Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to the hurt business this Saturday night (Feb. 2, 2019) for UFC on ESPN+ 2, which is set to go down inside Northeast Olympic Training Center in Fortaleza, Brazil, featuring a Bantamweight fight between Raphael Assuncao taking on Marlon Moraes. In the co-main event, Jose Aldo will face off against fellow Brazilian bomber, Renato Moicano.
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When Marlon Moraes made his Octagon debut in 2017 against Raphael Assuncao, he came in riding high with a 13-fight win streak, including five consecutive Bantamweight title defenses during his time as World Series of Fighting (WSOF) champion. He also had all of the confidence in the world that he could take out the UFC’s best. As he quickly realized, UFC is an entirely different beast, as Assuncao tested him quite like no other.
After 15 minutes of action, Assuncao walked away with a split-decision win that could have gone either way. Deflated after having his momentum halted, Marlon gathered himself up and racked off three-straight wins over Aljamain Sterling, John Dodson, and a 33-second knockout win over Jimmie Rivera (see it here). While his calls for a title fight fell on deaf ears, Moraes will now get the chance to get some revenge on the only man to defeat him in the last seven years. The winner of this matchup without a doubt deserves a shot at the title.
On the other end, Assuncao has long been the forgotten man in the 135-pound division despite winning four in a row, 11 of his last 12 with his lone loss coming to current champion T.J. Dillashaw. During that span, though, Assuncao also defeated “Viper” in their original matchup. Should he get his second win over “Magic,” Assuncao should get a shot at the strap no questions asked. The only problem is, current Flyweight champion Henry Cejudo is looking to jump up in weight for a rematch with Dillashaw after knocking out the bantamweight king in a flyweight affair just a few weeks ago (see it). A dominant win for either Moraes or Assuncao could very well put an end to those plans.
Original Card vs Actual Card:
Alexa Grasso was set to face Marina Rodriguez at this event before UFC ultimately decided to move it to the upcoming UFC on ESPN 2 event on March 30, 2019. A fight between Heavyweights Junior Albini and Dmitry Sosnovskiy was scrapped after Dmitry was forced out with an injury. As a result, Albini is now pegged to take on Jairzinho Rozenstruik.
Other than Dmitry Sosnovskiy pulling out of the event to undergo surgery, no other injuries were reported for this fight card.
How The “Prelims” Look:
A fight between Markus Perez and newcomer Anthony Hernandez will headline the “Prelims” portion of the fight card, which is odd considering you have well-known and established names like Thiago Alves facing Max Griffin on the underbelly, as well. The rest of the “Prelims” — which will all air exclusively on ESPN + — feature plenty of new talent that we will discuss in the next section, so there isn’t much that jumps out at you as far as having the “wow factor.”
There will be several UFC newcomers looking to make a splash at this event, including Rogerio Bontorin, who will be facing off against Magomed Bibulatov in his first fight after earning his stripes on “Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series” (DWTNCS). Felipe Dias Colares bring his undefeated (8-0) mark to the Octagon to face off against fellow newcomer Geraldo de Freita in bantamweight action.
Also, Jairzinho Rozenstruik got the short-notice call up to face Junior Albini in a heavyweight affair, as the undefeated (6-0) finisher stepped in for an injured Dmitry Sosnovskiy. “Big Boi” has won all six of his fights via knockout, five of them in the first round. Undefeated (15-0) women’s Flyweight contender Taila Santos will face Mara Romero Borella after graduating form DWTNCS. Another DWTNCS alum, Anthony Hernandez, will get to headline the “Prelims” when he faces off against Brazilian Markus Perez. Another fighter looking to make it big in her first-ever UFC fight is Sarah Frota, who takes on Renata Souza in main card action. All in all, we have seven UFC newbies looking to impress.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Demian Maia has now dropped three straight. Granted, they were against welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, current No. 1 contender Kamaru Usman, and former interim champion Colby Covington. While there is no shame losing to them, dropping four in a row won’t look good on the submission wizard’s resume. The fights won’t get any easier for the former middleweight title contender, as Lyman Good is as tough as they come and skilled enough to send Maia home with a fourth-straight defeat. Should that be the case, there is no telling where Demian goes from there.
Thiago Alves was once considered one of the best 170-pound fighters on the planet, going toe-to-toe with the likes of Georges St-Pierre, Jon Fitch, and Carlos Condit. Over the last few years, though, “The Pitbull” has had a rough go, losing four of his previous five, including a current two-fight losing skid. A third straight loss won’t help the Brazilian bomber make a good case for holding a UFC roster spot, so he needs to pick up an impressive win over Max Griffin, who has proven he has the chops to bang with top 170-pound fighters.
Interest Level: 6/10
The main card is actually filled with several interesting matchups. Aside from the main event, we get to see former Featherweight champion Jose Aldo attempt to build off his previous win when he faces Renato Moicano. Aldo has made it very clear that his career is slowly coming to an end. But that doesn’t mean the the former longtime champion is looking to coast inside the cage. On the contrary, he intends to give it all he has until the final bell rings on his career.
And he is going to have to do so if he wants to stand a chance against Moicano, who is slowly rising up the ranks as a legit title contender. Having only lost once in his entire career (to Brian Ortega), Moicano looks to cement himself firmly in the title mix with a win over a man he once considered an idol. If he can take Aldo out, Moicano sets himself up nicely for perhaps a rematch against Ortega, or another top-ranked opponent. That said, Aldo looked sharp in his destruction of Jeremy Stephens this past July (highlights), so if Renato isn’t careful, he could be sent to the back of the line by a highly-motivated Aldo.
Also, Charles Oliveira looks to pick up win number four at 155 pounds when he faces off against David Teymur, who is currently riding high with an eight fight win streak. Plus, Johnny Walker, who made a splash in his UFC debut by knocking out Khalil Rountree in under two minutes (see it), will return to action to take on UFC veteran Justin Ledet. Walker has quickly grabbed the attention of fans around the world. And since he has the personality to go along with his vicious striking attack, he could be a star in the making for the promotion.
Who will be the next bantamweight title contender? Will the legend Aldo keep his hopes alive of going on with a nice winning streak? Will the up-and-coming Moicano take out his former idol? All those questions and more will be answered this Saturday night in Brazil!
Full UFC on ESPN+ 2 Fight Card:
UFC on ESPN+ 2 Main Event:
135 lbs.: Raphael Assuncao vs. Marlon Moraes
UFC on ESPN+ 2 Co-Main Event:
145 lbs.: Jose Aldo vs. Renato Moicano
UFC on ESPN+ 2 Main Card (8 p.m. ET):
170 lbs.: Demian Maia vs. Lyman Good
155 lbs.: Charles Oliveira vs. David Teymur
205 lbs.: Justin Ledet vs. Johnny Walker
115 lbs.: Livinha Souza vs. Sarah Frota
UFC on ESPN+ 2 Prelims (5 p.m. ET):
185 lbs.: Anthony Hernandez vs. Markus Perez
125 lbs.: Mara Romero Borella vs. Taila Santos
170 lbs.: Thiago Alves vs. Max Griffin
265 lbs.: Junior Albini vs. Jair Rozenstruik
135 lbs.: Felipe Dias Colares vs. Geraldo de Freitas Jr.
135 lbs.: Said Nurmagomedov vs. Ricardo Ramos
125 lbs.: Magomed Bibulatov vs. Rogerio Bontorin
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 144 fight card, 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.