Long time UFC veteran Raphael Assunção came into his fight with Victor Henry at UFC Vegas 62 on a losing streak, but still remained a tough test for the up and comer due to his technical mastery.
Henry, who earned acclaim with a thrilling victory over another technical maestro in Raoni Barcelos early this year, was now in the hunt for a ranking while Assunção looked to get back to his winning ways— which had seen him win eleven out of twelve fights in the UFC at one point. The Brazilian was known for being great at diffusing his opponents’ offense and pace, while the catch-wrestler Henry is known for enforcing an extremely high pace. That juxtaposition seemed likely to create an extremely interesting match-up, on paper anyways.
The first big strike of the fight was a body kick from Henry that Assunção caught, after which both men landed awkward hammerfists. But early on Henry was largely passive with his strikes even as he pressed Assunção back to the fence. The old Brazilian master’s defense was proving hard to break through. Front kicks to the body of Assunção were the most successful part of Henry’s game early. Assunção shot a takedown halfway through the round which Henry stuffed, but Assunção landed a good strike on the break, his best so far. Raphael began to use clinch exchanges to smother his opponents forward pressure. Every time, Henry got back to range and forced his opponent back to the fence. The counter punching of Assunção began to find the target as the round went on and when the bell rang it had been a close one. Raphael Assunção may or may not have lost the round, but he looked better than he had in his last outing for sure.
A spinning back kick to the stomach opened the second round for Henry. Assunção responded with one of his own but his offering missed. A big right hand landed from Assunção but Henry ate it with no problem. A big wheel kick from Victor Henry saw him fall to the mat and Assunção jumped on top of him as Henry tried to lock up an arm-bar with no success. Henry was able to explode back to his feet and get back to striking range. When Assunção caught a leg of Henry he was able to chase him across the octagon, landing big right hands the whole time before finally taking down his opponent. Henry again looked for submissions off of his back, throwing up triangle and arm-bar attempts, but the savvy Brazilian was careful to stay out of them. This time, Assunção held Henry down and did significant damage on the mat, avoiding a leg lock at the very end of the round. The middle round was a clear 10-9 for Assunção and Henry was cut open when he walked back to his stool.
A big counter left wobbled Henry in the opening exchange of the round. Despite his forward pressure, Assunção’s counter striking was too sharp for Henry to build into his offense much. A single leg takedown was landed by Assunção a minute and a half into the round. Henry worked to build to his feet and did so successfully after only a few seconds. Henry started bringing elbows into his offense with success and it appeared Assunção was beginning to tire even though he was still having a lot of striking success. Raphael burned some clock with attempted takedowns that ended up with clinch exchanges. By holding up Henry’s leg he was able to keep Henry from breaking free and getting to open space until the last ten seconds. The fight ended with a missed strike from Henry and it seemed Assunção had done enough to win with his technical savvy.
When Joe Martinez read the scorecards all three judges saw it the same, giving Raphael Assunção the win 30-27. An emotional Assunção gave a heartfelt post-fight interview with Paul Felder, talking about the support he has received from the team at Xtreme Couture including head coach Erik Nicksick, who was in his corner Saturday night. Assunção said he had thought of retirement but he decided to stick with it for now. The forty year old legend, who has beaten the likes of Marlon Moraes, Aljamain Sterling, TJ Dillashaw, and even Jorge Masvidal in his storied career, had turned back the clock.
— UFC (@ufc) October 15, 2022
Official Result: Raphael Assunção def. Victor Henry by unanimous decision (30–27, 30–27, 30–27)