Prior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look ahead to the headliner at UFC Fight Night 131 as top five bantamweights collide as Brazil’s Marlon Moraes takes on New Jersey’s Jimmie Rivera in a pivotal matchup with divisional importance.
Marlon Moraes (Record: 20-5, -115 Pickem, Power Ranking: A)
The 30-year-old Brazilian has had perhaps the most difficult three opponents to start a UFC career of anyone in bantamweight history. With that said, he’s done well going 2-1 highlighted by a knockout win over high level prospect Aljamain Sterling. Moraes is one win away from a bantamweight title shot.
The Brazilian bantamweight rose to prominence in the now defunct World Series of Fighting. Along with Justin Gaethje, Moraes’ stardom was born out of that organization. Moraes won all eleven of his fights in that organization doing so in dominant fashion. Moraes game begins with his stand up. He’s one of the most technical strikers in the division. He mixes in punches well with a tremendous kicking game. His last four finishes have come by some variety of a head kick including the devastating finishing of the aforementioned Sterling. Moraes has not been a heavy volume striker (3.09 significant strikes per 15 minutes), but has proven to be effective. He’s shown that he can compete with the best fighters in the division and excels against fighters that prefer to brawl as opposed to stand on the outside and exchange strikes.
Jimmie Rivera (Record: 21-1, -115 Pickem, Power Ranking: A-)
The New Jersey born and raised bantamweight has been on one of the longest winning streaks in modern MMA. He’s won twenty consecutive fights having not lost since November 21, 2018 against Jason McLean by split decision in Ring of Combat.
Rivera has not missed a beat since coming over from Cage Fury Fighting Championships in 2015. He’s won five straight fights to open his UFC career and is certainly a contender for the UFC Bantamweight Championship. On the feet, Rivera has a physical, brawling approach. He’s certainly a physically strong fighter that is top heavy in terms of size. He’s very much shaped like a traditional wrestler. That upper body strength had made formidable on the feet as he throws heavy punches with both hands. He’s reminiscent of a younger Chad Mendes that was still looking to improve his striking technique. In the same vein, he is hittable on the feet and has gotten himself into trouble by being over aggressive. Rivera can hold his own on the ground as he’s a solid offensive wrestler with excellent takedown defense. In his five fights in the UFC, an opponent has yet to secure a takedown against him.
In a pivotal matchup in the bantamweight division, Marlon Moraes and Jimmie Rivera square off in the main event of UFC Fight Night 131. Both of these fighters enter this bout at the apex of their respective careers. I expect this to be intriguing fight as each fighter presents a different style on the feet. Moraes is much more tactical in his approach, while Rivera tends to be aggressive and looks to smother opponents with pressure. While both styles can have success, I tend to favor the more technical striker. A brawling type fighter usually provides more openings defensively and that’s where I can see Moraes land the more effective strikes in this fight. This will be a five round fight, so it will be interesting to see how Rivera does in the later rounds as he has shown some signs of fatigue in the past. Rivera hasn’t lost a bout in nearly ten years, but this is the best fighter he has faced during that run and more importantly he’s facing a fighter at his best. Look for Moraes to land the cleaner strikes tiring out Rivera to win a decision and earn the next shot at the bantamweight title. Moraes’ technical advantages are worth a small bet at -115.