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UFC Fight Night 84 fight card: Brad Pickett vs Francisco Rivera full fight preview

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Brad Pickett and Francisco Rivera will battle this Saturday (Feb. 27, 2016) at UFC Fight Night 84 inside 02 Arena in London, England. In a match up of scrappy finishers, what adjustments must be made for either man to claim victory? Find out below!

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight bruisers Brad Pickett and Francisco Rivera will duel this Saturday afternoon (Feb. 27, 2016) at UFC Fight Night 84 inside 02 Arena in London, United Kingdom.

After a less than successful drop to Flyweight, Pickett had a fairly impressive return to form opposite Thomas Almeida, though he ultimately came up short. To guarantee that he still has a spot on the roster, Pickett needs to secure a win this weekend.

Similarly, Rivera has also fallen on hard times. The knockout artist has lost three of his last four bouts, and he's definitely fighting for his job security as well.

Let's take a look at the keys to victory for both of these veterans:

Brad Pickett
Record: 24-11
Key Wins: Yves Jabouin (UFC on FUEL TV 5), Mike Easton (UFC on FUEL TV 9)
Key Losses: Thomas Almeida (UFC 189), Chico Camus (UFC Fight Night 57), Michael McDonald (UFC Fight Night 26)
Keys to Victory: Pickett has been around for a long time, fighting before the lower weight classes were truly established. Inside the Octagon, Pickett established himself as a game fighter willing to trade with anyone.

In this bout, however, that's far from a smart plan.

While Pickett can occasionally live up to his "One Punch" nickname, Rivera is one of the division's hardest punchers. With that in mind, a straight up exchange of punches is simply a bad idea.

That said, Pickett is an inside boxer with solid head movement. It's necessary for him to strike for Rivera, but he has to do it with the intention of setting up his double leg. When Pickett is on his game, he does an excellent job setting up his shots and landing hard punches off the threat of the takedown.

That needs to be his strategy here. Pickett has the wrestling and submission edge, so that's a very real threat to Rivera. If Pickett actually takes advantage of those skills, he can impose his will in this fight.

VS.

Francisco Rivera
Record: 11-5 (1)
Key Wins: Alex Caceres (UFC Fight Night 68), George Roop (UFC Fight for the Troops 3)
Key Losses: John Lineker (UFC 191), Takeya Mizugaki (UFC 173)
Keys to Victory: Rivera is a terrifyingly hard puncher with solid Muay Thai skill. While he's got some decent defensive wrestling and grappling, Rivera is first and foremost a brawler.

In this bout, Rivera needs to tone down his aggression a bit. Last time around, he was easily sucked into a brawl and paid the price in about a minute. While Pickett doesn't have the raw power of Lineker, he does have some heavy hooks and a nice level change, which could be equally problematic.

While Rivera definitely does have the potential to violently knock his opponent out with a single big shot, it's simply not a smart plan to try and force the finish. Instead, Rivera needs to keep his distance -- he's the longer fighter -- and look to counter his opponent coming in.

Pickett has always struggled with opponents who keep their distance and refuse to trade with him. If Rivera stays patient, keeps his opponent on the outside, and looks to counter punch, he should be able to frustrate his opponent.

Then, the opening for the knockout may arise on its own.

Bottom Line: This is a hugely important bout for both men, as they're in a very similar position.

While this could be a must-win bout for Pickett, he does have a solid fan base and is a longtime veteran. Those factors can usually earn a fighter some lenience, but that's not something Pickett wants to test out.

If "One Punch" loses, his UFC future is anything but certain.

On the bright side, a win puts Pickett back in UFC's good graces. While he's not likely to ever contend for the title, Pickett is a great test for up-and-comers and a fun fight for fellow veterans, two important roles that someone needs to fill.

The situation is even more tense for Rivera. He's been cut by the UFC once before, and things simply have not been going well for him lately. As one of Bantamweight's few true knockout punchers, Rivera may not receive his pink slip here, but like Pickett, there's no guarantees in UFC when on a losing streak.

Of course, a vicious knockout would set things straight for Rivera. There are plenty of fun fights for him at Bantamweight, as Rivera is more than willing to throw down. That's a fighter UFC would prefer to keep around, so a win definitely buys him some major breathing room.

At UFC Fight Night 84, Brad Pickett and Francisco Rivera will open the main card with a Bantamweight war. Which fighter will remain standing when the dust settles?