Raphael Assuncao looks to silence his critics on Feb. 2 when he headlines UFC on ESPN+ 2 against Marlon Moraes in a rematch.
The 36-year-old defeated Moraes by split decision at UFC 212 in June 2017 and many pundits felt the WEC veteran didn’t do enough to earn the nod. While it’s not something that bothers the Brazil born fighter, he certainly wants to close this chapter of his career and put on more exciting fights.
“It didn’t bother me much. I always say in most of my interviews, I’m very much a self-critic of myself.” Assuncao told MMANews. “If I feel like I lost my fight, I’m a very honest guy about my career and who I am. I thought I won the fight, I landed the better shots. Just like the T.J. [Dillashaw] fight [at UFC Fight Night 29] when I fought him in a Brazil. It was a close fight. He tried to throw some kicks, he took me down, and I had his neck for a moment. I know exactly what happened, even that fight I thought I won the fight. People are not very impressed with my style, I’m not either.”
Assuncao (27-5) not only wants to prove those naysayers wrong, but also show the UFC they made a good decision signing him to a new contract. Assuncao didn’t have any doubts the Las Vegas-based promotion would re-sign him once his contract was up.
“I was always pretty confident staying with the UFC. I think we had some other offers. Everything played out ok. For me it was all good negotiations. Danny Rubenstein my manager, we were able to discuss and it worked out ok. In my mind, let’s go to work. Let’s focus on Marlon now and then we go from there.”
Moraes (21-5-1) heads into this rematch off three-straight wins, including back-to-back highlight reel finishes over Aljamain Sterling and Jimmie Rivera. It’s something Assuncao has taken note of and isn’t taking his opponent lightly.
“We’re always improving as athletes. He’s coming off a pretty good run in his last two or three fights when I last fought him. I think he put in a lot of time practicing. You can’t say he was a fluke because he did the same move twice. I’m a big of a fan in sports in general and I see him as a progressing athlete. I see myself, I feel I’m still improving as an athlete. That’s my main goal right now, especially at a high level, it’s fine tuning. I see a technical fight. I don’t see either one of us kind of going crazy out there. I think a finish will come naturally from either party. Because look I have to be realistic, the fight game anything can happen. I don’t see him or I rushing anything. I see it being a pretty technical fight.”
Assuncao has gone on a remarkable run during his UFC career amassing an 11-2 record. A bantamweight title shot has eluded him over the years because of his lack of finishes, having gone the distance nine times during that span. It’s something the Atlanta native is aware of but he also feels it would be tough not giving the winner of this rematch a title shot.
“I keep winning the fights man. If you ask me ‘hey do you love your fights’ I say no. I keep proving myself wrong and going forward. There’s not much more you can do if you’re winning fights. Dana didn’t sent me a contract [saying the winner gets a title shot], nothing is guaranteed in the sport. I feel pretty confident the winner will get the [title shot] If I win this fight again I can kind of sit and relax. Kind of just wait and get to my ultimate goal.”
UFC on ESPN+ 2 takes place Feb. 2 at Centro de Formacao Olimpica do Nordeste in Fortaleza, Brazil.