Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight brawlers Francisco Rivera and Erik Perez will slug it out this Saturday (July 30, 2016) at UFC 201 inside Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.
Rivera is in the midst of a pretty serious rough patch. Having last four of his last five fights — regardless of the controversy of certain results — "Cisco" desperately needs a win here. On the other hand, Perez returned from a pretty long layoff and put forth a solid performance last time out. The Mexican combatant was once looked at as one of the division’s best prospects, and he’s looking to return to that position.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for both athletes:
Record: 11-6 (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), Brad Pickett (UFC Fight Night 84)
Keys to Victory: Rivera is a Muay Thai kickboxer with some considerable knockout power. In recent years, he's really tightened up his game, growing sharper with his counter punches and more difficult to take down.
In this bout, Rivera does have a stylistic edge. The more refined striker with heavier hands, Rivera can force Perez to rely on his wrestling rather than striking. While that may be a big part of Perez's game, he's definitely more of a striker than anything else.
To defeat Perez, there's a few things Rivera must accomplish. First and foremost, Rivera cannot afford to get tired, which has been a problem recently. If he slows down, his younger opponent will take over regardless of skill disadvantages.
Besides that, Rivera must stay tight on his feet. If he remains disciplined and avoids brawling, he should be able to land at a higher rate without giving up any stupid takedowns.
That's a recipe for success.
Key Wins: Taylor Lapilus (TUF Latin America 2 Finale), Ken Stone (UFC 150)
Key Losses: Bryan Caraway (UFC Fight Night 42), Takeya Mizugaki (UFC Fight Night 27)
Keys to Victory: Still just 26 years old, Perez has been competing inside the Octagon since 2012. He's an aggressive striker and wrestler, willing to mix it up in order to put the pressure on his opponent.
The biggest advantage that Perez holds in this bout is youth. He's not a 34-year-old Bantamweight in the midst of a slide. Instead, Perez is a young up-and-comer who should be improving from fight-to-fight and motivated to take out a well-known veteran. To make use of that gift, Perez needs to go out and push the pace. Rivera has been slowing down considerably in fights, and that's a trait Perez needs to take advantage of.
To accelerate the process, Perez should stay on the offensive and back his opponent up into the fence. This is the risky part of his game plan, as Perez cannot afford to push forward sloppily and eat shots.
Instead, Perez just needs to get close enough to wrestle. Even if his early shots fail, he can stay in the clinch and grind Rivera into the fence. So long as he's forcing a wrestling match, he should be able to avoid eating big shots while slowing his foe down.
Bottom Line: It should be a fun scrap between a pair of men fighting over a spot in the Top 15.
This is a crossroads bout for Rivera. In each of his recent losses, he came up short opposite veterans established in the division. Losing to long-time UFC fighters is one thing, but Perez is a prospect looking to make moves.
That’s bad news for his UFC future.
On the bright side, Perez’s name still does carry some weight. If Rivera can return to form with a big knockout blow, he’s secured his position near the top of the division and can keep putting on fun fights.
For Perez, this is an opportunity to really build momentum following his loss and layoff. The return victory was a solid start, but this is his chance to prove that he can beat solid fighters consistently and begin really climbing the ranks.
Alternatively, another setback would really send Perez to the back of the line. He doesn’t really have any victories relevant to the current division, and he cannot afford to lose in his third straight step up in competition.
At UFC 201, Francisco Rivera and Erik Perez will brawl. Which man will remain standing when the dust settles?