Unbeaten since cutting down to 135 pounds, Raphael Assuncao takes on Pedro Munhoz on Saturday night in Las Vegas, Nev., and a sixth straight victory could mean he’s next against undisputed champion Renan Barao.
"Raphael Assuncao will probably the next challenger," Barao’s manager Andre Pederneiras told Lancenet. "We’re already expecting this."
The other option to fight Barao next, according to Pederneiras, would be former champion Dominick Cruz, who’s sidelined with an injury.
"Cruz is a fight that we really want to do," he said.
Assuncao (21-4) scored consecutive wins over Johny Eduardo, Issei Tamura, Mike Easton, Vaughan Lee and T.J. Dillashaw since 2011. He was expected to face off against Francisco Rivera at UFC 170, but "Cisco" got injured and was replaced by former RFA champion Munhoz (10-0).
Barao is 7-0 under the UFC banner, including four title fights, and agrees that Assuncao should be the next in line with a win over Munhoz.
"There are a lot of fighters in this division that are not well known yet," Barao said. "I haven’t cleaned out the division yet. But that’s the goal, right?
"Assuncao won five straight and is saying on Twitter that he wants to be the next for the title," he continued. "I hope he gets his chance and we can fight, so I can do my job and keep the title in Brazil."
If Assuncao gets past by Munhoz, the bantamweight championship clash could headline a card in Brazil.
"I would love to (fight in Brazil next)," Barao said. "It would be wonderful. I always told (Pederneiras) that I would fight here if I had the opportunity. I hope it happens and I can fight in front of my people with this positive energy."