It looks like bantamweight contender Raphael Assuncao may be waiting longer than he hoped for when it comes to getting a UFC title shot.
The no. 3-ranked Brazilian was hoping to land a rematch against new 135-pound champion T.J. Dillashaw in the fall, but all signs are pointing to the promotion having other plans. President Dana White recently indicated an immediate rematch between Dillashaw and former champion Renan Barao is probably going to be next.
“The Viper” shocked the MMA world in dismantling Barao at UFC 173 in earning a fifth-round stoppage. It snapped the Brazilian’s remarkable unbeaten streak and made Dillashaw an overnight star. The new champion had previously expressed an interest in facing Assuncao after winning the title, but has been more open to facing Barao again with a new contract in place. Assuncao eked out a razor thin split-decision win over Dillashaw at Fight Night 29 in Brazil in an exciting clash that produced the Fight of the Night.
With Assuncao in the midst of an impressive six-fight win streak that also includes victories against Johnny Eduardo and Mike Easton, this seems the perfect opportunity for him to be rewarded with a shot at gold. Unfortunately, he’s likely to lose out because of the business side of the sport. Barao is a more well-known commodity, and a rematch against Dillashaw is a much more attractive PPV option and an easier sell. It would be a bitter pill for Assuncao to have to swallow if he’s bypassed for the title shot that he richly deserves.
The Dillashaw-Barao clash at UFC 173 was a stunner in how one-sided a beating Dillashaw laid on “The Baron.” There was no controversy involved, and while it was an entertaining fight, it was not exactly a close fight. There’s no need to revisit this matchup again so early in Dillashaw’s title tenure. The former champion Barao is a tremendous talent, but should need at least one win against a top contender to secure a chance to reclaim the belt.
There are also other options like former champion Dominick Cruz and Dillashaw’s Team Alpha Male teammate Urijah Faber, who could vault past Assuncao in the pecking order. Assuncao was actually contacted about facing Barao at UFC 173, but was unable to compete because of a rib injury suffered at UFC 170 in his victory over Pedro Munhoz. He watched as Dillashaw seized the moment by producing the finest performance of his career.
Assuncao has done all that’s been asked of him to earn his title opportunity. He’s gone 6-0 since dropping down to the 135-pound weight division, and has the most impressive win streak of any of the current top-10 ranked fighters. Assuncao also holds a victory over the new champion. If that’s not good enough to get him his title shot now, it may never happen.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports