UFC Fight Night 144: Raphael Assuncao vs. Marlon Moraes

UFC Fight Night 144: Raphael Assuncao vs. Marlon Moraes

The UFC will head back to Fortaleza, Brazil, this weekend for a fantastic Brazilian-focused fight card with many legends and rising stars.

In the main event of UFC Fight Night 144, Raphael Assuncao and Marlon Moraes will meet for the second time. The winner of this high stakes bantamweight fight will emerge as the next contender for the UFC Bantamweight Championship. TJ Dillashaw currently holds that title.

The co-main event will feature featherweight legend Jose Aldo, who will be defending his spot in the 145-pound division against the fast-rising Renato Moicano.

Join us as we preview the fights at UFC Fight Night 144 and provide our best bets for the event.

Raphael Assuncao vs. Marlon Moraes

Raphael Assuncao has never quite been in a position to demand a title shot, but he definitely will be if he wins this fight against Marlon Moraes.

Assuncao has been a dominant force in the UFC’s bantamweight division, dropping just one fight in the last eight years; that defeat was to current champion, TJ Dillashaw. Since losing to Dillashaw at UFC 200, Assuncao has worked his way to four more impressive wins against the likes of Aljamain Sterling, Marlon Moraes, Matthew Lopez, and Rob Font. Despite looking like the top contender in the division, the UFC instead decided to book him against Moraes once more.

Moreover, from Moraes’ perspective, it all makes sense.

Moraes lost his UFC debut to Assuncao but has since dominated Jimmie Rivera and Aljamain Sterling, scoring tremendous knockout victories inside the first round. Those wins came after a competitive battle with John Dodson in which he earned a split decision win.

Moraes has displayed amazing power, technique and timing in his last two fights. He was a known fight-finisher during his time at World Series of Fighting and has only now translated this ability to the UFC, where he has scored consecutive finishes against highly-rated bantamweight opponents.

The winner of this matchup will go on to face Dillashaw for the bantamweight title.

Best odds for Raphael Assuncao vs. Marlon Moraes:

Assuncao’s first meeting with Moraes was a very competitive battle from start to finish. The veteran took many of Moraes’ best shots – some of which were enough to put away Rivera and Sterling – and managed to stay in the fight and use a calculated strategy to score the split decision win.

It was incredibly close, though, and the rounds could have gone either way.

Assuncao is typically a counter striker but has recently become more aggressive, perhaps with the belief he needs to be more entertaining to become favorable in the eyes of the UFC brass?  Moraes is a devastating counter striker and can land bombs on Assuncao when given a chance – the last fight is evidence. Moraes picked up steam in the final round of their first meeting and there’s an argument to be made that he’ll carry that momentum into the next rounds of their rivalry.

Look for Moraes to come away with a win in this main event.

Bet on Marlon Moraes to win: -169 (Pinnacle)

Jose Aldo vs. Renato Moicano

Believe it or not, Jose Aldo will be competing in a three-round co-main event this weekend.

The once long-reigning featherweight champion of the UFC is now desperately attempting to regain his right to another shot at the belt he once held. After first losing his title to Max Holloway in June 2016, he would then fail to reclaim it in an immediate rematch not that long after. Fortunately for the Brazilian veteran, he would then bounce back with a devastating body punch stoppage against Jeremy Stephens at UFC on FOX 30. With a convincing win here against Moicano, Aldo finds himself in a peculiar position just outside the range of another shot at Holloway.

Renato Moicano is a man on a mission. Currently tearing through the 145-pound weight class, the 29-year-old Brazilian is 5-1 in the UFC. His only defeat in the UFC so far – and his professional career – was to former title challenger Brian Ortega at UFC 214. Moicano was winning the fight convincingly before giving up his neck in the middle of round three.

