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Ahead of UFC Fight Night 120, Marlon Moraes reflects on 1st loss in almost 6 years

When bantamweight Marlon Moraes enters the UFC octagon on Saturday, it’ll be under circumstances he hasn’t experience in quite some time: He’ll be coming off a loss.

By dropping a split decision to bantamweight contender Raphael Assuncao (25-5 MMA, 9-2 UFC) in his octagon debut at UFC 212, Moraes (18-5-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC) also halted a winning streak that dated back to 2011. All but two of the 13 wins in that timeframe took place with his former WSOF home, where Moraes defended the bantamweight title five times before signing with the UFC.

Moraes is now fully focused on his next battle: a UFC Fight 120 bantamweight meeting with former 125-pound title challenger John Dodson (19-8 MMA, 8-3 UFC). But as present-driven as he is, it’s hard to completely dismiss the past.

“It does affect your ego a little bit,” Moraes told MMAjunkie ahead of the FS1-televised preliminary-card bout, which takes place at Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va . “I want to get back out there soon, come back strong.

“(I want to) win this fight well and do everything I know. I think it’s another way to motivate me and to push me to go to my limit.”

Moraes was certainly given no easy task to start off his UFC run. Fellow Brazilian Assuncao, who was just coming off a win over tough up-and-comer Aljamain Sterling, is a perennial contender who at one point rode an impressive seven-fight UFC winning streak that included a win over current champ T.J. Dillashaw.

Prior to his loss to Dillashaw in a UFC 200 rematch, Assuncao hadn’t tasted defeat since Erick Koch knocked him out in 2011.

Still, the No. 7 fighter in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA bantamweight rankings believes he could have done better against No. 4 Assuncao.

“Honestly, Raphael is a fighter who’s a top-three, top-five fighter in the UFC,” Moraes said. “But I had every intention to beat him. It was a very tight fight. It was a split decision that, honestly, was kind of controversial. But it wasn’t my best night.”

There’s a bright side there, though.

“If I could do that on a bad night,” Moraes pondered, “on a good night, I can certainly go up against anyone in the division.”

It’s with the same bittersweet approach that Moraes reflects upon his first setback in years. Sure, losing isn’t great – especially when you believe you could have done more to keep it from happening. But count on Moraes to, once more, offer a silver lining.

“Normally, in life, it’s very hard to deal with failure,” Moraes said. “And a loss – I failed. I didn’t win. But, mainly, because it wasn’t a great performance. When you fight and lose, but you give it everything you have, there’s that sense of fulfilled duty. But to me, it intensified a bit because that wasn’t the best Marlon you’ve seen inside the cage.

“It was hard at first. But it’s good, because it’d been a while since I’d lost. It’d been a while since I felt who was really with me and who wasn’t. And a time like this shows those who really are with you.”

In any case, Moraes is ready to move on. Which, of course, starts with Dodson. The recipe for a winning performance isn’t exactly mysterious: At the gym, Moraes put in the hours and the work. And, in the cage, it’s about pressure, moving forward and setting the pace.

“I’m an athlete who likes to fight in every area,” Moraes said. “And I hope to leave it in all there. It will be a well-rounded fight. You won’t see Marlon  shying away from the striking, from wrestling or jiu-jitsu. It will be an aggressive Marlon who’ll attack in every area.

“I’m prepared and I’m going to give it my all in pursuit of this win.”

While a 0-1 start to a UFC career isn’t ideal, it’s not like Moraes is just anyone in the bantamweight shuffle. He was, after all, a highly victorious champion. And, currently occupying the No. 9 spot in the UFC’s official rankings, it’s safe to say a win over No. 8 Dodson could award him some goodwill with the promotion.

But the former WSOF kingpin didn’t come into the UFC to start handpicking opponents. And neither is he willing to let future possibilities distract him from what is happening right now.

“My main focus is this fight – this win,” Moraes said. “To get in there and do the best fight of my life. That’s it and nothing else.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 120, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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