UFC 127: "Penn vs Fitch" takes place this Saturday (Feb. 26, 2011) night at the Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia.
In the co-main event of the evening, former The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 3 light heavyweight winner Michael "The Count" Bisping and mixed martial arts veteran Jorge "El Conquistador" Rivera will hook 'em up to finally put an end to their back-and-forth jib-jab.
"El Conquistador," at 38 years old, will have perhaps his last chance to establish himself as more than just a gatekeeper in the middleweight division. The Boston, Mass.-area, native has made the most of the opportunity so far, releasing a steady drumbeat comical viral videos to rile the sensitive Brit.
Bisping, meanwhile, has yet to do much talking for this bout because he really hasn't had to -- Rivera has been all over the place. He's clearly agitated, but has kept a relatively cool head as he prepares to smash a "relic" and earn a true 185-pound title contender bout.
Will Rivera score the win of a lifetime while in the twilight of his career? Or will Bisping send Rivera -- and his comical video library -- into early retirement?
We'll find out soon enough (10:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, to be precise).
In the meantime, here is a quick preview of the upcoming action when Bisping and Rivera stop flapping their gums and start slinging punches in the "Land Down Under."
Check it out:
Record: 19-7 overall, 8-5 in the UFC
How he got here: Rivera is riding a three-fight win streak since the loss to Martin Kampmann. According to the UFC 127 "Countdown" show, the shocking death of Rivera's 17-year-old daughter has reignited his passion for the sport, making him realize his potential. With wins over Nate Quarry, Rob Kimmons and Nissan Osterneck it's hard to argue with the results of his resurrection. And the UFC management has taken notice by awarding him with the biggest fight (and name) of his career.
How he gets it done: Rivera has to keep the fight standing and find a home for his heavy right hand early and often. Bisping has had tendencies of circling when he shouldn't (see Henderson, Dan) and Rivera has to make him pay for it if Bisping makes the mistake. Rivera cannot afford to let Bisping find his timing, as he will need to move his head and look to counter as Bisping moves forward.
Record: 20-3 overall, 10-3 in the UFC
How he got here: Since losing a somewhat controversial split decision to former Pride middleweight champion Wanderlei Silva, Bisping has won back-to-back fights over Dan Miller and Yoshihiro Akiyama. However, the win over Akiyama was by far Bisping's most impressive victory, as he maintained a furious pace and landed strikes that were more powerful than we're used to seeing from Bisping.
How he gets it done: A smart gameplan for Bisping in this fight would be to take Rivera down to the mat and work for a submission. While Rivera has shown solid striking over the years, his grappling has severely lacked against the likes of Martin Kampmann, Lee Murray and Rich Franklin. Even Patrick Cote on TUF 4 was able to outgrapple Rivera to a decision. Bisping does have a solid shot on the feet, too, because he keeps a tremendous pace, but it is much safer to put Rivera on his back based on prior fights.
Fight "X-Factor:" Bisping's cardio will play a factor in this fight because Bisping can go three rounds at an incredible pace. Rivera has gone the distance on four occasions in his career, but Bisping's seemingly bottomless gas tank throughout three rounds is that of a lightweight. It's hard to imagine Rivera being able to keep up with Bisping for 15 busy minutes.
Bottom Line: After the fight is over we'll finally get to see if Jorge Rivera will actually live up to his potential or if Michael Bisping will need to be given stiffer opposition. Bisping should get the win in this fight, but Rivera always has a punchers chance and cannot be counted out until the final bell sounds. All the pressure is on Bisping to have an impressive performance against Rivera. But I do believe if Rivera is able to pull off the miraculous upset in a devastating fashion, he may suddenly find himself relevant again in the middleweight title contender chase.
Who will move into middleweight contention at UFC 127? Let your voice be heard!