For those looking at T.J. Dillashaw's recently announced bout with Renan Barao for the bantamweight title with a bit of skepticism, it turns out that as often as not matchmaking is driven by injury rather than status. After defeating Pedro Munhoz at UFC 170,his sixth straight win in the bantamweight division, Raphael Assuncao had positioned himself nicely as the number one contender to the 135 lb title. He had recently defeated top contender T.J. Dillashaw, and his resume was deeper than the other streaking bantamweight Takeya Mizugaki. Between rounds at UFC 170, Assuncao's corner could be heard telling him to "earn his title shot," they knew what was on the line.
And just like that, the big fish is off the hook. Despite going 6-0 over the last 2+ years, Assuncao will find himself on the sidelines when Renan Barao next defends his belt. T.J. Dillashaw is stepping in the ring to face the world's number one bantamweight. But, Assuncao wasn't passed over, he was injured. And in a card in desperate need of more depth and interest (at least that's what many were saying) the UFC couldn't afford to wait for him to heal. Assuncao took to twitter to talk about the nature of his injury.
Because of my injury sustained at UFC 170 (fractured rib) I could NOT take the fight for the title against Barão May 24 UFC 173 I am Sorry!— Raphael Assuncao (@RaphaAssuncao) March 28, 2014
Hopefully, he can get back in fighting form fairly quickly, as the continued stagnancy at the top of the 135 lb division means that he could still be first in line for the next six months. With Michael McDonald on the shelf (and coming off a loss) and Eddie Wineland and Urijah Faber both coming off recent title losses, there's a lack of depth in challengers for the title. Most other top 15 fighters still need a fight or two to prove themselves. Assuncao has a window right now, but that window could close if he's out too long.