UFC Utica Preview, Breakdown & Analysis

Photo Credit: John David Mercer for USA TODAY Sports
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Due to the fact that it’s following a packed weekend of mixed martial arts action and the fact that a blockbuster UFC pay-per-view (PPV) will be taking place next weekend, UFC Fight Night 131, which goes down this Friday (June 1, 2018) from the Adirondack Bank Center in Utica, New York, has flown under the radar a bit.

And while it’s not the most stacked card, there are a few important and intriguing fights.

In the main event, surging bantamweight contender Jimmie Rivera will take on Marlon Moraes in a five-round affair that could, in fact, determine the next 135-pound title contender. The co-main event will play host to a lightweight battle between red-hot contenders Gregor Gillespie and Vinc Pichel. Also on the main card, heavyweights Walt Harris and Daniel Spitz will do battle.

Without further ado, let’s take a deeper look into UFC Utica’s top fights:

Jimmie Rivera vs. Marlon Moraes

In the main event we have a battle between two of the top bantamweights in the world.

Since losing his second professional fight in 2008, Rivera has been on a tear, rattling off 20 straight victories including five straight in the UFC.

A third-degree black belt under Tiger Schulmann, Rivera is quite a skilled striker. The 28-year-old moves well, has solid footwork and possesses strong kickboxing skills. Aggressive at times, Rivera has also shown the ability to counter-strike, although he’s also shown to be a bit hittable at times, especially when coming in.

In terms of grappling, Rivera has solid wrestling skills despite not coming from a traditional wrestling background. And while he has shown the ability to land the takedown, his wrestling has more often than not been seen defensively.

Not necessarily known for his submissions (only two submission wins to his credit, Rivera certainly isn’t a slouch when the fight hits the mat. His submission defense is typically on point and he’s a strong bantamweight who’s proven to have solid awareness.

Moving on to Moraes, the former World Series of Fighting (WSOF) bantamweight champion has gone 2-1 since signing with the UFC in 2017 and is coming off of a vicious knockout victory over Aljamain Sterling.

On the feet, the Brazilian is a dangerous Muay Thai striker, which likely comes from years of training with Edson Barboza. His leg kicks are some of the best in the sport, but he varies up his attack as well, kicking to the head and the body. He’s also been training with Mark Henry, which has helped round out his striking game and specifically, improved his jab.

In terms of grappling, Moraes’ wrestling has only improved since making the move to America to train with the likes of Frankie Edgar and Eddie Alvarez. He’s difficult to take down, but when he is, he’s dangerous. A Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Moraes is usually looking to attack on the canvas and has five submission victories to his credit.

As far as a prediction goes, this fight is a difficult one to call for me given that both men are closely matched high-level fighters. I could see either scoring a finish in the opening rounds, but I feel the more likely outcome is for the bout to go to a decision where I think Rivera will be rewarded for controlling the action and winning more rounds.

Prediction: Jimmie Rivera def. Marlon Moraes via unanimous decision