- UFC Fight Night: Rivera vs Moraes takes place on Friday, June 1st at the Adirondack Bank Center in Utica, New York
- Bantamweights Jimmie Rivera and Marlon Moraes face off in the main event for what could end up being a title eliminator
- Lightweight prospect Gregor Gillespie faces a tough test in Vinc Pichel for the co-main event
Finally, a UFC Fight Night we can look forward to!
Just kidding, the upcoming UFC event on Friday, June 1st at the Adirondack Bank Center in Utica, New York, features yet another uninspiring card. UFC 225, which takes place the following week, features a highly-anticipated rematch between middleweight champ Robert Whittaker and top contender Yoel Romero, as well as a pivotal welterweight clash between Rafael dos Anjos and Colby Covington. But until then, we’ll have to make do with UFC Fight Night: Rivera vs Moraes.
A bantamweight bout between the fourth-ranked Jimmie Rivera and fifth-ranked Marlon Moraes is the marquee fight. The 135 lb division is currently swimming with talent, so both Rivera and Moraes need a big win in order to jockey for a title fight. In the co-main event, lightweights Gregor Gillespie and Vinc Pichel face for what could be an entertaining fight, but will ultimately have little impact on the division.
Jimmie Rivera (-120) vs Marlon Moraes (-110)
In a stacked bantamweight division, both Jimmie Rivera (21-1) and Marlon Moraes (20-5-1) have struggled to stand out from the crowd. The two most recent champions, TJ Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt, are due for a rematch in August, and after that it’s open season for the other contenders. The winner of Rivera vs Moraes should be well-placed for a shot at the strap.
The fighters are fourth and fifth in the official rankings, but their recent fight records tell a very different story. Rivera is 6-0 in the UFC and recently posted a win over hall-of-famer Urijah Faber. He’s riding a 20-fight win streak, undefeated for the last decade. Compare that to former champ Cody Garbrandt, who went 5-0 before being gifted a shot at then-champ Dominick Cruz, and it’s easy to understand why Rivera feels mistreated by the promotion.
Marlon Moraes is 2-1 in the UFC, and both of his wins included a heavy dose of luck. Against John Dodson, he etched a split decision victory that could have easily been awarded against him. And during his most recent fight against Aljamain Sterling, he was clearly losing before landing a freak knockout.
Rivera is a high-level striker. He knows how to pick his shots and his fast-pace style has a way of nullifying his opponents. He’s not the biggest hitter in the division and he’s not always the most entertaining fighter to watch, but few bantamweights are better at picking apart their opponents and cruising to a comfortable decision win.
Moraes is a well-rounded fighter, comfortable fighting both on the ground and on his feet. But like Edson Barboza, his fellow countryman and teammate, his kicks are his bread and butter. If left unchecked, he’ll turn his opponents’ legs into minced meat.
This is a close fight between two dark horses at bantamweight. Moraes has the fight-stopping power, and could put Rivera away at any point in the fight. Rivera isn’t known for his stoppages, but he can wear down his opponents, piece by piece. If Rivera fights a cautious fight, and picks his shots carefully, he’ll end the fight ahead on the scorecards.
Pick: Jimmie Rivera (-120)
Gregor Gillespie (-500) vs Vinc Pichel (+350)
Gregor Gillespie (11-0) takes on Vinc Pichel (11-1) in the co-main event. Gillespie is an NCAA Division I All-American who came to mixed martial arts relatively late in life. And with 11 wins in the span of just four years, the undefeated prospect is rapidly making up for lost time. Pichel, on the other hand, has only fought four times in as many years and has had his MMA career derailed due to injury.
The strategy for both fighters is clear. If Gillespie can take the fight to the ground, it’ll be his for the taking. Pichel will aim to keep the fight upright and put his superior striking ability to use. It’s easy to see why the odds lean so heavily in Gillespie’s favor. Just one successful takedown and it’s a vicious ground-and-pound until the referee waves him off. But the inexperienced former collegiate wrestler may lack the patience and judgement required to win this fight, which could lead to some heavy blows as he rushes forward.
At +350 odds, it’s worth taking the risk on Pichel. He knows that Gillespie will be constantly shooting for a takedown, and if he can clip him in the process, it could be lights out.
Pick: Vinc Pichel (+350)