Next Wednesday (Oct. 9, 2013) streaking Bantamweight standouts T.J. Dillashaw and Raphael Assuncao will square off in a pivotal 135-pound showdown on the main card of UFC Fight Night 29 from Jose Correa Arena in Barueri, Brazil.
Both fighters have been on a roll in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) as of late. The No.9-ranked Dillashaw was last seen finishing Hugo Viana at UFC On Fox 7 this past April, marking an impressive four-fight win streak for the Team Alpha Male-trained product. The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 14 finalist sits with only one loss in his mixed martial arts (MMA) career and looks to stake his claim among the best.
The No. 5-ranked Assuncao also carries the momentum of a four-fight win streak. He put Vaughan Lee away with a second round armbar at UFC On Fuel TV 10 this June and defeated Mike Easton in his previous fight. Assuncao has more experience than his opponent, and a win could establish him as a serious title contender in the talented UFC Bantamweight division.
Tension will be thick in the air when these two surging combatants face off in the Octagon. There's a tantalizingly high 135-pound ranking spot up for grabs at UFC Fight Night 29. What's it going to take for each fighter to come out victorious?
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for T.J. Dillashaw vs. Raphael Assuncao:
Record: 8-1 overall, 4-1 UFC
Key Wins: Hugo Viana (UFC On FOX 7), Vaughan Lee (UFC On FUELT TV 4)
Key Losses: John Dodson (TUF 4 Finale)
Keys to Victory: Dillashaw is a scary good up-and-coming Bantamweight who enjoys the vast benefits of training with Team Alpha Male. Dillashaw has always had a strong wrestling base thanks to his time spent as a collegiate wrestler at Cal State Fullerton. This is going to be paramount in his fight against Brazilian Jiu-jitsu black belt Assuncao.
If Dillashaw can use his wrestling to keep the fight standing, he'll open up a chance to use some of the striking prowess that he's rapidly acquiring from head coach Duane "Bang" Ludwig. Although Assuncao is definitely tough to put away, Dillashaw will look to finish the fight early and often. He's put his last two opponents away with strikes-a great testament to the new dimension "Bang" has added to his team's training.
With a solid standup game paired with his wrestling skills, Dillashaw is becoming dangerously well rounded. He's no slouch on the ground, having three submissions wins to match his three knockout victories. His grappling knowledge will need to be on point in a big way here, as a lapse could spell trouble on the mat. But Dillashaw has never tapped out, and it's going to take a spectacular hold for him to give up the momentum he has worked so hard to gain.
A huge fight could be on the horizon for Dillashaw if he can get past the battle-tested Assuncao. While the Brazilian crowd will be fully in support of their countryman, Dillashaw is used to the spotlight after appearing on TUF. A golden opportunity awaits Dillashaw in Barueri, and he'll be fully prepared to grasp it.
Record: 20-4 overall, 4-1 UFC
Key Wins: Vaughan Lee (UFC On FUEL TV 10), Mike Easton (UFC On FOX 5)
Key Losses: Urijah Faber (WEC 46), Erik Koch (UFC 128)
Keys to Victory: Assuncao is a tough submissions expert who brings a wealth of MMA knowledge to the cage. He's fought some incredibly tough opponents throughout his stints in the UFC and World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC). Assuncao sports a gaudy record, but he's lost against truly top competition like Faber and Koch. Assuncao made the cut down to 135-pounds after losing his UFC debut to Koch at Featherweight.
UFC Fight Night 29 will be a chance for him to prove that he can perform on the grand stage, and the surging Dillashaw will be a perfect test. Assuncao's area of expertise is on the mat, where he's notched nine submission wins. Getting Dillashaw to submit is going to be a very tough task, but Assuncao will welcome a grappling match any way he can get it.
That might mean Dillashaw taking him down, but that won't be the end of the world for Assuncao. If he can avoid eating too many big bombs, Assuncao can look for various submissions from the bottom. Assuncao should look to shy away from too many exchanges on the feet. Striking has never been his comfort zone--and Dillashaw's kickboxing has risen to new levels in recent months.
Dillashaw has dynamic finishing ability, so it's up to Assuncao to neutralize that explosiveness. A grinding match may favor Assuncao if he can maintain position on the mat through sweeps and transitions. If he can instigate a chess match on the ground, Assuncao can turn this into his fight.
Assuncao will have the Brazilian faithful behind him next Wednesday, and that's a decent advantage. He'll need to keep his emotions in check and remain calm so he can neutralize the potent offense of Dillashaw. It won't be easy to knock off a hungry fighter like Dillashaw, but Assuncao has the skills and experience to do just that.
Bottom Line From Barueri: The bottom line here is that a formidable Bantamweight contender will emerge in Brazil. The victor will find himself on a five-fight win streak and should face off with a Top-5 opponent in his next bout.
This bout has the true makings of a war with a young, motivated headhunter looking to defeat a respected veteran. It'll be quite the struggle for position, one that could definitely deliver a "Fight of the Night"-winning bout.
Dillashaw appears to have more ways to win with his mix of striking, wrestling, and submissions. But there's always that X-factor of Assuncao's top-flight grappling coming into play. If he can submit Dillashaw, he'll derail his substantial hype and cement himself near the top of the 135-pound ranks.
Neither one of these fighters is going to give an inch. This is a huge fight with legitimate title implications. The championship situation is unclear at Bantamweight right now. But, once it gets figured out, the winner of this bout will be near the top of a short list of worthy contenders.
Whose skillset will rise to the top when T.J. Dillashaw and Raphael Assuncao face each other in a huge Bantamweight bout? Let us know your thoughts below!