If Raphael Assuncao is going to get a UFC bantamweight title shot, he will need to pass at least one more test. The no. 3-ranked contender will square off against Bryan Caraway at Fight Night 54 in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Oct. 4. Both talented 135-pound competitors have enjoyed plenty of recent success. Assuncao is riding a six-fight win streak, while Caraway has won five of his last six bouts to occupy the no. 8 spot in the rankings.
Assuncao had been hoping that he would get the first crack at new bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw, but those hopes were dashed when the promotion opted for an immediate rematch between “The Viper” and former champion Renan Barao at UFC 177. Assuncao had to turn down a title fight against Barao at UFC 173 because of a rib injury suffered in his latest win over Pedro Munhoz. Dillashaw ended up getting the call, and made history by destroying Barao to claim the belt in a massive upset.
Assuncao owns a previous victory over Dillashaw at Fight Night 29 in what was a highly competitive and entertaining Fight of the Night. It was the Brazilian emerging with a split-decision victory on his home soil. Assuncao has other notable wins against Johnny Eduardo and Mike Easton during his impressive win streak.
Caraway has been on a major run of his own which included a submission victory over Erik Perez in his last appearance at Fight Night 42 in New Mexico. Caraway’s dangerous ground game has earned him 17 submission finishes in his 19 career victories. He’s gone 4-1 in his UFC tenure with all four wins by submission.
The decision by “Kid Lightning” to make the move down from featherweight has paid immediate dividends, as he’s earned Fight Night bonuses for his victories over Johnny Bedford and Mitch Gagnon. Caraway’s lone UFC defeat came via split-decision in Japan against no. 6-ranked Takeya Mizugaki. He appears ready to test himself against the division’s elite.
This is a very intriguing 135-pound matchup. Assuncao is on the cusp of a title shot and should be able to get there with one more victory. Caraway has been surging up the bantamweight ladder and can establish himself as a major force in the division if he can end Assuncao’s winning ways.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports