Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweights Yuri Alcantara and Jimmie Rivera scrapped last night (Jan. 30, 2016) at UFC on FOX 18 inside Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Alcantara had already established himself as a top fighter, but he also struggled with staying consistent. Against one of the division's better prospects, "Marajo" had a chance to re-assert himself into the title picture.
On the other hand, Rivera was a relative newcomer to UFC, though he had plenty of experience in other promotions. Coming into this bout on a massive win streak, this was a major opportunity for Rivera to make a name for himself.
As the fight started, Rivera immediately took the center of the Octagon and began stalking his opponent. "Marajo" played the outside, looking for big counter punches and kicks up the center against his shorter foe.
While neither found much success early, Rivera found his range first. Utilizing excellent feints as well as strong combinations, Rivera kept his opponent along the fence and scored with punches to the body and head.
Then, he finished the round with a big slam.
Rivera started the second round aggressively, looking to pick up where he left off. After doing an excellent job of drawing out his opponent's offense with level change feints, Rivera landed a clean combination punctuated by a left hook, likely his best yet.
After getting controlled along the fence, Alcantara went on the offensive and scored with some kicks and his left hand. However, Rivera once again switched it up by shooting for a pair of double legs, landing the second one and controlling his opponent on the mat until the end of the round.
In all likelihood, the Brazilian needed something big in the third to win.
The pace slowed a bit in the final frame, as both men were a bit tired. Though Alcantara found some success early, he was throwing too many single shots. Even when he did connect, it wasn't enough to throw Rivera off his game, as he continued to answer with combinations.
The third round was undoubtedly Alcantara's strongest of the fight. He scored nicely with snap kicks to the body in the second half of the round, and he even dropped his opponent briefly with a straight left. However, Rivera still landed plenty of his own shots and pushed the pace.
Even if Alcantara did edge out the round, it wasn't enough to pull him out of his earlier deficit.
This was a stellar fight by Rivera, as example of a fighter putting all the pieces together. He's been in the game for a while and is at the right age to make his run, and that showed last night. Rivera proved himself to be one of the top Bantamweights in the world with this win.
On the whole, Rivera's game plan wasn't complicated. He pressured his opponent with combinations, punched the body, and mixed in some takedowns. What made him so effective was his use of feints, as Rivera constantly was testing his opponent's reactions. Once he noticed how Alcantara was looking to counter, Rivera would easily avoid it and usually punish his opponent for the attempt.
Ultimately, it was enough to defeat a game opponent via unanimous decision. Following this win, Rivera needs a top 10 match up, perhaps against someone like Bryan Caraway.
While his opponent put forth a very strong showing, this was pretty standard Alcantara. He threw with power but not volume. His submission grappling was always dangerous, but his wrestling still left something to be desired.
In short, it's a skill set that makes Alcantara a great gatekeeper. He can violently finish or control those who don't deserve to be in the top 15, but the true cream of the crop will out-work him.
That's precisely what happened in this bout.
Luckily, this doesn't really change Alcantara's position. He'll still be around to test the next up-and-comer; it's only Rivera's future that changes after this result.
Last night, Jimmie Rivera continued to climb the ladder with a victory over Yuri Alcantara. Where is the New Jersey-native's ceiling?
For complete UFC on FOX 18: "Johnson vs Bader" results and play-by-play, click HERE!