A bantamweight bout between top contenders Raphael Assuncao and Bryan Caraway has been added to UFC Fight Night 54, as well as the UFC debuts of Paige VanZant and Kailin Curran in the women’s strawweight division. The card is headlined by a welterweight tilt between Rory MacDonald and Tarec Saffiedine on October 4 at Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, Canada.
Raphael Assuncao is the only man in the bantamweight division to defeat the champion TJ Dillashaw, in a close split decision in 2013. Ranked #3, Assuncao was originally scheduled to fight Barao at UFC 173 for the title, though Dillashaw stepped in and put on a dominant display to win the belt.
The Brazilian has racked up an impressive six wins in a row since dropping down to bantamweight in 2011, defeating #9 ranked Johnny Eduardo, #14 ranked Mike Easton and the aforementioned champion, TJ Dillashaw. However, timing has never been on the side of the top contender, as he has missed out on a bantamweight title shot on more than one occasion. With Dillashaw set to rematch Barao next, a win for Assuncao should see him finally get the chance to fight for the belt.
Bryan Caraway has quietly crawled up the bantamweight ladder, defeating the likes of Erik Perez and Johnny Bedford along the way. With five wins in his last six, Caraway is now in the #8 spot at bantamweight, and a win over Assuncao would be a huge statement for the 30 year-old. While not the most popular fighter on the roster, ‘Kid Lightning’s’ skillset is nothing to be snuffed at, and his only defeat in four years was a razor close split decision against #6 ranked Takeya Mizugaki.
In the women’s strawweight division, 20 year-old Paige VanZant will finally make her UFC debut, welcoming 3-0 Kailin Curran. While perhaps best known to casual fans for her looks, VanZant has also proved to be one of the biggest prospects at 115lbs, with her sole loss coming against top ranked Tecia Torres. Fighting out of Team Alpha Male, VanZant is destined for big things in the UFC, and an impressive win in her UFC debut could leapfrog her above the contestants in TUF 20.
Kailin Curran signed with the UFC this week after winning all three of her professional bouts, fighting for Guam-based regional promotion PXC. As an amateur, Curran also impressed, going unbeaten in five of her six bouts. While all three of Curran’s professional bouts have gone the distance thusfar, a finish over highly touted Paige VanZant would be a huge feather in the 23 year-old’s cap.
The UFC have confirmed the booking of both bouts, with the schedule of the event set to be confirmed in the weeks leading up to the October 4 card.