UFC Vegas 71 preview: Can 40-year-old Raphael Assuncao pull out one more win?

While it is being labeled UFC Vegas 71, it should be noted this event isn’t actually taking place in Las Vegas. It’s taking place…

By: Dayne Fox | 3 months ago
UFC Vegas 71 preview: Can 40-year-old Raphael Assuncao pull out one more win?
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While it is being labeled UFC Vegas 71, it should be noted this event isn’t actually taking place in Las Vegas. It’s taking place in nearby Paradise, Nevada. Of course, a good chunk of the Vegas strip is in Paradise, so there’s a large chunk of people who would say it’s the “same difference.”

The preliminary contests are an interesting grab bag of fights. There’s a couple of promising debutants with red flags, some longtime veterans, a few up-and-comers, and others who are fighting for their UFC employment.

In a bit of an unusual situation, the fighter who appears to be getting the most attention has nothing to do with his performance in the cage. The funny thing is, Sedriques Dumas shows a LOT of talent. Unfortunately, he has a rap sheet a mile long, to the extent there are many who believe he shouldn’t be given his opportunity in the UFC. The former backyard fighter didn’t help himself when he allegedly asked for a $100 for an interview. One would think Dumas would be happy to get his name out there for free, perhaps even use it as an opportunity to proclaim himself rehabilitated in some way. Then again, people are already talking about the request. Perhaps Dumas outsmarted us all as we’re talking about the cash request for the interview. Good chance we wouldn’t have talked about the interview.

