A pair of top-10 bantamweights will be looking to raise their stocks and emerge as a possible future title contender when they square off this weekend in Las Vegas at UFC 173. Takeya Mizugaki is on an impressive four-fight win streak heading into his clash against the hard-hitting and surging Francisco Rivera.
Mizugaki was initially slated to face T.J. Dillashaw, but “The Viper” ended up getting a main-event title shot against bantamweight champ Renan Barao after middleweight champion Chris Weidman was forced off the card due to a knee injury. The Japanese bantamweight still draws a formidable assignment against ”Cisco”.
The no. 6-ranked Mizugaki has developed a reputation as a fan-friendly competitor based on a number of spirited clashes during both his WEC and UFC tenures. His most recent performance was a dominant unanimous-decision victory in December over Nam Phan at Fight Night 33 in Australia.
Since his last defeat, a controversial decision loss to Chris Cariaso at UFC 144, Mizugaki has also recorded wins against Jeff Hougland, Bryan Caraway and Erik Perez. The 30-year-old has five knockouts and a submission finish in 19 career wins. Mizugaki is well prepared to go the distance, having recorded 13 victories by decision.
As for Rivera, it’s his second stint with the organization and he’s made the most of it, going 3-0 with one no-contest. He had a knockout victory over Roland Delorme overturned because of a failed post-fight drug test. Rivera’s most recent Octagon effort was a second-round destruction of George Roop at Fight for the Troops 3 back in November.
Rivera has produced seven knockouts in 10 career victories and is unbeaten in his last six fights. He will finally be getting his first crack at a top-10 opponent in facing Mizugaki. Rivera had been slated to face Raphael Assuncao at UFC 170 back in February, but was forced to withdraw from that fight because of a hand injury.
This bout stacks up as a crowd-pleasing contest. Mizugaki is a non-stop, crisp striker who has tested himself against solid opposition in a 28-fight career. Rivera is ultra-aggressive and has legitimate one-punch knockout power. He’s finally getting the step up in competition that he’s deserving of. The winner of this matchup will be slated for major fights moving forward in the bantamweight division.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports