UFC 200 Breakdown: TJ Dillashaw vs Raphael Assuncao

T.J. DillashawPrior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look at a top contender clash in the bantamweight division as former champion TJ Dillashaw takes on Raphael Assuncao at UFC 200.   Raphael Assuncao (Record: 23-4, +330 Underdog, Fighter Grade: A-) The 33-year old Recife, Brazil-born fighter has been training in the United States for many years. He trains in Atlanta at Ascension MMA. Assuncao is riding one of the longest winning streaks in the UFC into this fight with seven consecutive wins. His last lost was over five years ago at featherweight to Erik Koch (who now fights at lightweight). Assuncao is coming off a long layoff having not fought since December 2014. The Brazilian bantamweight has been and continues to be one of the most underrated fighters in the UFC. In order to get to this point, he had to defeat three fighters currently in the top 15 of the weight class including his opponent at UFC 200, TJ Dillashaw. Assuncao has really well-rounded game combining sharp punches with an excellent right legged switch kick which he likes to land to the lead leg of his opponent. He traditionally likes to be a counter striker and find holes when his opponent moves forward, but in his most recent fights he has done better to fire and strike with more volume.  What Assuncao does very well is feint and move away from strikes. He doesn’t get hit a lot; absorbing just 1.89 significant strikes a minute. Furthermore, Assuncao hasn’t been out struck since a WEC fight with Diego Nunes in 2010. His wrestling is solid at nearly two takedowns per 15 minutes in the Octagon. There’s no denying Assuncao’s skill set, but the biggest issue for him is the layoff. Assuncao hasn’t fought since October 2014; a period of 20 months. Coming back to fight the top contender in the weight class is no easy task.   TJ Dillashaw (Record: 12-3, -410 Favorite, Fighter Grade: A+) The former collegiate wrestler turned MMA fighter had trained at Team Alpha Male before heading to Colorado to join striking coach Duane Ludwig at Elevation Fight Team. Dillashaw made significant strides in his striking while training under Ludwig which elevated him to become the champion at bantamweight. This is Dillashaw’s first fight since relinquishing the title in a close split decision loss to Dominick Cruz in January. Under the tutelage of Duane Ludwig, there aren’t many fighters who have improved as much in the past few years as TJ Dillashaw. Since his loss to Assuncao, Dillashaw has fought five times. In all five of those fights, Dillashaw landed over 100 significant strikes in each bout. Dillashaw’s game has evolved in a great blend of aggressive, volume combination striking. Ludwig has done a terrific job at elevating Dillashaw into a great MMA striker and into an elite fighter in this sport. Dillashaw matches that striking prowess with a collegiate level wrestling game. This is an important fight for Dillashaw as if he wins he’ll be able to fight for the title again. With a loss, he’ll have to win a few fights to get back into the title picture. Pressure is certainly with Dillashaw in this bout.   Match-up This is one of the best match-ups on the UFC 200 card and certainly the most underrated fights on the giant PPV card.  Both of these fighters are a win away from a chance at the bantamweight title and will be motivated to win this bout. Assuncao won their previous bout in what was considered a split decision. Since that bout, Dillashaw has improved in overall ability by leaps and bounds while Assuncao hasn’t fought since 2014. What Dillashaw has improved on most is his boxing and his ability work in combinations. It’s this striking arsenal that I think will give Assuncao problems. The Brazilian prefers to counter strike, but I don’t see how he will be able to land with the volume necessary to keep up with Dillashaw’s volume striking approach. On the ground, we’ve already seen Dillashaw nearly submit Assuncao in their previous bout. With an advantage for Dillashaw in both striking and grappling, it’s difficult to see Assuncao finding a way to win two out of three rounds. It’s tough to bet Dillashaw as a 4 to 1 favorite considering that the first time they fought it was competitive, but the changes since that last fight are enough to convince me that Dillashaw should win this fight.

Written by Jay Primetown

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