Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bantamweights Takeya Mizugaki and Francisco Rivera squared off on the main card of UFC 173 last night (Sat., May 24, 2014) from MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Mizugaki brought the momentum of four straight wins, the most recent being a UFC Fight Night 33 decision over Nam Phan. The Japanese veteran was looking to improve on his No. 6 ranking against No. 10-ranked Rivera, who came in off a UFC Fight Night 31: "Fight for Troops 3" finish over George Roop.
Both fighters laid it all on the line and held their advantages throughout, but ultimately Mizugaki notched his fifth decision win in a row.
Rivera came out strong with a big shot, and Mizugaki recovered well to set up his precise gameplan. The fighters threw several shots that narrowly missed, but then Mizugaki found a home for a flurry that dropped Rivera, following to the ground with a swarm.
Rivera sought to recover from half guard, eventually scrambling to his feet. Mizugaki smothered him against the cage and Rivera fought back with a good trip takedown that didn't turn into much. The action broke and an exchange ensued, and Rivera got another takedown. The wild first round ended with another wild flurry and Rivera on top in a scramble.
The second round began with Mizugaki landing again. Rivera landed a swift high kick and a combo, pressing forward violently. "Cisco" was finding his rhythm and Mizugaki was cut. The Japanese veteran got a sloppy takedown, but Rivera went for a guillotine. Mizugaki persevered to gain side control and control the action against the cage. Mizugaki gained Rivera's back to look for a neck crank before the round came to a close.
The final round saw the fighters trade shots again. Rivera landed some strong hooks, but Mizugaki responded with a straight right hand to drop Rivera to the ground. Mizugaki controlled top position to score points while the action slowed to a snail's pace. The referee stood the action back up and the fighters went to war in the center of the Octagon. The bout ended a wild brawl as it went to the judges' scorecards.
Mizugaki took home the decision in a pivotal bout. He could have used a finish to improve his likelihood of a title shot, but it's tough to argue with his recent successes. He may find himself knocking on the door of a title shot with one or two more high quality wins.
But with TJ Dillashaw winning the belt from Renan Barao after a shocking upset in last night's main event, Mizugaki will most likely have to wait behind contenders like Raphael Assuncao, Barao, and even Dominick Cruz if he can return anytime soon.
If "Dominator" can, perhaps a bout with Mizugaki would be a good return fight. No matter what happens, Mizugaki is ready for a high-level match-up for his next bout.
Rivera proved a game opponent who ate some big shots but persevered to land some of his own. He shouldn't lose too much footing in the rankings and another good opponent should await him.
A fight against Johnny Eduardo, who recently knocked out former title challenger Eddie Wineland at UFC Fight Night 40 in Cincinnati, would make for an explosive match-up for "Cisco."
Takeya Mizugaki picked up his fifth straight victory by outlasting Francisco Rivera at UFC 173. He could be headed for the upper levels of the division, but will his lack of finishes hold him back?