Despite winning six fights in a row, a streak that includes a win over now-champion TJ Dillashaw, Raphael Assuncao will need another victory to keep his bantamweight title shot hopes going.
On Wednesday, MMAJunkie.com reported that UFC matchmakers have booked Assuncao for a bout with Bryan Caraway. The matchup will be added to UFC Fight Night 54, which is to be hosted by the Halifax Metro Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada on October 4.
When Dillashaw was awarded a title shot for bouncing back from his loss to Assuncao with a decision victory over Mike Easton, there was some debate that the Brazilian should have been the one to get a chance to compete for the bantamweight championship. So, when Dillashaw routed Renan Barao at UFC 173 to become the 135-pound champion, it looked as though Assuncao was lined up for a rematch.
Instead, Barao was awarded an immediate rematch with Dillashaw. That second bout between the elite bantamweights will be held at UFC 177 on August 30.
Ranked No. 3 among bantamweight contenders, Assuncao probably could have sat and waited for his shot at the 135-pound strap. Instead, he chose to remain active, even calling out his upcoming opponent on Twitter a week ago. He will risk his current position on the bantamweight ladder against Caraway.
Enough is Enough @BryanCaraway .... Are you getting Cleared 2make some $$ or what partner ???!!— Raphael Assuncao (@RaphaAssuncao) July 29, 2014
With two straight submission wins, Caraway is due a big fight, but Assuncao will be a big step up in competition from Erik Perez and Johnny Bedford. Having won five out of his past six fights, with only a split-decision loss to Takeya Mizugaki during that span, Caraway could put himself near the front of the line by beating Assuncao on October 4.
Although Assuncao seemed like the clear option to challenge Dillashaw had Barao not been given a rematch, the sudden gridlock at the top of the bantamweight class could end up leading to an even longer delay for the Brazilian's shot at UFC gold.
Former champion Dominick Cruz is set to make his return at UFC 178 on September 27. Should The Dominator beat Mizugaki decisively, it will be hard for the UFC brass to deny him a chance to reclaim the belt he lost simply due to recurring injuries.
It could definitely be argued this bout with Caraway is one Assuncao should not have had to accept, but the bantamweight title picture is not becoming any clearer. Assuncao will need to keep plugging away and hope that a spot opens up for him to get his first crack at a UFC belt.