On an injury plagued UFC 133 card, it's no surprise that the planned middleweight scrap between Jorge Rivera and Alessio Sakara was postponed for the third time due to injuries. Thankfully, undercard middleweight Constantinos Philippou stepped up to the challenge to take on Rivera in what expects to be an exciting striking war this Saturday night (August 6, 2011).
Jorge Rivera enters the bout on the heels of a controversial loss to Michael Bisping after eating a blatant illegal knee. He deserves some credit for continuing to fight, but he threw away an opportunity for a disqualification victory and was eventually stopped by the Brit. He wants to get back on track against the considerably more inexperienced Philippou.
Constantinos Philippou trains out of the Serra-Longo Fight Team in New York and he's quickly developed a reputation as the king of short notice fights. He stepped in on late notice against Nick Catone this past March, losing a decision and he gladly jumped at the opportunity to be promoted to the main card against Rivera.
Will "El Conquistador" conquer his younger counterpart on Saturday night? Or will Philippou's ambition pay off with the biggest victory of his brief career? Which middleweight striker will be the first to blink?
Let's find outJorge Rivera
Record: 19-8 overall, 7-6 in the UFC
How he got here: Jorge Rivera has been fighting professionally for over 10 years now. He got his start fighting primarily in the local Massachusetts area for much of his early career before getting an opportunity in the UFC. He would compile a 2-3 record in the promotion,having tough battles against greats like Rich Franklin and Anderson Silva before a loss to Chris Leben seemed to seal his fate.
He would get another opportunity through season four of The Ultimate Fighter "The Comeback." He didn't win the season, but did impress the brass enough to give him another chance in the UFC, which he would take advantage of.
Rivera has gone 5-3 in the UFC since being given his second chance, recently going on a solid three fight win streak that culminated in a five and a half minute destruction of former title challenger Nate Quarry in what many considered the greatest performance of his career.
In his last fight, Rivera was badly hurt by an illegal knee against Michael Bisping and chose to continue fighting instead of taking the DQ victory, which resulted in a TKO loss not much later.
When his fight with Alessio Sakara was cancelled for the third time, upstart Constantinos Philippou stepped up from the undercard to challenge him.
How he gets it done: It's not difficult to guess how Rivera wants to secure victory on Saturday night. Of his 19 career victories, 13 have come by way of knockout with just two submissions.
He's got significant power in his strikes and he thrives on overwhelming opponents with constant pressure.
Rivera is fearless, with a "knockout or be knocked out" mentality. Expect to see him pushing the pace, wading forward relentlessly looking to land punching combinations.
His main goal will be to force Philippou to make a mistake, potentially forcing the young gun to wilt under his forward aggression.
Record: 7-2 (1 No Contest) overall, 0-1 in the UFC
Key Wins: none
Key Losses: Nick Catone (UFC 128)
How he got here: Originally from Cyprus, Philippou moved to America and began training at Matt Serra's academy in New York.
He made his debut in the Atlantic City fight promotion Ring of Combat in 2008, fighting on five consecutive numbered events for the promotion and accumulating a 4-1 record in the process with his only loss being to eventual UFC light heavyweight Ricardo Romero in his MMA debut.
Philippou would fight four more times for Ring of Combat, going 3-0 with one "No Contest" before earning a shot in the UFC. He stepped up on short notice to face Nick Catone when Yoshihio Akiyama couldn't fight Nate Marquardt, and Catone's original opponent, Dan Miller stepped up to the main card.
Due to the late notice, Philippou debuted at a 195 catchweight but would lose a unanimous decision to Catone. He was slated to face Rafael Natal before an injury to Alessio Sakara gave him an opportunity to step up in the biggest opportunity of his young career against Rivera.
How he gets it done: Philippou is primarily a striker, having scored four wins by knockout. Footwork will be key against Rivera.
Jorge Rivera is relentless with his forward pressure, so Philippou is going to have to carefully work his angles and hope "El Conquistador" leaves him an opening with his aggression that he can capitalize on with his power.
"Costa" is still young to the game, and while Rivera isn't a worldbeater on the ground, he'll probably want to keep this fight standing, which is his biggest strength.
This fight may come down to who has the stronger chin, as both men are dangerous in the stand-up department.
Fight "X-Factor:" The biggest factor for this fight is the accumulation of damage that Jorge Rivera has taken throughout his career.
Rivera has been in some wars with some of the heaviest hitters of all time in the middleweight division: Anderson Silva, Rich Franklin, David Loiseau, Lee Murray and Chris Leben. He's taken quite a few shots to the head over the past 10 years, and that's not counting all the damage taken while training and sparring at his gym.
His last fight didn't help, eating a huge illegal knee to the face by Michael Bisping that he never fully recovered from before allowing the fight to continue and eating more follow-up shots.
If he gets hit hard by Philippou, he might go down. This is a dangerous match against an unheralded, hungry fighter with a lot to prove.
Bottom Line: Jorge Rivera has awesome fights, simple as that. He doesn't care about fighting for a title, he just wants to have great fights for the rest of his career. He's only gone to decision in four of his 27 career fights and he's stepping in there against a striker who's likely willing to stand and go toe-to-toe with him for up to fifteen straight minutes, but don't expect this one to go to the judges. This should be a lot of fun.
Who will be victorious at UFC 133? Let us know in the comments below!