Kicking things off at Fight Night 29: Maia vs. Shields was a great bantamweight matchup between two guys who were just on the fringe of title contention coming in. Raphael Assuncao and T.J. Dillashaw met up in Brazil, with Assuncao coming out on top in a hotly contested, highly entertaining bout.
What We'll Remember About This Fight
That it was a wild, blood-and-guts tilt between two dudes who came to make a statement. In a division where there are presently two champions and no clear top contender, things being in flux are the name of the game these days.
With that in mind, T.J. Dillashaw and Raphael Assuncao came to let the world know that they're knocking at the door. They did just that.
What We Learned About Raphael Assuncao
Not that we didn't already know it, but Assuncao has found a true home at bantamweight. He's been beating guys senseless since dropping into the weight class, but after a lengthy career that had some uneven patches at featherweight and lightweight, he's a serious threat in his new home.
He showed great durability in defending an early submission, expert counter striking with power shots that offset Dillashaw combinations and a complete level that simply would not allow him to drop the decision in his hometown.
With five straight wins, he could very easily have been the next in line if it wasn't for the mess at the top of the division with Dominick Cruz and Renan Barao.
What We Learned About T.J. Dillashaw
He's very close to being among the best in the world at 135, a remarkable compliment for a guy who's only been active in professional mixed martial arts for a few years.
His wrestling has always been his main tool, but his striking has grown by leaps and bounds under Duane Ludwig, and he's aided by a level of athleticism that not many can match.
This was his first serious test in the UFC, the first time he was beat up, cut, pushed around a little and really in a fight.
The negative outcome was irrelevant. Dillashaw isn't far off.
What's Next for Assuncao
As the man himself suggests, perhaps a date with the winner of Michael McDonald and Urijah Faber would make sense. If it's Faber, it would be a rematch of their featherweight meeting from 2010, which Assuncao lost by submission.
What's Next for Dillashaw
No question, Dillashaw has earned top competition from here on out. He very narrowly lost to a top-five guy in Assuncao, and might make for a good opponent for recent interim title challenger Eddie Wineland.