UFC Fight Night 144: Assunção vs Moraes 2 Preview

Main Event
Bantamweight Division – up to 135lbs
Rafael Assunção (#3 UFC) 27-5 vs Marlon Moraes (#4 UFC) 25-1-1

This is a rematch of a split decision win for Assunção that can only be described as lackluster. The first bout was supposed to be a coming out party for a rare, high profile signing for the UFC. Moraes was signed from the World Series of Fighting promotion and was their reigning bantamweight champion. The intention was to have Moraes win one fight against a top five fighter and then immediately challenge for the bantamweight championship in a pseudo Champion vs Champion fight. Instead we saw a technical kickboxing match that went in Assunção’s favor.

Since that loss, Moraes has won three straight, and the last two in spectacular highlight reel fashion. He is finally getting comfortable in the UFC octagon and is beginning to show the skills that made him a feared champion in a different organization. Moraes is freakishly fast and has power in every limb. Moraes complements his knockout power with a strong grappling background, as he is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Ricardo Almeida.

Assunção is the winner of four straight including his 2017 win against Moraes. His only loss since 2011 came against bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw in 2016. Assunção is a workmanlike fighter who likes to keep the fight standing, pepper his opponent with shots and grind out a decision. He has some power and is also a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, however, he relies heavily on his Muay Thai background to score points and earn the decision. Due to this workmanlike fighting style, he has not garnered as much buzz or promotional push from the UFC. He’s been in the UFC since 2011 and has a record of 11-2 within the organization. That is a stellar record, but his penchant for winning boring decisions leaves the UFC brass scrambling to find an excuse to not give him a shot at the title.

I think Moraes has worked through his UFC debut jitters and is finally fighting up to his potential. I see this fight ending differently from the first.

 I have Moraes by knockout in the 2nd Round.

Co-Main Event
Featherweight Division – up to 145lbs
Jose Aldo (#2 UFC) 27-4 vs Renato Moicano (#5 UFC) 13-1-1

The co-main event features two fighters at polar opposite ends of their careers. Former champion Jose Aldo is looking to stay relevant in a division that has seen him lose to current champion and pound for pound stalwart Max Holloway and also to former two-division champion Conor McGregor. In between those three humbling losses, he had a good win against a fading Frankie Edgar and a come-from-behind TKO against Jeremy Stephens.

Jose Aldo uses a strong striking game to blitz and overwhelm his opponents. His speed and power were very difficult to deal with, and he used his advantages to reign over the featherweight division for eight defenses. Aldo had a streak where he didn’t lose a fight from May 20, 2006 thru December 12, 2015, almost 10 years of not tasting defeat.

Aldo’s legacy is already cemented as one of the greatest champions in history. Miocano, on the other hand, is trying to put all of his skills together to get him to a championship fight. Miocano is 29 years old but has only been fighting since 2010, one year after Aldo’s undefeated streak began. He is 5-1 in the UFC, and his only loss is against recent title challenger Brian Ortega in a fight that Miocano was winning until he gassed and succumbed to a guillotine choke. Miocano uses a long frame and crisp kickboxing skills to keep his opponents at range. He is an above-average striker who adapts well to his opponents. Miocano also has a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and uses his striking to set up surprising takedowns.

Watching Miocano fight, one gets the feeling he is holding back or fighting to his opponents’ level, instead of steamrolling lesser competition. This fight against Aldo will either catapult Miocano to a championship fight or send him tumbling to fringe top-10 challenger.

I see Miocano using the same playbook Max Holloway used to beat Aldo: weather the first round blitz, box him up and finish him in the middle rounds.

I have Miocano by knockout in the 2nd Round.

Preliminary & Undercard Fights

This fight card is stacked with exciting bouts. I am looking forward to the welterweight tilt between fan favorite Demian Maia (#8 UFC) and the surging Lyman Good. I’m expecting fireworks in a lightweight bout between Charles Olviera and David Teymur. Further down the card, one veteran will finally get on the winning ledger in a welterweight fight between Thiago Alves and Max Griffin.

There are some exciting fights on tonight’s second ESPN+ UFC offering. Their first event also had great fights and unusually great pacing for a co-branded fight card. In what seems to be overkill for ESPN+, we are also getting a huge boxing match at roughly the same time as this UFC fight card. Now would be a good time to subscribe to ESPN+, and at $4.99 per month, the value is starting to make sense, at least for fight fans.

What: UFC Fight Night: Assunção vs Moraes 2
Where to watch: ESPN+ app
When: Saturday, February 2, 2019
Time: Main Card 7:00 p.m. CST

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