Raphael Assuncao will remain a part of this month’s card at UFC 170 in Las Vegas after a late injury replacement was found to face him. The no. 3-ranked Brazilian bantamweight will now battle Pedro Munhoz on February 22.
Assuncao had originally been scheduled to face hard-hitting knockout artist Francisco Rivera, but “Cisco” was forced to withdraw with a broken hand. Munhoz is a perfect 10-0 in his career, and the former RFA bantamweight champion is noted for his grappling skills and strong ground game as six of those wins have been by submission.
Assuncao had been hoping that Rivera’s withdrawal would lead UFC officials to move him straight to a title fight against undisputed champion Renan Barao. While that won’t be happening, it would definitely be hard to deny Assuncao a future title opportunity if he were to post a sixth-straight win. He’s gone 5-0 as a 135-pound fighter after dropping down in weight following a loss in his Octagon debut as a featherweight against Erik Koch.
Assuncao has improved his striking skills, but remains known for his ground game with 10 of his 21 career wins coming by submission. His last effort was a hard-fought split decision victory in an exciting clash against T.J. Dillashaw at Fight Night 29 in Brazil.
While Assuncao-Rivera was clearly a more attractive and meaningful matchup, it’s good news that Assuncao remains part of the event and it now looms as the stiffest challenge of Munoz’s career. It would be quite the upset if the Brazilian veteran were to let a possible future title shot slip away with a loss against a fighter making his UFC debut.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports