Urijah Faber -- coming off a bitter loss to Bantamweight champion, Dominick Cruz -- looked to climb back into the 135-pound title chase tonight (Sept. 10, 2016) at UFC 203 at the expense of Jimmie Rivera, a very dangerous -- albeit relatively unknown -- opponent who was on an 18-fight win streak, including three straight victories inside the Octagon.
Make it 19 and four.
Faber opened up the action with an inside leg kick. He faked with a takedown, but Rivera was on to it, drilling him with a right hand as Faber spun out of additional danger immediately. Faber waded in looking to find an opening, but once again Rivera made him pay with a clean one-two combination. Faber went back to using his legs, mixing up his attack, as Rivera calmly circled away, looking to counter whenever possible. Nothing of significance transpired for the remainder of the round, as both fighters looked for openings, but were hesitant to let their fists fly.
In the opening seconds of round two, Faber landed an inadvertent low blow, compelling the referee to pause the action for about a minute. On the restart, both fighters picked up where they left off -- jockeying for position in a tactical standoff. Rivera landed a nice low kick midway through the round, which dropped Faber to a knee momentarily. Rivera continued to attack the leg as Faber tried to mask his discomfort. Rivera blasted it once more as Faber spun away and tried to get inside with something, but he just couldn't land anything. Faber ducked under a wild spinning backfist as the round came to a close, but he was unable to avoid a hard cross just before heading back to his corner.
Faber, perhaps frustrated, came out for the third and final round winging several haymakers that Rivera was able to dodge. Rivera unleashed another leg kick, which Faber caught, only for Rivera to whack him with a hard punch. Rivera once again was able to take Faber off his feet with a leg kick, but shortly after, the action stopped as Rivera had to get medical attention for an eye poke. On the restart, Faber fired off an axe kick that Rivera caught, simultaneously drilling him with a straight right hand. Faber ratcheted up the pressure in the final two minutes, perhaps aware that he was probably down on the judges scorecards. But, like the previous two rounds, he was unable to get close enough to land anything significant besides a one-two combination that sent Rivera reeling backward.
It was not a great fight -- more of a 15-minute chess match. But, Rivera's counter striking and leg kicks were enough to impress all three judges sitting ringside, who awarded him a unanimous decision victory (30-27 x3).