Sunday, November 27, 2022

MMA News’ Sleeper Scrap: UFC Vegas 62 Edition

Welcome the MMA News’ Sleeper Scrap! The relentless schedule of the MMA world means that some fans often don’t have a full look at a fight card until days before the event, leaving the promoters to decide which bouts you should be paying the most attention to.

Everyone wants to tune in for main events and fights that feature popular names, but that means meaningful or potentially action-packed matchups from elsewhere on fight cards sometimes get lost in the shuffle. These might include interesting style matchups, fighters with intriguing storylines, or just simply bouts that could turn out to be Fight of the Night contenders.

After a week off, the UFC returns with a Fight Night card that actually has quite a few interesting matchups on it outside of the top few fights. Several of these could probably be worthy candidates for this week’s Sleeper Scrap, but this week’s pick is a clash between bantamweight veterans Raphael Assunção and Victor Henry.

The Matchup

These men have over 60 pro bouts between the two of them, but Henry only made his UFC debut earlier this year while Assunção has been a mainstay of the promotion since coming over from WEC in 2011.

Henry impressed in his UFC debut when he took on Raoni Barcelos as a fairly significant underdog at UFC 270. After having some early struggles against the Brazilian, Henry’s pace and striking output eventually proved too much and “La Mangosta” walked away with a unanimous decision victory.

Although Henry still ate quite a few shots throughout the fight, the variety of kicks and clinch strikes he used showcased a fairly unique skillset compared to many fighters on the UFC roster. Even if Henry was frequently countered by the Brazilian, he’d just come back with several more strikes and make sure that Barcelos got the worst of the exchanges.

Victor Henry scored an upset in his UFC debut against Raoni Barcelos. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

The pace that Henry was able to put on Barcelos is notable heading into this matchup with Assunção, as the 40-year-old’s UFC career has been largely defined by slowing things down so he can control the fight.

Assunção has admittedly looked slower in his last few bouts, but unless Henry fights completely against type from his debut there should at least be some chances for him to land counter strikes. The Brazilian would do well to not give Henry too much room to work however, as Assunção is coming off a pair of knockout losses after previously only being finished by strikes in his UFC debut in 2011.

This bout will presumably be contested on the feet, but it could be interesting to see what happens if one or both fighters try to mix in a takedown.

“La Mangosta” is a student of former UFC heavyweight Josh Barnett and does have a few submission victories on his record, while Assunção’s ground game has always been one of the more underrated aspects of his skillset.

The Stakes

Henry is a 35-year-old veteran of nearly 30 pro fights, and he doesn’t have time to waste if he’s looking to make an impact on the UFC’s bantamweight division after only debuting this year.

The UFC certainly seem to understand that by giving him this fight with Assunção, who still has enough of a name to possibly give Henry some momentum with a win. A loss wouldn’t put him in danger of being cut, but it could certainly set the ceiling on how high “La Mangosta” is able to climb during his UFC tenure.

For Assunção, a loss here could very well be the end of a UFC career that began in 2011. For a long time, the Brazilian seemed to be the most underappreciated fighter in the bantamweight division, and it’s easy to forget given his current form that Assunção was on a 7-fight win streak at one point.

Even after T.J. Dillashaw snapped that streak at UFC 200, Assunção still managed to put together another 4-straight wins that included current bantamweight king Aljamain Sterling. It’s only in his last few fights that it seems like the Brazilian’s lengthy career may finally be catching up with him.

Assunção’s last fight against Ricky Simón ended in a knockout loss. (Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Given Assunção’s age and recent record, he certainly seems to be the one with more to lose in this matchup. A loss to Henry would mean his UFC exit was almost certain, and even with a win it could be argued he’d be better off walking away from the sport on a high note.

Assunção admittedly isn’t known for producing fireworks, but if he’s able to turn back the clock a bit he could stifle Henry’s offensive output and win a decision. If Assunção isn’t able to slow things down, “La Mangosta” could end up handing the Brazilian his third-straight knockout loss and fifth-straight loss overall.

How do you think this bout between Assunção and Henry will turn out? Are there any other fights from UFC Vegas 62 that you feel deserve more attention?