Since losing a split decision to Raphael Assuncao in his UFC debut back in 2017, Marlon Moraes has been a man on a mission. The former WSOF bantamweight champion kept telling everyone he was the best fighter at 135lbs in the world and after getting the Octagon jitters out of the way, he hasn’t looked back since.
After the close loss to Assuncao, Moraes bounced back with a split decision win of his own over John Dodson. After two straight split decisions, one going his way and one going the other way, Moraes decided he needed to step things up, and he’s did just that and more. He needed just one minute and seven seconds to knock out Aljamain Sterling with a knee and just 33 seconds to finish Jimmie Rivera with a head kick. He called for a title shot, but the UFC set him up with a rematch against Assuncao, with the winner becoming the de facto No. 1 contender at 135lbs.
This past Saturday night in the main event of UFC Fight Night 144, Moraes took the judges out of the equation for his second fight against Assuncao, using his vaunted striking skills to hurt his opponent on the feet before getting him to the mat and submitting him with a tight guillotine choke in three minutes and 17 seconds. Combined, Moraes has needed less than a full five-minute round to vanquish his last three foes inside the Octagon. If that’s not good enough to get him a title shot, then I don’t know what is.
There is no doubt that Moraes is the second-best bantamweight in the world right now behind Dillashaw, and he should have the opportunity to prove he’s the best. Although Dillashaw is campaigning for a rematch with Henry Cejudo, who finished him in somewhat controversial fashion at UFC Fight Night 143 a couple weeks ago, there’s no way Cejudo should be Dillashaw’s next opponent. We already held up the bantamweight division long enough for Dillashaw to get his feet wet at 125lbs, and the move to flyweight didn’t go well. The UFC can’t deny Moraes a title shot any longer, not after he beat Assuncao, and he needs to be Dillashaw’s next opponent.
With the win over Assuncao, Moraes improved his MMA record to 22-5-1, including a 4-1 mark inside the Octagon. He’s won 17 of his last 18 fights, with his lone loss since 2011 coming in the splitter against Assuncao in the pair’s first meeting. Had just one more judge seen that fight for Moraes, he would be riding an 18-fight win streak. But after avenging the loss to Assuncao in devastating fashion in the rematch, we can forget about the first fight between these two. At this point, you can almost look at Moraes as an undefeated fighter inside the Octagon, and of all the fighters in the bantamweight division, he presents the best challenge for Dillashaw.
Working in Moraes’ favor is the fact his manager is super agent Ali Abdel-Aziz, who routinely gets his clients title shots they deserve. Abdel-Aziz is also the manager of Cejudo, putting him in a somewhat difficult position as he will argue for both his clients to get title shots, but even Abdel-Aziz has to know Moraes deserves the next fight with Dillashaw. Finishing tough guys like Assuncao, Rivera and Sterling in the violent fashions that he did has got to jump Moraes to the top of the bantamweight title queue. Dillashaw may want his rematch with Cejudo, but Moraes clearly deserves to be next in line for the champ.
Moraes needs to be Dillashaw’s next opponent inside the Octagon, period, and anything less would be a horrible move for the UFC as fans are already salivating at a possible Dillashaw vs. Moraes matchup. Sometimes matchmaking is easy, and in this case it certainly is. Now let’s hope the UFC makes the correct choice and awards “Magic” Moraes the chance to fight Dillashaw, and when the two do meet inside the Octagon, it will be one of the most anticipated fights of the year between the two best bantamweights in the sport, bar none.