much but ultimately fell flat when the two duked it out at UFC 212. It was always going to be a close fight with two of the division’s best counter punchers struggling to really put their best foot forward offensively.
In somewhat controversial fashion, Raphael Assuncao (27-5) got the split decision nod over Marlon Moraes (21-5-1) who many felt had clearly won the bout but now Moraes has the chance to rectify the result in his favour as he seeks out a fourth straight win entering the Octagon on Saturday night.
Assuncao however has also been on a tear of his own as he goes in search of a fifth straight win which should put him atop the ladder for a bantamweight title shot.
Same Fighters, Different Journey
Given how both fighters have conducted their business inside the Octagon since their first meeting, it was always likely that the pair would be destined to meet again and this time it’s likely that this fight will decide who gets the next shot at current champion TJ Dillashaw who recently stepped down to flyweight and lost to Henry Cejudo.
Winning is everything in mixed martial arts especially when you’re at the top of the chain and while both men are adding victories to their win column, it’s how they’ve been going about it that may prove the difference on Saturday night.
For Assuncao he has won by decision three times and a KO in his last four outings. He’s come up against stiff opposition and has been calm and calculated in his approach to each fight but his adaptiveness when things aren’t going his way, is what really keeps him in fights when it seems like the battle is slipping away from him.
As for Moraes, he has had two big KO victories inside the first round and a decision victory since the first fight with Assuncao. It appears that Moraes has been finding confidence in his striking under the guidance of Mark Henry and it has shown in his last couple of fights.
Shoot Out or Long Game?
As has been mentioned, Moraes’ striking has come on leaps and bounds and add to the fact that he is so precise with his counter punching, does he go for the kill immediately or does he wait for Assuncao to present potential openings and drag him into deeper waters?
Assuncao himself has four KO victories to his credit but despite a solid counter punching aspect to his stand up, his ground game is exceptionally strong but has not been able to submit an opponent in 5 years.
He did have some success with counter striking Moraes and was able to test his chin on several occasions but if he can land early, it may surprise Moraes and make him second guess his approach to the fight especially in the early goings.
For Moraes, he will likely attempt to land early and often and trust in his hands more – something he was hesitant to do in the first fight – and now with two big knock out victories behind him, he’ll be more than happy to stand and bang and avenge his loss on Saturday night.
There’s a lot on the line in this fight much like when they first met 2 years ago but the stakes have been raised as both are likely one victory away from a title shot.
UFC Fortaleza is live on BT Sport 2 from 1am this Saturday night