Best odds for Jose Aldo vs. Renato Moicano:

Many are quick to believe that Jose Aldo is over the hill and could be outworked by a younger, more athletic opponent. While that might hold some truth, Aldo has made an effort to hide his weaknesses by adapting his strategy to focus more on his boxing and less upon his kicking prowess. At close range, Aldo’s defensive ability combined with expert timing and power has made him a dangerous boxer – Stephens learned this the hard way by eating a powerful left hook to the body.

Moicano is a bright prospect with the capability of beating up many top-tier boxers in the division. This was proved by his win over Calvin Kattar recently. However, Moicano does have more defensive holes than his adversary in this contest, and we can only expect Aldo to piece him up when given a chance.

If Moicano blocks high with his traditional high-arm guard, watch Aldo go low to the body with heavy punches. Don’t write off Aldo just yet.

Bet on Jose Aldo to win: +110 (Pinnacle)

Demian Maia vs. Lyman Good

One of the most dominant grapplers in the history of the UFC, Demian Maia now finds himself needing to snap a terrible three-fight losing streak. After seven consecutive wins skyrocketed him to a title shot in the UFC’s welterweight division on short notice, Maia was dominated by Tyron Woodley for five rounds after failing to secure a takedown. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu expert was then matched against the two next-best wrestlers in the division, Colby Covington and Kamaru Usman where he was outworked yet again. Maia has racked up 12 career wins by submission and 10 decision victories in his professional career.

Lyman Good is now 2-1 in the UFC after securing a dominant first-round victory against Ben Saunders at UFC 230. Saunders, who is also a submission happy grappler, was knocked out in just 1:32 by a combination of punches from the 33-year-old “Cyborg.” Good has 10 KO/TKO victories on his record and seven wins by way of decision.

Best odds for Demian Maia vs. Lyman Good:

It feels like Demian Maia has nothing more to give, but this is probably when he is most dangerous.

Maia’s striking is less than good, but it almost entirely exists as a way to set up his takedown. If the takedown isn’t there (see fights with Woodley, Usman, and Covington), his striking is helpless against the relentless attack of his opponent.

This fight ultimately comes down to whether Maia can secure the takedown.

If he can, we haven’t seen enough from Good to suggest that he can defend the submission onslaught and inevitable rear-naked choke from Maia. If he can’t, there’s an almost equal chance that Good lights him up on the feet and earns a stoppage.

Maia’s takedowns are surprisingly decent, but we’re inclined not to believe so because of recent performances. He’ll take down Good and earn a submission, and it might not take long.

Bet on Demian Maia to win: -175 (Bovada)

Charles Oliveira vs. David Teymur

Despite fighting just minutes before someone who is regarded as the best grappler in the UFC, Charles Oliveira is the UFC record holder for most submission wins in the organization. With 17 submission victories to his name from 25 professional wins, Oliveira is a brilliant fight-finisher who has only managed two decision wins in his career. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace will be looking to extend his record by submitting David Teymur this weekend in Fortaleza.

Teymur is up there with the most underrated of all fighters in the UFC’s lightweight division. Undefeated in the UFC so far, the 29-year-old Swede has three decision wins and two KO/TKO victories in the promotion so far. There’s arguably no better test right now for Teymur than the always-dangerous Oliveira.

Best odds for Charles Oliveira vs. David Teymur:

Whereas the earlier mentioned Demian Maia relies heavily on a takedown for his success, you could say that Charles Oliveira relies on a submission win more so.

Deadly in the opening stages of a fight, Oliveira attempts to wrap up his opponent and lock in a fight-ending submission. If he is unable, however, he often finds himself discouraged and up against all the odds.

David Teymur has 82% takedown defense so far in the UFC and seemingly has the defensive wrestling ability to nullify Oliveira’s grappling. As long as this one stays standing, Teymur should cruise to a victory.

Bet on David Teymur to win: +102 (Pinnacle)

Johnny Walker vs. Justin Ledet

Also on the main card is an exciting battle between Johnny Walker and Justin Ledet.

