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UFC Fortaleza predictions: Let’s take a closer look at Assuncao vs Moraes, Aldo vs Moicano

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Marlon Moraes and Renato Carneiro want to fight for the UFC title.

To do that, they’ll first need to dispose of two longtime veterans in the form of Raphael Assuncao and Jose Aldo, in what is an all-Brazilian affair atop the UFC on ESPN+ 2 mixed martial arts (MMA) fight card this Sat. night (Feb. 2, 2019) inside Northeast Olympic Training Center in Fortaleza, Brazil.

Moraes and Assuncao are no strangers, having fought to a split-decision at UFC 212 in June of 2017. It was the Octagon debut for “Magic,” who was forced to settle for a split-decision loss. As for Aldo, this will be his opportunity to prove he’s still got some gas left in the tank.

Well, at least enough to last three rounds.

Before we take a closer look at the UFC Fortaleza main and co-main events, let’s see what pro fighter and MMAmania.com fight analyst Andrew Richardson had to say about the rest of the ESPN+ main card by clicking here.

Odds and betting lines for all of this weekend’s action can be located here.

135 lbs.: Raphael Assuncao vs. Marlon Moraes

Raphael Assuncao

Record: 27-5 | Age: 36 | Betting line: +150
Wins: 4 KO/TKO, 10 SUB, 13 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 3 DEC
Height: 5’5“ | Reach: 66” | Leg reach: 38.5”
Stance: Orthodox | Striking accuracy: 796 of 1961 (41%)
Ranks: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt | Takedown attempts: 13 of 61 (36%)

“Magic” Marlon Moraes

Record: 21-5-1 | Age: 30 | Betting line: -170
Wins: 10 KO/TKO, 5 SUB, 6 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 5’6“ | Reach: 67” | Leg reach: 37”
Stance: Orthodox | Striking accuracy: 103 of 304 (34%)
Ranks: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt | Takedown attempts: 1 of 4 (25%)

I’m always fascinated at how Raphael Assuncao can make any fight boring, which sounds like a biting critique, but it’s actually kind of an amazing attribute and a testament to his complex game. The Brazilian has a way of shutting down explosive fighters and making dynamic strikers like Marlon Moraes look ... well, ordinary. That’s what happened in their first go-round and I would not expect much of a difference in their bantamweight rematch.

Part of what makes Assuncao so difficult to open up against is his counterattack, as well as his formidable grappling. He’s not perfect, of course, but 7-1 over the last eight years is pretty damn close and his patient, defensive-minded style is well suited for five rounds. I think the big question for me, is how healthy he is at age 36 in a career that saw its fair share of debilitating injuries.

Like his opponent, Moraes has been a tough nut to crack at 135 pounds. Jimmie Rivera learned — after waking up — that trying to stand and bang with “Magic” will make your consciousness disappear. That performance, along with his blistering knockout over Aljamain Sterling, is exactly what Moraes needed after the first Assuncao fight, which he followed up with a ho-hum win over flyweight export John Dodson. That tells me he’s settled in and comfortable in his new home. Hopefully not too comfortable.

I think Assuncao is a bad match up for Moraes, much like he was the first time they fought. That said, “Magic” is firing on all cylinders and is competing in his athletic prime. Assuncao turns 37 in July and speed — as well as timing — are the first to go. Look for something clean to land, and land early, making Moraes the clearcut contender at 135 pounds.

Prediction: Moraes def. Assuncao by knockout

Jose “Junior” Aldo

Record: 27-4 | Age: 32 | Betting line: +115
Wins: 16 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 10 DEC | Losses: 3 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 5’7“ | Reach: 70” | Leg reach: 40”
Stance: Orthodox | Striking accuracy: 943 of 2115 (45%)
Ranks: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt | Takedown attempts: 12 of 19 (68%)

Renato “Moicano” Carneiro

Record: 13-1-1 | Age: 29 | Betting line: -135
Wins: 0 KO/TKO, 6 SUB, 7 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 5’11“ | Reach: 72” | Leg reach: 42”
Stance: Orthodox | Striking accuracy: 404 of 861 (47%)
Ranks: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt | Takedown attempts: 6 of 11 (55%)

It’s weird to hear people talk about Jose Aldo like he’s some old, washed-up relic from the days of World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC). The Brazilian is still just 32 years old and his only losses in the last 14 years have come against Conor McGregor and Max Holloway, two of the best strikers in the world, in any weight class. I think it’s the manner in which he lost that has everyone jumping ship, but his finish over Jeremy Stephens tells me that Aldo isn’t done just yet. He’s still a dangerous striker with blistering speed and a resume that boasts the best fighters to ever compete at 145 pounds.

Where Aldo runs into trouble is his cardio. When opponents allow him to operate at a measured, defensive pace, “Junior” shines through a combination of precision striking and punishing leg kicks. Unfortunately, as we saw against Holloway and even as far back as Mark Hominick, his meaty frame will often betray him in high-output fights. Limbs become heavy, breathing becomes labored, and the Brazilian is essentially a sitting duck. Sorry, I don’t believe that crap about title shots when it comes to choosing a three-round fight.

Carneiro, 29, is touted as one of the premiere grapplers of the featherweight division and for good reason. Not only is he adept at out-thinking his opponents, that long, lean frame bodes well for wrapping up limbs during a ground scramble, much like Charles Oliveira. That said, he doesn’t get enough credit for his striking, which may be because he doesn’t have any wins by knockout in 15 trips to the cage. Cardio has never been an issue and I don’t expect this fight to be the exception.

It’s no secret that MMA is a cruel mistress and when she’s done with you, she’s DONE. Has Aldo been door slammed? Maybe, but I think this is the fight that makes (or breaks) that case. Carneiro has been impressive to date, but his level of competition has been “good” and never great. Submitting Cub Swanson is something that has been done seven times and “winning the Brian Ortega fight until...” is a poor argument. You’re only winning a fight when it’s over and your hand is raised and “Moicano’s” wasn’t. Without a victory over a Top 5 opponent, I can’t see a reason to pick him over someone as decorated as Aldo.

Prediction: Aldo def. Carneiro by decision

There you have it.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 144 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” undercard bouts at 5 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.

For the complete UFC Fortaleza fight card and ESPN+ line up click here.