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Fighter on Fighter: Breaking down UFC Fight Night 131’s Jimmie Rivera

Nearly undefeated (21-1) Bantamweight contender, Jimmie Rivera, will scrap with former World Series of Fighting (WSOF) Kingpin, Marlon Moraes, this Friday (June 1, 2018) at UFC Fight Night 131 inside Adirondack Bank Center in Utica, New York.

It’s been 10 years and 20 fights since Jimmie Rivera last tasted defeat.

“El Terror” is a great fighter, well-rounded and dangerous. Unfortunately, he somehow managed to compete outside of UFC for far too many years, but the silver lining is that Rivera entered the organization already one of the division’s best. Plus, in the year previous to his signing, Rivera better learned how to punch with power, resulting in a trio of knockout wins and more dropped opponents.

Opposite Moraes, Rivera will look to secure a title shot in just his sixth UFC fight. Rivera is looking to make up for lost time, so let’s take a closer look at his skill set and body of work.


Rivera is a very interesting striker. A compact and powerful puncher (despite his low number of knockout wins), Rivera does not pressure heavily into the pocket like most shorter fighters. Instead, Rivera relies on his excellent defense to deflect most shots coming his way, returning with brutal counter strikes and punishing low kicks.

Rivera holds a third-degree black belt in Kyokushin Karate.

Rivera has an excellent understanding of range. Despite generally being the shorter man, he rarely has trouble finding a home for strikes. One of the best way to out-land a taller man is to convince him to advance, and Rivera often accomplishes that goal with excellent footwork. Indeed, Rivera is constantly moving laterally and backing away. Theoretically, that should leave him trapped on the outside against rangier fighters, but Rivera’s low kick generally prevents that fate. Generally, Rivera does such a nice job of moving and cutting angles that he’ll gain a slight outside angle, enabling him to safely smash a naked low kick into the thigh or calf.

Furthermore, the low kick is a great answer to range strikes. When his opponent looks to jab — any lead hand strike really — the lead leg is often left vulnerable. Rivera will slide back from the jab, causing it to come up short, and respond with the low kick (GIF). Additionally, attempting to kick Rivera is not a bad idea, but he counters them frequently. Rivera is a compact athlete crouched and ready to explode, meaning he very often is able to spring forward mid-kick and fire a combination, one that is generally punctuated with a low kick.

If a fighter is low kicked or flurried each time he jabs/kicks, he’ll quickly become hesitant.

The staple of Rivera’s counter striking is the left hook. It’s his best weapon, and the reason he stands a bit heavy on his lead leg. The left hook is an essential part of his game, making it the perfect topic for this week’s technique highlight.

Another big weapon for Rivera is the lead cross. In the midst of his lateral movement and pulling backward, Rivera will stop backing off and throw his right hand. Depending on how heavily his opponent is moving forward, Rivera can either spring forward and cover distance with the cross or simply let his foe move into the pocket and allow the punch do the rest (GIF).


I cannot find any information of Rivera’s potential wrestling background, but he certainly fights like he has one. Either way, Rivera’s build, distance control and athletic gifts make him a quality wrestler in the cage.

For the most part, Rivera only turns to his wrestling when the kickboxing is too close for comfort. Rivera is opportunistic and able to drive into his opponent’s hips quickly, which allows him to rush forward while his opponent is off-balance — often when throwing a kick — blasting him off his feet. If the wrestling hits the fence, Rivera’s the perfect body type to drop down into a double along the fence.

Plus, Rivera’s body work goes a long way in setting up the double leg.

Five fights deep into his UFC career, Rivera has yet to be taken down. Frankly, it’s not hard to understand the reason. Shorter fighters are generally tougher to take down in general because of the difficulty in getting underneath them, and that task grows exponentially harder when the defending wrestler is as strong as Rivera.

It also helps that Rivera is so rarely out of position. He doesn’t chase his opponent around and give foes an easy entry on his hips; Rivera really only flurries when countering his opponent from a safe angle. Instead, he’s circling and pulling, drawing his opponent forward and baiting them to over-extend. Rivera manages range control very carefully, rarely allowing his opponent an easy distance to punch him, let alone successfully shoot a takedown.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

If we’re being fully honest, Rivera hasn’t shown much Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Most of his fights tend to take place on the feet, and when he does look to score a takedown, he mostly just works ground strikes from top position. He has a pair of submission wins on his record, but they’re nearly a decade old. In fact, according to Fightmetric, Rivera has yet to attempt or defend a submission inside the Octagon, leaving us with little to talk about.


Rivera spent a lot of years honing his game on the regional scene. While that probably hurt financially at the time, it did allow him plenty of time to build his record and fully form his approach to combat. Opposite another fighter who built a great resume outside of UFC, Rivera can prove himself superior and earn a title shot in the process.


Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, is a professional fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.

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