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UFC Fight Night 131 fight card: Jimmie Rivera vs Marlon Moraes full fight preview

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Norfolk-Dodson vs Moraes Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight kickboxers Jimmie Rivera and Marlon Moraes will clash TONIGHT (June 1, 2018) at UFC Fight Night 131 inside Adirondack Bank Center in Utica, New York.

It took 20 consecutive victories to raise Rivera to this position, but he’s finally within a single victory of a title shot. All that work to climb the ladder has given Rivera a bit of a chip on his shoulder, but that’s hardly a bad thing when facing elite competition like his opponent. And while Rivera can complain that Moraes has been given the fast track, the Brazilian utterly dominated all comers in the World Series of Fighting (WSOF) for years. Capturing and reasonably high-level belt and defending it repeatedly is a great strategy to build momentum, and Moraes has capitalized on it by receiving — and mostly winning — high-profile fights.

Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each man.

Jimmie Rivera

Record: 21-1

Key Wins: Thomas Almeida (UFC Fight Night 131), Urijah Faber (UFC 203), Pedro Munoz (UFC Fight Night 77), Yuri Alcantara (UFC on FOX 18)

Key Losses: None

Keys to Victory: Rivera is a very defensively sound counter puncher with heavy low kicks. A compact and strong athlete, “El Terror” is also very difficult to take down. Interestingly, Rivera seemed to find his punching power in 2014, as he’s scored three knockouts and multiple knockdowns since, whereas in all the years previous Rivera stopped just one opponent via strikes.

In this bout, Rivera’s advantage lies in his boxing. He’s the cleaner combination puncher of the two and seems to have a slight edge in pure power. However, that doesn’t mean he should try to pressure forward and force his way into the pocket; that isn’t his game, and it’s something Moraes is well equipped to deal with.

Instead, Rivera should stay patient and rely on his defense and low kicks. At range, Moraes has more variety, but Rivera can certainly hold his own there. What’s more, Moraes is not a fighter content to win by slim margins, he generally fights to finish. If Rivera is able to create something of a kickboxing stalemate, Moraes will respond with increased aggression, which is all that Rivera requires to counter punch from the pocket.

Marlon Moraes

Record: 20-5-1

Key Wins: Aljamain Sterling (UFC Fight Night 123), John Dodson (UFC Fight Night 120), Josh Hill (WSOF 32, WSOF 18), Miguel Torres (WSOF 1)

Key Losses: Raphael Assuncao (UFC 212)

Keys to Victory: An excellent Muay Thai fighter with brutal kicks and slick counter punches, Moraes is a hell of an athlete. Explosive and powerful, Moraes has also gone the full 25 minutes multiple times without showing signs of slowing down.

Both men have the potential to knock the other out, but since this is a high-level fight between men who historically are difficult to knock out, a lengthy fight is more likely. With that in mind, Moraes should focus on being the higher volume man.

Rivera does not have bad conditioning, but he does slow. Last time out, Thomas Almeida was brutalized in the first round but was able to land a high volume of strikes later in the fight and make it competitive once more. If Moraes is throwing more from the beginning, he’ll likely be able to pull ahead later in the fight.

Last tidbit: Moraes is damn good at checking/countering low kicks, a primary weapon of Rivera. If he can force Rivera to abandon the low kick, it will severely limit his options.

Bottom Line: This should be a very high-level striking match to determine the next title challenger.

Either man will have clearly earned a title shot. Rivera’s win streak is crazy, and Moraes’ years of dominance in WSOF should count for a lot as well. Plus, no matter how the division shakes up, any combination of Rivera/Moraes vs. Dillashaw/Garbrandt will be a fantastic fight. The super fight talks involving Demetrious Johnson seem to be fully dead, meaning the Bantamweight division is free to have amazing fights between champion and contender.

What a shame.

With a chance to fight for the belt on the line, the stakes are obviously high. Bantamweight has an impressive number of potential title contenders, so falling to the end or even just the middle of that line is a significant setback.

At UFC Fight Night 131, Jimmie Rivera and Marlon Moraes will square off in the main event. Which athlete will see his hand raised?

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