Ledet will step in as a moderate underdog at odds of +180 at Pinnacle and represents the better value bet in this matchup. Walker’s claim to fame is a quick knockout finish of Khalil Rountree. Ledet is a durable fighter who may be able to withstand Walker’s heavy hands. If Ledet can stay out of the Thai clinch, it should be one of the best bets of the night.

Bet on Justin Ledet to win: +180 (Pinnacle)

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UFC Fight Night 144 fight card

The UFC Fight Night 144 main card begins on ESPN+ from 8:00 pm ET (1:00 am GMT) on Saturday, February 2.

UFC Fight Night 144 on ESPN+ (8:00 pm ET / 1:00 am GMT)

  • Raphael Assuncao vs. Marlon Moraes
  • Jose Aldo vs. Renato Moicano
  • Demian Maia vs. Lyman Good
  • Charles Oliveira vs. David Teymur
  • Johnny Walker vs. Justin Ledet
  • Livinha Souza vs. Sarah Frota

Preliminary Card on ESPN+ (4:30 pm ET / 9:30 am GMT)

  • Markus Perez vs. Anthony Hernandez
  • Mara Romero Borella vs. Taila Santos
  • Thiago Alves vs. Max Griffin
  • Junior Albini vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik
  • Ricardo Ramos vs. Said Nurmagomedov
  • Rogerio Bontorin vs. Magomed Bibulatov
  • Geraldo de Freitas vs. Felipe Colares

UFC Fight Night 143: Henry Cejudo vs. TJ Dillashaw

UFC Fight Night 143: Henry Cejudo vs. TJ Dillashaw

At UFC Fight Night 143 on ESPN, Henry Cejudo will defend his flyweight title from the current bantamweight champion, TJ Dillashaw. The super fight is a brilliant way to get things started over at ESPN now that the deal with FOX has concluded.

The card is relatively stacked for a non-pay-per-view event and features many fan-favorites as well as extremely competitive matchups between rising stars and debutants.

Henry Cejudo vs. TJ Dillashaw

After dethroning the long-reigning Demetrious Johnson last year, Henry Cejudo is now setting out to do something that “Mighty Mouse” wasn’t able to do – defend his title from a bantamweight champion.

There had been talks of a 135-pound champion, such as Dillashaw or Cody Garbrandt, dropping down to challenge Johnson for quite some time. However, the champion would never accept the challenge.

So, straight after winning the title from Johnson, Cejudo took to the microphone and announced that he wanted to defend his title from the big guys.

TJ Dillashaw now steps in, as arguably one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters in the sport today.

Best odds for Henry Cejudo vs. TJ Dillashaw:

Now on a three-fight winning streak, Cejudo has become the first ever athlete to win Olympic gold as well as a UFC championship when he defeated Johnson at UFC 227.

An incredibly accomplished wrestler, Cejudo has utilized his wrestling to defeat all of his opponent’s inside the cage so far. Whether it’s offensively, by moving forward and taking his opponent to the mat or defensively to keep the fight standing, Cejudo is a highly talented grappler and has proved trouble in the UFC.

However, recently, he’s developed as a striker and is now using somewhat of a karate-style stance to outwork his adversaries. For instance, Cejudo dropped Wilson Reis in the second round with a beautiful series of punches; something unimaginable many years ago.

Both his striking and grappling will be tested by the ever-dangerous Dillashaw, who is dangerous wherever the fight ends up.

Dillashaw steps into this fight after defeating Cody Garbrandt twice in a row – the first two defeats in Garbrandt’s career. Those wins came after topping John Lineker and Raphael Assuncao, both highly rated contenders in the bantamweight division. The only recent downfall was to Dominick Cruz in 2016 when he lost his title to Cruz via split decision.

Dillashaw’s boxing should be the edge. Whether it’s the same check-hook that tagged up Garbrandt and finished him early in the fight, or another technique, expect Dillashaw to gain an edge while standing and finish Cejudo inside the distance.

