Bantamweight Francisco Rivera Getting Chance To Prove If He's A Legitimate UFC Title Threat

By Rick LaFitte
Francisco Rivera
Joshua Lindsey – Rant Sports Media

Francisco Rivera has definitely proven himself to be an explosive UFC bantamweight, and he will be getting his stiffest challenge yet at UFC 170. “Cisco” will tangle with No. 4 ranked, 135-pounder Raphael Assuncao on Feb. 22. Assuncao has won his last five fights to emerge as a title contender, including most recently earning a hard-fought split decision win over T.J. Dillashaw in a Fight of the Night at Fight Night 29 in Brazil.

Rivera’s heavy hands were most recently on display at Fight for the Troops 3 in Kentucky. Rivera finished George Roop in impressive fashion with a second round TKO. Rivera showed his tremendous finishing instincts, as upon badly hurting the veteran, he swarmed with haymaker after haymaker until Roop finally crumpled to the canvas and the bout was halted.

Rivera is 3-0-and-1 in his second stint with the organization. He had a first round stoppage of Roland Delorme at UFC 149 changed to a no-contest after he tested positive for a banned substance in the post-fight drug test. He’s has also recorded victories against Alex Soto and Edwin Figueroa during this impressive stretch.

Since a submission loss to Reuben Duran at The Ultimate Fighter 13 finale, Rivera is 5-0-and-1 overall; four of those victories have been by stoppage. Rivera is a fun fighter to watch, as he puts everything into his punches and has shown himself to be a brutal closer. At 10-2-and-1 for his career and in the midst of a win streak inside the Octagon, Rivera appears more than ready for this substantial upgrade in competition.

He will get quite the test in the talented Brazilian, as Assuncao has had a tremendous career revival since moving down from the featherweight ranks after being knocked out by Erik Koch at UFC 128. Since that time, he’s also posted victories against Vaughan Lee, Mike Easton, Issei Tamura and Johnny Eduardo; three of those five wins have come by either knockout or submission. While Assuncao does throw hard, wild punches from odd-angles, he hasn’t shown the type of punching prowess that Rivera has. It is Assuncao’s submission game that could be the key to success against Rivera. The Brazilian has 10 submission victories amongst his 21 career wins.

It’s a real interesting case of matchmaking with this one — an established title contender in Assuncao, looking to continue his winning ways and possibly secure a 2014 title opportunity, against a truly dangerous brawler in Rivera. We will find out plenty about both fighters in Las Vegas.

Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports.

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