In a perfect world, after defeating Bryan Caraway on Saturday night, Raphael Assuncao‘s next fight would be for the UFC bantamweight championship.
In a perfect world, he would rematch TJ Dillashaw en route to capturing the belt.
In a perfect world, decisions wouldn’t be tough… but the world isn’t perfect.
It’s a difficult decision for any fighter to make when faced with whether or not to wait for his title shot to come or to take another fight while others fight over the belt.
That is exactly where Assuncao currently finds himself.
Having won seven consecutive bouts, it’s rare that a title shot wouldn’t be on his immediate horizon, but due to happenstance, former champion Dominick Cruz has finally returned from injury, recently defeating Takeya Mizugaki. That victory followed a near three-year absence from the Octagon due to injury that saw Cruz stripped of his bantamweight championship, despite having never lost in his 10 trips to the cage as a 135-pound fighter.
Cruz’s successful return leap-frogged him to the front of the line for that opportunity to fight current champ TJ Dillashaw.
That leaves Assuncao out in the cold, trying to determine if he should risk the possible delays that could happen while waiting for a Dillashaw vs. Cruz fight to play out or risk his seven-fight winning streak and title shot by stepping back in the cage with a lower-ranked opponent.
It’s not an easy decision. And it’s not one that Assuncao was ready to make on Saturday night.
“To be honest, right now, I have to get back home with my team and then go from there,” Assuncao said at the post-fight press conference. “It’s a lot of mixed emotions coming into this fight. Like I said, a seven-fight win streak is not easy. I just have to be humble enough to get back in the gym.”
That was the one thing Assuncao was sure of: that he needs to get back in the gym and continue making improvements. Despite a dominant victory over No. 10 bantamweight Bryan Caraway, Assuncao wasn’t pleased with his performance.
“I’m very critical of my performances and I’m very critical of myself. It’s not easy having a seven-fight win streak in MMA and especially in the UFC. Monday, I’m back in the gym, work on some of the stuff I think I can improve,” he said.
“I thought I should have done a little bit better, possibly stopping him before the end of the fight.”
Assuncao has already resigned himself to the idea that Dillashaw and Cruz is the next title fight, but there’s obviously a little bit of a sour note to it, and not just because he has done enough by any standard to have earned a shot. The Brazilian also already holds a victory over the current champion, so he knows that he can win when the time comes.
He would like to face Dillashaw again, having scored a split-decision victory over the champ as part of his current seven-fight winning streak, but Assuncao doesn’t think Dillashaw will be the one with the belt around his waist when the time comes for his title shot.
“I have to go with Dominick this time,” said Assuncao on Fox Sports Live. “If everything goes as planned, I would rematch TJ and become world champion. That’s my dream right now. It’s not very far away. But I think Dominick Cruz will take it.”
And then he will take it from Cruz… in a perfect world.