Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight contenders Cody Garbrandt and Raphael Assuncao will duel this Saturday (June 6, 2020) at UFC 250 from inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Times have been tough for Garbrandt, who ascended to the title as an undefeated knockout artist before suffering a trio of defeats. Though Garbrandt has mentioned that his future is at Flyweight, the 28-year-old still has business at Bantamweight with Assuncao. Speaking of the Brazilian, a seven-year run saw him with 10 of 11 bouts at 135 pounds and establish himself as a perennial contender. He has since lost consecutive bouts, putting the veteran in something of a must-win position himself.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Dominick Cruz (UFC 207), Thomas Almeida (UFC Fight Night 88), Takeya Mizugaki (UFC 202), Augusto Mendes (UFC Fight Night 83)
Key Losses: T.J. Dillashaw (UFC 227, UFC 217), Pedro Munhoz (UFC 235)
Keys to Victory: Garbrandt remains a lightning quick boxer with formidable power in his hands. He’s an underrated wrestler as well, one who has yet to be taken down inside the Octagon. Nine of his victories landed via knockout.
At this point, it’s pretty clear that one of Garbrandt’s main keys to victory is keeping his head. In each of his losses, Garbrandt was too aggressive with his right hand — usually after getting stunned — resulting in counters from his opponents.
Assuncao has a sharp counter right hand, so not walking into it as a priority. Instead, I’d like to see “No Love” return to his anti-Dominick Cruz strategy. In his title-winning performance, Garbrandt frustrated his foe at range with quick combos and sharp kicks, then returned with counters of his own whenever Cruz stepped forward.
The Assuncao match up calls for similar strategy.
Key Wins: Marlon Moraes (UFC 212), Aljamain Sterling (UFC on FOX 23), TJ Dillashaw (UFC Fight Night 29), Bryan Caraway (UFC Fight Night 54), Rob Font (UFC 226)
Key Losses: TJ Dillashaw (UFC 200), Marlon Moraes (UFC Fight Night 144), Cory Sandhagen (UFC 241)
Keys to Victory: Assuncao is as crafty and experienced as they come. The Brazilian is a savvy striker with tricky distance control and timing on his counter strikes, as well as a ripping low kick. On the mat, Assuncao is a top-notch black belt who has tapped 10 of his foes.
Assuncao is not usually a man who engages in wild firefights, but he may want one against Garbrandt. While “No Love” is still dangerous when swinging wild, he’s also susceptible to the very punch that makes Assuncao his money. To encourage a brawl, Assuncao should be targeting the calf. It’s easy to hang back and jab when things are going well, but if Garbrandt’s lead leg is getting chewed up, he loses that option.
In general, Assuncao may want to push the pace more than normal as well. Due to his power, Garbrandt is not an easy man to out-point. If Assuncao fights with the scorecards as a priority, he’s less likely to find success than if the knockout is his end goal.
Two excellent Bantamweights with their backs to the wall are going to throw down.
Cody Garbrandt is in a tough spot, but there’s still hope for the future. After all, “No Love” is still young, and his losses have only come to top-ranked opponents. If he can perform a bit smarter, the skills and athleticism remain for major success. As mentioned, Garbrandt’s current plan is to move to Flyweight. Entering a new division following a victory is definitely preferable, as “No Love” would pretty instantly find himself in the title mix.
A loss doesn’t quite put him a square one, but the road to the Flyweight title would be considerably longer.
At 37 years of age, this may be Assuncao’s last chance at a title run seeing as he recently lost to a pair of current top contenders. A win over Garbrandt is still significant, the type of victory that can jump-start an athlete’s momentum. If Assuncao can pull it off, he’s at least back in the mix and likely to fight another top five fighter next.
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At UFC 250, Cody Garbrandt and Raphael Assuncao will battle in the co-main event. Which man will have his hand raised?