UFC Fight Night 54 Fight Breakdown: Raphael Assuncao vs. Bryan Caraway

carraway-assuncao The co-main event of UFC Fight Night 54 is a three-round bantamweight bout between Raphael Assuncao and Bryan Caraway. According to the current betting lines available at Several Bookmakers, Assuncao is a -280 favorite (bet $280 to win $100) while Caraway is a +200 underdog (bet $100 to win $200). MMA linesetter Nick Kalikas opened up Assuncao at -350 and Caraway at +250, and the early action has come in on the dog Caraway. This is a closer fight than the odds indicate, but I do feel like Assuncao should win the fight and believe he deserves to be a favorite based on the stylistic matchup. Here’s why. Assuncao (22-4) is one of the top bantamweight contenders in the UFC. The 32-year-old Brazilian is 6-1 overall in the UFC with wins over current UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw, Vaughan Lee, Pedro Munhoz, Mike Easton, Issei Tamura and Johnny Eduardo, with his only loss coming to Erik Koch in a featherweight fight. He also holds earlier-career wins over Jorge Masvidal and Joe Lauzon. Assuncao, who was in the WEC before he came over to the big show, has improved immensely over the years and is one of the best fighters at 135lbs, as he showed in his win over Dillashaw. Assuncao has excellent striking skills, great BJJ, solid wrestling, pristine cardio, and the will to win the title. I believe in him, and think he has had some bad luck with how the division has played out, which is why he hasn’t had a title fight yet. But I think win a win over Caraway at UFC Fight Night 54 he’s close to a crack at the belt and if he gets the W it will be hard for the UFC to ignore him. Caraway (19-6) is one of the most underrated bantamweights in the UFC. The 30-year-old American is 4-1 in the UFC with wins over Mitch Gagnon, Erik Perez, Johnny Bedford and Dustin Neace, with his only loss coming to Takeya Mizugaki in a close decision many believe he should have won. Caraway is primarily a grappler and his submission skills are out of this world. Of his 19 wins, 17 have come via submission, including 11 by rear-naked choke. When Caraway gets a hold of his opponents’ back, he’s hard to stop, so if Assuncao wants to win he has to keep Caraway away from taking his neck, because there aren’t many better at finishing chokes than Caraway is. However, while his grappling is excellent, his striking is quite rudimentary, especially compared to a guy like Assuncao, and that’s why he’s the underdog in this fight, because if the fight stays standing it’s going to be very hard for him to win. But if he can get it to the mat, he could very well pull off the upset. Assuncao has shown excellent takedown defence in the UFC and at bantamweight I think most fighters will have difficulty getting him to the mat, even a talented grappler like Caraway. If Caraway somehow does take this to the ground, though, then Assuncao could potentially be in trouble if his back is taken, but overall I believe his BJJ black belt and submission defence should be good enough to force standups, and on the feet Assuncao is in a different league than Caraway. Caraway is a tough guy with a solid chin but his kickboxing is lightyears behind Assuncao’s. I believe Assuncao should be able to stop the takedowns, keep this fight standing, and outstrike Caraway en route to a decision. That being said, I think -280 seems too high as I had him pegged closer to 2-to-1, so I think he’s a pass here as far as a bet goes, but at the same time I don’t see enough value on Caraway as a dog either. So the pick is Assuncao by decision (and that prop could be worth a look when it comes out).

Written by Adam Martin.

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