A highly anticipated bantamweight matchup at UFC 170 between Francisco Rivera and Raphael Assuncao has been derailed as the result of a broken hand suffered by the hard-hitting Rivera. “Cisco” is forced out of what would have been his most high-profile opportunity to date against the no. 3-ranked Assuncao.
Now the promotion must decide on whether to find another opponent to take the February 22 fight against the Brazilian or whether to move Assuncao to another event.
Assuncao has reeled off five consecutive victories to emerge as a legitimate title contender in the 135-pound weight class. His most recent victory was a hotly-contested split-decision victory at Fight Night 29 in Brazil over T.J. Dillashaw. The back-and-forth affair produced the Fight of the Night. There were some who were tabbing the winner of the Assuncao-Rivera matchup as perhaps being next in line to face dominant bantamweight champion Renan Barao.
Given that Barao has already defeated top contenders Urijah Faber and Michael McDonald, Assuncao would seem to have a strong case to get a title shot with another victory.
His decision to move down to bantamweight since a knockout loss in a 145-pound clash at UFC 128 against Erik Koch has paid huge dividends. That loss to Koch was a disappointing UFC debut, but it has been smooth sailing as a 135-pounder ever since then. Assuncao has an impressive 21-4 career record, with 10 of those victories by way of submission. He also has three knockout wins to his credit.
The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for “Cisco” as he was just beginning to make a name for himself in his second stint with the promotion. Rivera has gone 3-0-1, including a brutal second-round knockout of George Roop at Fight for the Troops 3 in November. He’s developed the reputation of being a brutal finisher, with seven of his 10 career victories having been produced by knockout. Hopefully, he will land another big-name opponent when he’s able to return.
The loss of an attractive matchup between Rivera and Assuncao is a disappointing turn of events. It will be very interesting to see whether Assuncao remains on the Las Vegas card and if they can find someone to step up as an injury replacement on very short notice.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports