Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight veterans Pedro Munhoz and Jimmie Rivera will throw down this weekend (Sat., Feb. 13, 2021) at UFC 258 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The situation for Munhoz looks a whole lot different if the tightly-contested split-decision loss to Frankie Edgar goes his way. Instead of looking up the ladder toward the title, “Young Punisher” — who turned 34 in Sept. 2020 — has lost consecutive fights, and he may be fighting for his position inside the Top 10. Rivera should be able to relate to being an elite contender who hits a rough patch. A five-fight win streak began his UFC career and brought his professional record to an incredible 21-1, but that victorious run gave way to losing three of four fights. “El Terror” rebounded last time out with a solid win, but he needs consistency if he’s to make a run at the strap.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each man:
Record: 16-5 (1)
Key Wins: Cody Garbrandt (UFC 235), Bryan Caraway (TUF 28 Finale), Rob Font (UFC Fight Night 119), Justin Scoggins (UFC Fight Night 100), Brett Johns (UFC 227)
Key Losses: Frankie Edgar (UFC on ESPN 15), Aljamain Sterling (UFC 238), Jimmie Rivera (UFC Fight Night 77), Rafael Assuncao (UFC 170), John Dodson (UFC 222)
Keys to Victory: Munhoz is a bruiser. He’s grown more technical over the years, but all the same, Munhoz goes after his opponents, betting on his durability and power every time. The Brazilian has pretty wicked calf kicks, and his guillotine is one of the best.
The more scrappy a fight, the more this match up favors Munhoz. In a technical battle where each man shows off their range control and trickery, Rivera is the tighter boxer with more mobile footwork. If Munhoz can keep the exchange rate of strikes to a relatively even one-to-one, however, he’s likely to hold up better as fatigue and punishment sets in for each man.
Perhaps the most major key to forcing this type of fight is cutting off the Octagon. If Rivera is able to freely circle, he’ll able to fight slick and at range. However, if a digging calf kick were to meet Rivera’s lead leg each time he moved to his left, his lateral movement would grow more predictable, and Munhoz could find better success both in walking his foe into strikes and cornering him along the fence.
Key Wins: Cody Stamann (UFC Fight Island 1), Thomas Almeida (UFC Fight Night 131), Urijah Faber (UFC 203), Pedro Munoz (UFC Fight Night 77), Yuri Alcantara (UFC on FOX 18)
Key Losses: Petr Yan (UFC 238), Marlon Moraes (UFC Fight Night 131), Aljamain Sterling (UFC on ESPN 1)
Keys to Victory: Rivera is a sharp counter puncher with a nasty left hook and heavy low kicks. He’s also nearly impossible to take down, forcing opponents to strike with the third-degree Tiger Schulmann’s Karate black belt.
If cutting off the cage is Munhoz’s primary goal, maintaining distance is Rivera’s key to victory. At range, Rivera should be quicker with his punches, and any time Munhoz over-reaches, that counter left hook should be waiting for him.
The primary issue will be earning Munhoz’s respect, as the Brazilian will walk through fire in order to land. Munhoz’s chin is seemingly made of cement, so if the left hook fails to stagger him, then a good second option would be the takedown. Rivera doesn’t have to hold down his foe for long, but reactionary takedowns can really break an opponent’s forward momentum and make feints more effective.
Otherwise, body work might be a wise strategy for Rivera. No man is immune to punches to the bread basket, and a bit of torso fatigue could increase Rivera’s hand and foot speed advantages further.
One Bantamweight is likely pushed from the top 10, while the other’s dream of a title run is still alive.
Bantamweight is a division that moves quickly. There are so many highly talented up-and-comers that there is little room for error. Both of these veterans have proven their skill with big wins over the years, but as soon as those victories stop coming, some upstart will take their place and lengthen the road to the top.
Alternatively, the names of both Munhoz and Rivera still hold value at 135-pounds. Whichever man leaves the cage with his hand raised has earned a significant victory, one that should set him up another Top 10 opponent next. The potential title shot would still be several wins away, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 258 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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At UFC 258, Pedro Munhoz and Jimmie Rivera will duel in a pivotal Bantamweight clash. Which man will earn the victory?