Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight veterans John Dodson and Jimmie Rivera squared off last night (Sept. 8, 2018) at UFC 228 inside American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.
Originally an excellent match up planned for the undercard, this Bantamweight battle was brought up to the pay-per-view (PPV) portion when Nicco Montano’s medical issues cost her the title. For John Dodson, this was a big moment to reassert himself as a title contender, rather than gatekeeper to the elite at 135 lbs. In Rivera’s case, he very nearly earned a title shot before getting clipped early by a Marlon Moraes high kick. That was a disastrous end to his title run, leaving Rivera very motivated to jump back into the mix.
As expected, Rivera opened the fight looking to maintain range, trying to blast Dodson with low kicks. Equally expected, Dodson tried to answer with bursts of left hands, also using a nice low kick of his own. Despite his opponent clearly looking to counter that low kick, Rivera continued to dig into the inside of the lead leg.
The low kicks were a problem for “The Magician.” Otherwise, he was looking sharp, mixing more offense into his game — including a nice high kick. However, that low kick was whacking Dodson’s leg way out of stance and threatened to limit Dodson’s usual speed advantage. In addition, Rivera found a home for his right hand counter a few times.
Dodson generally looked a bit better than in recent fights, but he still lost the opening frame.
Rivera’s excellent work continued into the second round, as he feinted actively and landed more hard low kicks. Dodson was in a precarious position: unable to hang out at range and eat low kicks but also absorbing counter strikes when he did try to push forward. Dodson did adjust and begin to check kicks more often, but he was not able to create any consistent offense.
The pace slowed a bit in the latter half of the round. Both men are quite sound defensively, leading to few major strikes landing. Plus, Dodson is generally low-volume, and Rivera was winning and therefore unmotivated to really push his advantage.
Texan judging not withstanding, Dodson seemed to need a huge third round.
Despite pleas from each corner to increase the volume, the third round was contested largely at a tepid pace. Dodson’s lead leg was troubling him a bit, meaning his flurries were few and far between. Meanwhile, Rivera lead with his right low kick and right hand on occasion, but the two were largely content to trade single shots or pick at each other with counters.
In every round, Rivera threw at least a little bit more and landed harder, awarding him a fairly clear-cut decision win.
It may not have been a terribly exciting bout, but Rivera looked sharp. He controlled range throughout, stalked Dodson, and landed harder shots throughout. Rivera’s boxing was more effective than his opponent’s own punches, but it was really the right low kick that separated the two. Rivera landed at least a dozen low kicks, which is a truly significant amount of strikes in a fight between low output athletes.
It wasn’t inspiring, but Rivera needed to get the job done and return to the win column.
For Dodson, this has to be frustrating. Once more, an opponent has pressured him and kicked the inside of his lead leg. Dodson’s response every time is to absorb low kicks and occasionally counter or burst with his left hand. The result is usually a pretty close fight that Dodson is likely to end up on the wrong side of.
Rivera is a top contender and there’s no shame in losing to him, but Dodson really needs some self-analysis after this loss. Any time he deviated from his standard three moves he found success, but Dodson was shockingly predictable for such a quick athlete.
Last night, Jimmie Rivera picked up a decision win over a longtime veteran. Who should Rivera face next?
For complete UFC 228 “Woodley vs. Till” results and play-by-play, click HERE!