At 35 years old, the clock is ticking on Raphael Assuncao’s career. He’s been competing in MMA professionally for over 14 years now. Like any professional fighter, he has suffered his fair share of injuries. From broken limbs, to surgeries, to nasal fractures, Raphael has experienced many of the least pleasant aspects of the fight game. Despite his unwavering ability to remain close to the top of the heap, Raphael has never fought for the belt.
Fate or Failure – Raphael Assuncao
The closest he ever came to fighting for the belt was in 2014. At 6-0 in the UFC bantamweight division, Raphael was to be booked against then-champion Renan Barao. A rib injury from a previous bout ultimately prevented Assuncao from fighting for the belt.
Instead, TJ Dillashaw, whom Raphael had beaten previously, stepped in and was able to get the upset victory against Barao. With any major title fight upset in the UFC, an immediate rematch period effectively froze the division for a little over a year. Then came injuries for Raphael, the return of Dominick Cruz, and the rise of Cody Garbrandt. Despite his many setbacks, Raphael’s consistency has remained steadfast.
A Contender’s Resume
Raphael has only lost once in the UFC since dropping to bantamweight in 2011. He is currently ranked number 3 in the world, is 10-1 as a bantamweight and is 1-1 against current champion, TJ Dillashaw.
It’s also important to note that prior to losing a decision to TJ Dillashaw, Raphael spent all of 2015 dealing with a broken ankle that required surgery. Since losing to TJ, Raphael has gone 3-0 in the UFC. One of those wins was against Marlon Moraes—a man who many believe should be fighting for the title next.
Excluding the champion, there are two bantamweights ranked ahead of Raphael: Cody Garbrandt and Dominick Cruz. Cody, who just lost the belt to TJ less than a year ago, will be getting an immediate rematch against Dillashaw on August 4, 2018, at UFC 227.
Meanwhile, Dominick Cruz is coming off a loss to Cody Garbrandt in 2016. Due to injuries, Cruz didn’t compete for all of 2017. Compare that to Raphael Assuncao, who went 3-0 in 2017.
vs. Rob Font at UFC 226
Raphael will be taking on Rob Font, who is ranked number 11, at UFC 226. It’s hard to imagine that a victory over Font would earn Raphael a title shot. A loss, however, will likely sink his title aspirations indefinitely.
With Marlon Moraes shining in his last few performances, Cody Garbrandt getting an immediate rematch against TJ Dillashaw, and number 2 ranked Dominick Cruz having a backstory with both Cody and TJ, the odds of a title shot seem stacked against Assuncao.
And if those odds weren’t enough to convince you, there’s still the possibility of a Demetrious Johnson “champion vs. champion” fight looming for the bantamweight titleholder.
Raphael deserves to fight for the belt before he calls it a career. It would be a shame to see such a talented fighter fall victim to circumstance. At the very least, Raphael deserves to be on standby for any upcoming bantamweight title fights. Of course, none of this will be relevant if he is unable to come out with the win against Rob Font. It happens this Saturday, July 7th, 2018 at UFC 226.
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