What WME Should See: Raphael Assunção

Raphael Assuncao
Raphael Assuncao of Brazil celebrates after knocking out Matthew Lopez in their bantamweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event inside the Ted Constant Convention Center on November 11, 2017 in Norfolk, Virginia.

Far too often in MMA, fighters with fascinating backstories and unique talents are under-promoted. This lack of promotion is a massive blow to the wallets of these fighters, and, ironically, hurts the bottom line of the organization that makes such promotional missteps. In “What WME Should See“, we look at a fighter who should be getting a big push from their promoters, but for whatever reason isn’t, and detail just why – and how – they should. For today’s edition, we’ll take a look at Raphael Assunção.

The Fighter

Raphael Assunção is without a doubt one of the most underrated fighters on the UFC’s roster. Ironically, it’s become so common of a refrain to say so that he’s become well-known… for being unknown.

Bleacher Report‘s Scott Harris took a look at Assunção’s under-appreciated nature after his UFC 226 win, stating the following:

“Over the past two years, Assunção is 4-1, his only loss coming to [T.J.] Dillashaw (and we’ll come back to that). The four wins came over some impressive names—Aljamain Sterling, Marlon Moraes, Matthew Lopez and then [Rob] Font. Panning back the lens a bit, Assunção is 11-1 since 2011.”

Assunção is one of the bantamweight division’s best fighters. His 27-5 professional record spans fourteen years, ten different promotions, and multiple weight divisions. Of those twenty-seven wins, fourteen have been by way of stoppage.

The Context

In addition to holding wins over Font, Lopez, Moraes, Sterling, Bryan Caraway, and Pedro Munhoz, Assunção holds a 2013 decision win over current champion, T.J. Dillashaw.

Unfortunately for him, Dillashaw took their 2016 rematch with a unanimous decision victory at UFC 200.

Since that point, Assunção has been perfect. He has racked up four straight wins, most emphatically finishing Matthew Lopez in the first round with a brutal knockout.

 

The Roadblocks

Although Assunção is remarkably consistent, the majority of his recent wins have come via decision. Since 2009, Assunção has only three finishes to his name. To a promoter, that isn’t the most exciting résumé.

Regardless of Assunção’s fighting style, there’s another issue barring him from getting the recognition he deserves.

The bantamweight division is very crowded of late, with former champion, Dominick Cruz; dynamic former WSOF two-weight champion, Marlon Moraes; and Assunção all vying for the next opportunity to fight Dillashaw for the belt. All three have compelling cases, making each’s weaker by comparison.

 

The Way to Promote Raphael Assunção

In order to best promote Raphael Assunção, there are several steps the UFC – and WME – can take.

Let Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Raphael Assunção is not the loudest – or boldest – voice in the UFC’s 135-pound division. He typically avoids trash talking his opponents, and he doesn’t have the same boisterous lifestyle as some of the sport’s other, more brash fighters (think left-handed Irishman).

The UFC – and WME – should focus on promoting Assunção’s impressive résumé, which boasts a stellar record and a bevy of notable names.

Take a look at the numbers: he’s 27-5, 11-2 inside the Octagon, and 11-1 at bantamweight. That’s virtually unrivaled.

Tr-Tr-Trilogy

The UFC loves a good trilogy. Matt Hughes and B.J. Penn fought three times. So did Hughes and Georges St. Pierre. Or maybe you remember the three bouts between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos, or Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard.

Assunção is in a great position to earn a trilogy of his own, having faced the champion, Dillashaw, twice before. Even better, their series is split at one-a-piece.

That’s important to note, as Dillashaw’s 2-0 record over former champion, Cody Garbrandt, might bar the Team Alpha Male fighter from fighting for the title again as long as Dillashaw holds it.

Assunção, meanwhile, has a solid case to face Dillashaw a third time, this time with UFC gold on the line. The UFC should amplify the stakes of the trilogy, and the 1-1 narrative, as hard as they can – should Assunção get the fight.

And, in the post-UFC 226 words of UFC President Dana White:

“That guy never loses. That is true,” White said. “Who beat him? T.J.? [Assuncao is] a stud.”  – via MMA Junkie

 

The Verdict

If Raphael Assunção was a tad more vocal, he very well might be one of the most well-known fighters in the world. With an 11-2 UFC record, including wins over a host of bantamweight top contenders (and the current champion!), he should be a household name.

What WME should see is a seemingly unbeatable, high-level model of consistency. And what they should do is promote him.

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