Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweights Raphael Assuncao and T.J. Dillashaw came into their fight at last night's (October 9, 2013) UFC Fight Night 29 with momentum on their side. Both mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters were on impressive four-fight win streaks inside the Octagon, and a victory at Jose Correa Gymnasium was set to propel them into the upper echelon of a talented division.
It was a great fight, but ultimately, Assuncao took home the hard-fought decision for his hometown fans. His No. 5 ranking will almost certainly go up after the new rankings are released, while Dillashaw may drop out of the top 10 after previously being ranked at No. 9.
For the Team Alpha Male-trained product, the loss is a disheartening one, because it's the first defeat his team has recorded since Duane Ludwig took over as head coach. Dillashaw came to battle in Barueri, but he just couldn't do enough to sway the favor of the judges.
Let's review how Assuncao got the job done in a bout he labeled a bantamweight "semifinal" match:
The fight kicked off with both fighters exhibiting crisp striking. Assuncao held a very early edge with a couple power shots. Transitioning to his wrestling, Dillashaw became the first man to take Assuncao down in UFC. The Brazilian was quick to regain his footing, but Dillashaw moved to take his back. From there, Dillashaw looked for various chokes but could never get his arms fully around Assuncao's neck.
When the second frame began, Assuncao was looking to mix up his striking with a multitude of sharp kicks. Finding his range, he nailed Dillashaw with crisp hooks and uppercuts that did significant damage. By avoiding Dillashaw's grappling, Assuncao changed the course of the fight in the second.
Dillashaw began to bleed and the tables were turned.
As the last round started, both fighters appeared to tire and slow down. Assuncao had a swollen left eye, but it wasn't hindering him too much. He went for a single leg takedown that never materialized. Dillashaw controlled the Octagon by continually stalking Assuncao, but he did precious little when moving forward. Assuncao continued to pepper him with counter strikes, and Dillashaw's kicks never found a home later on in the bout.
The split decision was awarded to Assuncao based on his performance in the last two rounds. It's tough to say where he goes next because the title picture at 135 pounds is so unclear right now. Interim champ Renan Barao is anxiously awaiting the return of champion Dominick Cruz, who hasn't defended his belt in two years. There's an early 2014 timetable set for his return, but if "Dominator" can't make it back from his multiple ACL surgeries by then, he may be stripped of the belt.
In the meantime, top contenders Urijah Faber and Michael McDonald will go to war at UFC on FOX 9 to decide who is the rightful No. 1 contender once a clear titleholder is established. That leaves very little in the way of top quality opponents for Assuncao. He could face off against Eddie Wineland, who lost to Barao at UFC 165 in devastating fashion, but there's no guarantee that a win there would actually improve his current standing.
Assuncao may be on the shelf for some time while the confusing situation in his division gets hammered out.
On the other hand, Dillashaw will look to re-examine his overall game. Perhaps his conditioning wasn't where it needed to be last night, because the volume of his attacks noticeably decreased as the fight wore on. His wrestling wasn't as effective as it could have been, and we usually don't see him fail to capitalize on a choke attempt like he did in the first round.
Assuncao was undoubtedly a stiff test that he came just short of passing.
Still, he sits with a decent 8-2 record and is still improving. Dillashaw could face off against a fighter like Mike Easton in his next bout, because someone toward the lower half of the top 10 is a great place to start re-proving that he deserves a spot in the rankings.
Raphael Assuncao came back strong to take the decision away from the previously surging Dillashaw. Where will the promotion book Assuncao next? Let us know your thoughts below!
For more news, notes and reactions from UFC Fight Night 29, including fight video highlights and play-by-play coverage of all the action from Brazil, check out our "Maia vs. Shields" live coverage story stream by clicking here.