Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight strikers Jimmie Rivera and Petr Yan will throw down this Saturday (June 8, 2019) at UFC 238 from inside United Center in Chicago, Illinois.
Rivera entered UFC already riding an absolutely massive win streak, and he quickly picked up five more victories to announce himself as a top contender. Unfortunately for the New Jersey native, it all fell apart soon after, as Rivera has now lost two of his previous three fights and slipped from the Top 5. Yan has been on the roster for less than a year, but the Russian striker has terrorized four opponents in that time to rise quickly through the ranks. This is a definite step up in competition for “No Mercy,” who has a chance to break into the title mix at the age of 26.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
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: Marlon Moraes (UFC Fight Night 131), Aljamain Sterling (UFC on ESPN 1)
Keys to Victory: To be frank, Rivera was really flat in his last outing, an uninspired decision loss to Sterling that saw Rivera rather passive. At his best though, Rivera is an aggressive, stalking counter striker with brutal low kicks and a mean left hook.
So far, no one has really been willing to stand up to Yan’s forward assault. The Russian throws mean combinations himself, and the usual result is his opponent’s give ground. At that point, the fight is already lost, as Yan is able to tie together punches, head movement, and pressure extremely well.
Rivera is tough, hits plenty hard, and is comfortable in the pocket. If Rivera is going to have a chance, he cannot play Yan’s game and back off; he must take the chance of getting cracked and stand his ground.
In addition, Rivera’s calf kicks could be a major weapon. Yan may switch his stance often enough, but he really sets his weight to throw all these powerful combinations. If Rivera is able to blast him out of position a few times, it may finally make Yan hesitate.
Key Wins: John Dodson (UFC Fight Night 145), Douglas Silva de Andrade (UFC 232), Teruto Ishihara (UFC Fight Night 132)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Yan is Bantamweight’s best pressure striker by a fair margin. A Master of Sport in boxing and mixed martial arts, Yan calmly stalks opponents around the ring, switching stances effortlessly as he herds foes into power punches and throws smart combinations.
Yan pretty much fights the same way in each fight, applying so much pressure that his opponent is forced onto the defensive. At that point, Yan’s comfort in the pocket, boxing experience, and excellent head movement generally guarantee that he’s going to get the better of the exchanges.
Against Rivera, there are only a couple adjustments I’d like to see Yan make. First and foremost, getting on Rivera immediately would be smart — Rivera never left first gear against “Aljo,” so if Yan can similarly make him lose confidence early, he’s in for an easy night. In addition, fighting more often from the Southpaw stance would limit the effectiveness of Rivera’s calf kick, so perhaps that would be a smart decision.
Bottom Line: This should be a really great scrap.
If Rivera is to remain a relevant player in the Bantamweight division, he absolutely must win this fight. The only win really keeping Rivera highly ranked is a 2015 split-decision victory opposite Pedro Munhoz; he’s otherwise winless against foes currently ranked in the top 10. This is an opportunity to amend that problem and return to the win column with momentum behind him, but it’s also a perilous situation for the longtime veteran.
As for Yan, it’s a pretty major opportunity as well. He’s climbing through the ranks at a remarkable pace, the way champions ascend. If Yan wins here, he’s likely just one more big victory away from a title opportunity, which is pretty astounding given his youth and his relative newness to professional competition.
At UFC 238, Jimmie Rivera and Petr Yan will square off. Which fighter will remain standing when the dust settles?