Analysis: A closer look at the main event at UFC on ESPN+ 2

This Saturday on February 2nd, the UFC touches down in Fortaleza, Brazil for its second ESPN + fight card. Headlining the card will be a bout between ultra talented and long time bantamweight staples, Raphael Assuncao (27-5) and Marlon Moraes (21-5-1).

This is a rematch of their 2017 fight at UFC 212 that ended in a razor-thin split decision. That fight, however, was only three rounds, they get an extra two this time around to see who the real #1 contender at bantamweight is.

Marlon Moraes made his UFC debut against Assuncao in a losing effort. He has since won his last three straight, his last two by KO in a combined 1:40, over #5 bantamweight Jimmie Rivera, and #7 bantamweight Aljamain Sterling, who had a combined record of 35-3 and had only lost split decisions. Marlon also held the WSOF Bantamweight Championship and would have six title defenses if he didn’t schedule a catchweight fight at 140 lbs right after winning the title, so he, therefore, has five defenses.

Marlon also had a little bit rougher of a start to his career than Assuncao did, going 5-4-1 in his first 10 fights, being finished in all four losses, and has gone 16-1 since. Raphael Assuncao went 9-0 before dropping a majority decision to then top contender Jeff Curran and has gone 18-4 since. However, three of those most recent losses of Assuncao’s were at 145 lbs.

Raphael Assuncao has been on the big stage for quite a while now, going 3-2 in the WEC at featherweight, losing his UFC debut, also at featherweight, then he dropped to bantamweight for his second UFC fight back in 2011, and has been there since. 135 lbs is definitely his home, as he’s gone 11-1 since dropping down, the only loss being to bantamweight king TJ Dillashaw, and also holds a win over him. He’s 1-1 against the champ, and 10-0 otherwise at bantamweight.

I think it’s also safe to say, if Raphael Assuncao wasn’t in the UFC the entire time, he would most likely be a multiple time world champion as well. Their reaches and heights are very similar, both have Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts, and Marlon has a Muay Thai black prajiad (strap/belt). Moraes is more of a proven finisher, with 15 finishes and 6 decisions; Raphael has 14 finishes and 13 decisions, that doesn’t necessarily mean Moraes is better, because Assuncao’s fight IQ is incredibly high.

This is a very interesting rematch and I believe it needed to happen, the winner gets a shot at the belt, according to Dana White.

Opinion: The Rules Simply Do Not Apply To Marlon Moraes

Marlon “Magic” Moraes out boxes boxers, out grapples wrestlers, and submits Gracie level Jiu-jitsu practitioners. No matter where the fight takes place, Moraes is not only competent, but he is also confident he can emerge the better man and finish the fight regardless of his fighters skill set. Post the biggest win of his career, lets take a look back at the career of the Brazilian and see how he became the assassin that he his today.

Moraes started training in martial arts with Thai boxing at seven years of age, and began training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 15. He found national success in Thai boxing in his native Brazil, earning two Muay Thai National Championships before transitioning to mixed martial arts full time. Moraes did not have the best start to his pro career in MMA, and switching through different Brazilian organisation Moraes achieved a 7-4-1 record before signing with World Series Of Fighting.

In just four years, Moraes set the WSOF a blaze as he won all 11 of his fights, including becoming the bantamweight champion, and successfully defending his belt six times. With five K.O/TKO wins, and two submission wins, Moraes got his call up for the UFC. Were we about to see Renan Barao 2.0?

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So on a 13 fight win streak Moraes got his debut in the UFC, it did not go to plan as he lost a tough split decision to Raphael Assuncao, but eager to return to action fast the Brazilian faught John Dodson just five months later. Moraes won that fight by decision and was back in the winning column. One month later the Brazilian was back in the octagon and where he knocked out Aljamain Sterling with one of the most brutal knee knockouts we have ever witnessed inside the UFC. The rest of the bantamweight division was on watch now, and if they were not, they should of been!

Moraes then got his toughest test yet, a fight with Jimmie Rivera, whom was on a 20 fight win streak and seemed destined for a title shot. But the Brazilian had other ideas. Despite being the underdog, Moraes was calm and collective as he became the first man to ever knock out Rivera in mixed martial arts. It took the 30-year-old only 33 seconds to record the biggest win of his career. And now it seems that Moraes will surely be the next opponent to face the winner of TJ Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt for the UFC’s bantamweight strap!

Ryan Cambridge