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.