  • This will be just the second appearance for Lukasz Brzeski since he was awarded a DWCS contract 18 months ago, making it understandable why so many forgot his UFC debut was a controversial decision loss. The lanky Pole pushes an unusually high pace for heavyweight, helping to make up for the lack of thunderous power most heavyweights possess. For this contest, the question will be whether he can stop the takedowns of Karl Williams, another DWCS alumni. Williams proved he’s a more than capable wrestler to pick up his contract, not just taking former Penn State wrestler Jimmy Lawson down, but keeping him down. Unfortunately, he hasn’t shown much beyond that, at least not against solid competition. Regardless, his wrestling could prove to be enough for him to solidify himself as a UFC talent, but it would be foolish to call him a future contender until he shows there’s more to his arsenal. Regardless, Williams looks the part and appears to be the superior athlete. I’ve vacillated on this pick quite a bit, going between Brzeski’s edge in experience against quality competition and striking skills against Williams’ overall upside. Ultimately, I think Williams can dominate enough in the wrestling to get the job done. Williams via decision
  • Davey Grant’s evolution from being a roster afterthought plagued by injuries into one of the more consistent action fighters in a stacked division has been nothing short of amazing. The Brit was never blessed with an abundance of physical skills, but he always had heart and grit in great supply. Once he developed confidence in his hands, his career began to take off. As it is now, he still isn’t the most technical striker, but he’s developed excellent instincts and realized he’s got some pop when he lets his fists fly with abandon. He’s also been fortunate in his last few fights to be fighting opponents willing to stand and trade. Though I don’t doubt Raphael Assuncao could hold his own against Grant on the feet, the longtime veteran might find more success taking Grant to the mat. Not that Grant is a slouch on the mat – people tend to forget grappling was his base since he became an action fighter – but Assuncao is one of the most fundamentally sound grapplers on the roster. Plus, at 40, Assuncao’s durability isn’t what it once was. It’s hard to see the Brazilian give Grant many opportunities to check his chin. It could be argued he could get dragged into a brawl, but Assuncao rarely – if ever – breaks from his discipline and has only been losing to far superior athletes. I can’t say with confidence whether Grant is a better athlete, but I can say he isn’t leaps and bounds ahead of Assuncao. That leads me to believe Assuncao has enough in the tank to pull this out. Assuncao via decision
  • All sports take a “what have you done for me lately?” feel to them. Thus, while Josh Fremd is on a two-fight losing streak, I have a hard time believing he’s as bad as his UFC run has been. After all, he took his UFC debut on short notice and was winning until he wasn’t against Tresean Gore. Then again, Fremd is stepping in on short notice again to welcome Sedriques Dumas to the organization. Dumas isn’t quite as big as Fremd, but he is a big middleweight too. Plus, he’s easily the superior athlete. Going strictly off physical tools and skills, Dumas is the easy pick. As we all know, there are many other factors involved in MMA. Despite the two losses, Fremd is an intelligent and aggressive fighter who is better on the ground than most think. Most importantly, he’s got a major edge in quality experience. That said, Dumas has had a lot of things come easy to him in the fight game thanks to his physical skills. At some point, a savvy vet is going to make him pay a heavy price, but I’m not convinced Fremd is it, not with his spotty defense and questionable chin. If the fight goes to decision, expect Fremd to get the decision. Unfortunately for him, I don’t believe it’s going to decision. Dumas via TKO of RD2
  • How Guido Cannetti has managed to secure his last two wins is beyond me. The Argentinian is on the wrong side of 40 and has never been the most disciplined fighter. What he has had is heart, heavy hands, and toughness. Generally, that will only carry someone so far… especially someone checking in at the age of 43 in the bantamweight division. It’s hard to believe Mario Bautista will fall short against him. Bautista has good size, impressive power, and a slick grappling game. He’s also increased his fight IQ since dropping a couple of his early UFC contests. Bautista has become more methodical, relying less on explosive attacks. Despite that, he’s still been able to find first round submissions in his last two contests. The guess here is he’ll be able to find a third given he’s far more disciplined than his last two contests. Bautista via submission of RD1
  • The UFC has given every opportunity to Ariane Lipski to regain her reputation as a feared striker. I have a hard time believing it’s going to happen. Prior to her UFC run, Lipski threw her strikes with reckless abandon and ill-intentions. Since then, she’s been tentative, appearing to throw in hopes of keeping her opponent from closing the distance on her. When Lipski has won in the UFC, it has been more often than not on the basis of her ground game. So how will she react to a confident striker in JJ Aldrich? It’s hard to believe things will go well for her. Aldrich is a limited athlete, but she’s exceptionally technical and has grown in her confidence from fight to fight. If Lipski had the same headspace as Aldrich, I’d not only be picking her to not only win, but regain her form as the Queen of Violence. Given that isn’t the case and Aldrich has been successful at beefing up her takedown defense, I feel confident in picking Aldrich to get the job done. Aldrich via decision
  • There’s no doubt who the better athlete between Victor Henry and Tony Gravely. It would be Gravely. Despite that, Henry enters as a slight favorite. It makes sense; Gravely has a terrible history against fighters known for their craft and savvy like Henry. Not that Gravely is a meathead of a fighter. Gravely knows what he’s good at and plays to those strengths. Plus, he’s improved his striking, allowing himself to a couple of finishes behind the power of his punches. Regardless, it’ll be hard for him to establish his wrestling base with Henry. That’s not just because Henry is a solid wrestler; he’s a slick grappler too. In fact, most were saying Henry’s grappling was his biggest strength entering the UFC only for Henry to engage in a pair of standup battles. In those contests, Henry established a deep gas tank and a sense of distance and angles that only comes with lots of experience… if it ever comes. Henry’s age makes it a worry that he could suffer a sharp drop off, but I believe he’s crafty enough to either neutralize or finish Gravely. Henry via submission of RD1
  • At one point, Bruno Silva was one of the busier flyweights on the roster. Now, he’s coming off a layoff that approaches 22 months. Regardless, he’s coming off two wins that managed to see him end the fight in the first round. Then again, both those opponents have managed to go winless in the UFC. Thus, it’s hard to put too much behind his winning streak. Besides, it’s expected he’ll look to return to his grappling roots in this contest given Tyson Nam is one of the hardest hitters in the division. In fact, all three of Nam’s UFC victories have come via punches. The concern with Nam is his age. 39 is old for any division. It’s downright ancient for flyweight. Despite that, Nam looked sharp in his most recent outing and has always had solid takedown defense. Nam isn’t a great point fighter, but Silva’s smaller frame and lack of striking discipline makes it a strong likelihood he eats some of Nam’s heavy artillery. Nam via TKO of RD2
  • Credit to Jared Gooden. He set a goal of returning to the UFC and did so in a relatively short period of time since his last contest in the organization in October 2021. Gooden sported a 4-1 record on the regional scene, the only loss coming to former UFC alumni, Impa Kasanganay. Gooden is a rangy striker with durability and athleticism. He has the type of power that he can’t be counted out of any contest until he’s been stopped or the final bell rings. However, he’s not only taking the fight with Carlston Harris on very short notice, it will be his second cut to 170 in less than a month. If that leaves Gooden even somewhat more dehydrated than usual against Harris, it’s hard to see him emerging victorious. Harris’ biggest issue is he can be low volume, but he’s well-rounded with an impressive killer instinct. Gooden’s chin is solid, but it isn’t unbreakable. Plus, I’m not sold Gooden can continually stuff Harris’ takedowns. One way or another, the native of Guyana finds a finish. Harris via TKO of RD1

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About the author
Dayne Fox
Dayne Fox

Dayne Fox is a contributing writer and analyst for Bloody Elbow. He has been writing about combat sports since 2013 and a member of Bloody Elbow since 2016. Dayne primarily contributes opinion pieces and event coverage. Dayne’s specialties are putting together the preview articles for all the UFC events and post-fight analysis. Outside of writing on combat sports, Dayne works in the purchasing department of a construction company, formerly working as an analyst. He is also a proud husband and father. In what spare time he can find, he enjoys strategy games and is a movie enthusiast. He is based in Utah.

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