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Raphael Assuncao: T.J. Dillashaw knows his game won’t work against me

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Riding the longest bantamweight winning streak under the UFC banner, Raphael Assuncao is tired of waiting.

Assuncao couldn’t get his title shot at UFC 173 in May due to a rib injury. T.J. Dillashaw not only took his spot, but also dethroned Renan Barao with a fifth-round TKO. The UFC opted to schedule an immediate rematch between Dillashaw and Barao for UFC 177, leaving Assuncao out one once again.

Unbeaten over the past six bouts, including a split decision victory over Dillashaw in 2013, Assuncao takes on Bryan Caraway at UFC Fight Night 54 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Oct. 4, and the Brazilian is already thinking ahead.

"This fight is really important for me, and I’m taking it very seriously," Assuncao told MMAFighting.com. "Some people think I’m taking him lightly because it’s not a title fight, but I’m extremely focused. I know Caraway is a good fighter, but I’m already thinking ahead. Everything I do is planned. I’m not underestimating Caraway. I’m already making plans, but I’m focused on this guy."

Barao ended up removed from the UFC 177 after he fainted while attempting to cut weight the day before the fight, and UFC newcomer Joe Soto replaced him against Dillashaw.

"To begin with, that should have been my fight. The UFC knows that, everybody knows that," Assuncao said. "I’m not getting any younger, so this is my time. I’m feeling physically better, more mature, so things are getting together.

"I give Joe Soto some credit for taking the fight, but he didn’t do anything in the fight," he continued. "He was throwing some overhands, but not doing much. He had no planned attacks, no game plan. With all due respect to Joe Soto, he took the fight on short notice, but he didn’t do anything at all."

Assuncao was never contacted about the possibility of replacing Barao at UFC 177, and he wouldn’t have been able to take the fight.

"Nobody called me," he said. "They know I wouldn’t have been able to make weight. I’m short, but I have some weight to cut. I was around 155 pounds that day, so I wouldn’t be able to cut to fight at 135. Maybe I would have taken a catchweight, but the title wouldn’t be on the line."

Dillashaw improved to 3-0 since losing to Assuncao in Brazil in November, but Assuncao hasn’t seen any improvement from the Team Alpha Male product.

"T.J. did (against Soto) exactly what he did against Barao and me. He hasn’t changed a bit in his game," he said. "Maybe he has a better cardio now, changed his movement a bit, but it’s the same thing in terms of fighting."

"It really bothers me," Assuncao said of seeing a guy he beat 11 months ago hold the UFC title. "It bothers me, and he keeps talking a lot. I think he wants to give himself some confidence by talking. He made fun of Barao, too. He was disrespectful, but it won’t work against me.

"I live in the United States for years. No one has to translate anything for me. If he says something to me, I’ll be looking right into his eyes. When I fought him, he said some things before the fight, but when we met in Sao Paulo he had no idea what to do. Deep in there, T.J. knows it will be different when he fights me. His game won’t work against me, and he knows that."

Former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz will return to the Octagon for his first bout since Oct. 1, 2011, and he will be riding a 11-fight win streak should he beat Takeya Mizugaki at UFC 178 on Sept. 27. Can "The Dominator" leapfrog Assuncao for a shot against Dillashaw next?

"I’d be really upset if that happens," the Brazilian said. "It might happen because he works for the TV and he uses that to promote himself. Dominick Cruz is my friend, we had a few beers together in the past, but you can’t deny what I have done in the UFC. He hasn’t fought in a while.

"I will let the UFC know that I won’t accept any other fight but a title fight after I beat Caraway. I’m not interested in any other fight, and I won’t fight anyone else."