Of course, Cejudo has his wrestling to lean on, but Dillashaw is a talented wrestler (for mixed martial arts standards) and will likely nullify his advantages across the board.

Take Dillashaw to win.

Bet on TJ Dillashaw to win: -191 (Pinnacle)

Greg Hardy vs. Allen Crowder

Ex-NFL star Greg Hardy has racked up three consecutive wins to start his professional career and now finds himself making his UFC debut on the biggest stage in recent UFC history – the first-ever event on ESPN.

Hardy will be up against Allen Crowder, who lost his own UFC debut against Justin Willis in December 2017.

Best odds for Greg Hardy vs. Allen Crowder:

Hardy has picked up three first-round wins, all in the first minute. Two of these wins occurred during Dana White’s Contender Series, which is currently a stepping stone to the UFC.

With almost unparalleled athleticism in the UFC’s heavyweight division, Hardy is going to be a threat to ranked competitors in the future. But not right now. Hardy’s effectively a rookie mixed martial artist who has leaned on raw power and explosiveness to carry him over the line in all of his bout so far. With relentless forward pressure, pace and aggression, Hardy has stormed out of the gates in all of his bouts.

Unfortunately for Allen Crowder, he doesn’t appear to have the required tools to slow down a quickly advancing opponent. With relatively slow strike speed and poor defensive awareness, Crowder was repeatedly tagged while moving backward against Willis in his first UFC bout.

Whereas Crowder was landing with some strikes, he didn’t have the same impact as his opponent was. Expect the same in this fight as Greg Hardy lands with monstrous attacks and gets rid of Crowder inside the first round.

Bet on Greg Hardy to win: -519 (Pinnacle)

Gregor Gillespie vs. Yancy Medeiros

Gregor Gillespie, one of the best prospects in the UFC, is up against his toughest test to date when he meets Yancy Medeiros at UFC Fight Night 143.

Undefeated in his 11-fight career, Gillespie has proven to be one of the most exciting and highest-potential additions to the UFC’s roster in the last couple of years. Joining the organization in late 2016, Gillespie has now won five-straight and all last four wins via stoppage.

Medeiros was recently on an impressive three-fight winning streak of his own and was climbing through the UFC’s welterweight rankings before running into Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone at UFC Fight Night 126. Medeiros was finished in the first round early last year and all of his work against Alex Oliveira, Erick Silva, and Sean Spencer was untied.

Best odds for Gregor Gillespie vs. Yancy Medeiros:

Yancy Medeiros is a striking-focused fighter with a poor chin and a tendency to get clipped. Against Gillespie, we should expect reckless striking exchanges from the very start. This will favor Gillespie, who has a superb chain takedown wrestling game and an ability to control the fight on the mat.

Once there, expect him to pin down Medeiros and work him over with brutal ground and pound.

Bet on Gregor Gillespie to win: -519 (Pinnacle)

Joseph Benavidez vs. Dustin Ortiz

The flyweight division might be disappearing sooner or later, but Joseph Benavidez is sticking around.

One of the best fighters in the UFC not to win a title, Benavidez will be fighting against Dustin Ortiz this weekend.

Dustin Ortiz is on a three-fight winning streak dating back to mid-2017 and has since defeated Hector Sandoval, Alexandre Pantoja and now Matheus Nicolau. His win over Nicolau was most impressive, as he dismantled the talented flyweight inside the first round with a well-timed head kick and punches.

Benavidez recently returned to winning form by defeating Alex Perez in the first round at The Ultimate Fighter 28 Finale in November last year. That win helped him get back to track after losing a split decision to Sergio Pettis in the middle of 2018.

