We have an incredible co-main event this weekend at UFC 250, as longtime divisional staple Raphael Assuncao takes on former UFC Bantamweight Champion Cody ‘No Love’ Garbrandt. It’s been some time since either of these two last fought, with Assuncao’s last fight being in August of last year, and Garbrandt’s last fight being in March of last year. It’s surprising that this is the co-main event over Aljamain Sterling versus Cory Sandhagen, but this is just as good of a fight. One of them has been at the top of the division since 2012, and the other is the former world champion that hasn’t lived up to the hype thus far.
Assuncao is one of the UFC’s best fighters that’s barely ever talked about, and that hasn’t fought for the belt. He started out in the WEC at featherweight, where he went 3-2, though many people believe he beat Diego Nunes and should have a 4-1 record with the promotion. After being knocked out by Erik Koch in his UFC debut, Assuncao made the move to bantamweight, where he went on a seven-fight win streak from August 2011 to October 2014.
One of those wins was over TJ Dillashaw, who his next defeat came to in their rematch. He went on a four-fight win streak after that, defeating the likes of Aljamain Sterling, Marlon Moraes, and Rob Font. Since then however, Assuncao’s lost his last two fights to Marlon Moraes in their rematch, and Cory Sandhagen.
‘No Love’ made his UFC debut with a 5-0 mixed martial arts record, and quickly impressed all of us. His hands were so fast and heavy, and his boxing was already at such a high level at just 23 years of age, not to mention he mixes good kicks in with his punches and he’s a great wrestler too. Garbrandt was a high school state champion as a freshman, and he finished in second place that next year. He dropped wrestling after that to pursue boxing, which is clearly what his incredible stand up comes from.
Despite not competing in wrestling during his last two years of high school, Garbrandt competed in the national tournament as a senior, placing fifth, and was then offered multiple NCAA Division I scholarships. He ended up choosing an NCAA Division II school, before moving to another NCAA Division II school, and then dropping out because of his grades. He continued competing in boxing throughout this, achieving a 32-1 record as an amateur, and this is when he started his amateur mixed martial arts run, where he went 6-2.
Once coming to the UFC, Garbrandt won his first five fights with the promotion before being awarded a title shot at Dominick Cruz. He went from unranked to world champion all in the year 2016. It was such a masterful performance, no one had ever flustered Cruz like that. However, it’s unfortunate, but Garbrandt has lost his only three fights since capturing the title, and all via knockout.
Raphael Assuncao (27-7) vs. Cody Garbrandt (11-3)
We’ve all been waiting for ‘No Love’ to make his return for quite a while now, we’re all waiting to see if he can still live up to his full potential. Despite being knocked out in his last three fights, with his boxing background, he should be able to out-strike his opponents as long as he doesn’t see red.
That’s been his problem; when he hurts his opponent, or when his opponent tags him, that’s all he sees, red, and he gets reckless. There’s no shame in losing to TJ Dillashaw or Pedro Munhoz, but that Munhoz fight is definitely one he should’ve won. He was doing well until he got clipped, the he just started swinging wildly and didn’t stop until he got knocked out.
Now that ‘No Love’ is almost 29-years-old, he should be entering his prime, let’s hope he starts fighting smarter. As good of a striker as he is, and as much power as he has, he should be able to do that, not to mention he’s been working with Mark Henry. One thing that’d help him immensely is fighting behind a jab, something he never does. His footwork, bobs and weaves, and his angles are a work of art to watch.
Assuncao is a bit older than Garbrandt, turning 38-years-old the same month Garbrandt turns 29, but he’s still a very elite bantamweight. He’s a longtime BJJ black belt, and his striking and wrestling have come a long way since we first saw him, he’s a very well rounded fighter. He has very good hands, great leg kicks, and he knows how to score points in order to win the fight should it go the distance, along with looking for the finish.
Many of Assuncao’s fights go the distance, with 13 of his wins coming via decision, but he has both knocked his opponents out and submitted them. That’s a bit unlike Garbrandt, who has finished nine of his wins via knockout, while the other two were via unanimous decision.
Garbrandt stands three inches taller than Assuncao at 5’8”, but he gives up one inch in reach to the Brazilian. That shouldn’t matter too much given his striking talents, but we’ll have to tune in and find out. Who walks away from the epic bantamweight showdown with the victory?