Best odds for Joseph Benavidez vs. Dustin Ortiz:

Joseph Benavidez is regarded as a near top-tier talent in the UFC’s flyweight division. Equally well-rounded, Benavidez is a tricky opponent whether he is standing in front of you or down on the mat. With his experience, he brings a calm and composed level of focus with him at all times. Unfazed by strikes and a fight that isn’t going his way, he’s masterful at finding a way to win.

Ortiz might be regarded as a middle-of-the-road fighter, but he is bound to be a tougher test than Alex Perez, Benavidez’s last opponent. Relatively quick on his feet, Ortiz moves around and attempts to control the center with occasional forward pressure. Feinting and dipping his head to either side, he’ll eventually step forward and launch bombs. He’ll also change up his attacks by using kicks to the head or punches.

Benavidez is a deserving favorite, but not by this much. Ortiz is coming off a big win against Matheus Nicolau and might extend his winning streak. At these odds, it’s worth a stab.

Bet on Dustin Ortiz to win: +190 (Bovada)

Paige VanZant vs. Rachael Ostovich

Paige VanZant and Rachael Ostovich are set to square off in what should be a thrilling female flyweight bout at UFC Fight Night 143.

Best odds for Paige VanZant vs. Rachael Ostovich:

This fight is Paige VanZant’s to lose. She’s better at all aspects of mixed martial arts and has distinct advantages in the striking aspect of this contest. Ostovich does have the occasional ability to grab a dominant position on the mat – such as taking the back or mount – and could potentially hold control enough to win a round or two, but VanZant should do enough to scramble out of position and get back to working Ostovich with kicks.

It’ll be in the later moments of this fight (think rounds two and three) where VanZant takes over and earns the victory.

Bet on Paige VanZant to win: -160 (Bovada)

Glover Teixeira vs. Karl Roberson

Glover Teixeira gets a short-notice opponent in Karl Roberson to replace Ion Cutelaba at UFC Fight Night 143.

Best odds for Glover Teixeira vs. Karl Roberson:

Once regarded as one of the most dangerous light heavyweight competitors out there, Glover Teixeira has declined recently – and it all began with that stunning first-round knockout at the hands of Anthony Johnson. Probably most renowned for his boxing and jiu-jitsu abilities, Teixeira has recently lost fights in a multitude of ways. Against Alexander Gustafsson, he was boxed up for the majority of the fight before being dropped with a thunderous series of punches late in the contest.

That’s where Roberson will have the most significant advantage in this fight. If it hits the mat, he might find himself being mauled just like how Jared Cannonier was against Teixeira. However, if he can keep upright against this opponent, Roberson has a remarkable power and boxing advantage that will help him over the line.

Teixeira’s aging and Roberson is a rising star. Although it’s short-notice, Roberson had been training alongside Corey Anderson recently and will be in shape.

Take him to win.

Bet on Karl Roberson to win: +100 (Bovada)

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UFC Fight Night 143 fight card

UFC Fight Night 143 begins on ESPN+ from 6:00 pm ET (10:00 pm GMT) on Saturday, January 19.

UFC Fight Night 143 on ESPN+ (10:00 pm ET / 2:00 am GMT)

  • Henry Cejudo vs. TJ Dillashaw
  • Greg Hardy vs. Allen Crowder
  • Gregor Gillespie vs. Yancy Medeiros
  • Joseph Benavidez vs. Dustin Ortiz
  • Paige VanZant vs. Rachael Ostovich
  • Glover Teixeira vs. Karl Roberson 

Preliminary Card on ESPN+ (8:00 pm ET / 12:00 am GMT)

  • Donald Cerrone vs. Alexander Hernandez
  • Joanna Calderwood vs. Ariane Lipski
  • Alonzo Menifield vs. Vinicius Moreira
  • Mario Bautista vs. Cory Sandhagen

Early Preliminary Card on ESPN+ (6:30 pm ET / 10:30 pm GMT)

  • Dennis Bermudez vs. Te Edwards
  • Belal Muhammad vs. Geoff Neal
  • Chance Rencountre vs. Kyle Stewart