UFC 173: Barao vs. Dillashaw - Takeya Mizugaki vs. Franciso Rivera preview and prognostication

Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting

Takeya Mizugaki looks to continue his winning sways against the hard hitting Francisco Rivera for UFC 173.

Takeya Mizugaki vs. Francisco Rivera Bantamweight

Francisco Rivera? Don't you mean Edwin Figueroa?

Huh?

Or is this a preview for Francisco Trinaldo vs. Chris Cariaso?

Do you not watch the UFC prelims?

Not all of us wine and dine beautiful woman who would otherwise not give you the time of day if it wasn't for the awesome bling you acquire writing for Bloody Elbow, and therefore don't have the money to watch every fight, so no...I don't know the difference between any of these guys.

Ok well that's what we're here for.

To start out with, I've been a little shocked by Mizugaki's success. He started out making a big impression to a North American audience with his fight with Miguel Torres. Torres, before being a paragon of the intense scrutiny Dana White subjects his fighters to when it comes to humor and bad taste, was 'the man' for a time. Mizugaki took him to the edge and back.

This Edge?

That link edited out the best part, and to wit: David Mamet's writing took a nosedive the closer he got to self proclaimed political enlightenment.

So back to Mizugaki...

I guess you would not have expected the loser of that fight to be more durable than the winner. Mizu has only lost 4 times since their title fight in 2009, which is about as many times as Torres has been counting sheep in his sleep as a result of losing a punch in the face contest.

So is Rivera at +148 any good? You don't sound too impressed by Mizugaki.

I am, actually.

Mizugaki is a cerebral speaker. Athletes are not always the most fascinating personalities, but Mizugaki's self awareness has always fascinated me. He's been explicit about the dilemma facing Japanese MMA, and he fights with urgency in his game. For as much as people balk at Miesha Tate's corner advice to Bryan Caraway in their bout, it was really a matter of Mizugaki defending well, and imposing his gameplan. Tate could have certainly helped influence Caraway's behavior in the 3rd round, but the outcome would have been the same.

However, I think the problem with Mizugaki lately is that his defense is still the same. Keeping your hands low is not a flaw in and of itself when it comes to boxing (like any striking or grappling tics, no strategy is perfect so it becomes a matter of which trade-off you prefer given your style and abilities). But when you have the head movement of a dead owl, you're not doing your brain favors except to warm your opponent's fists with your jaw.

Mizugaki gets hit a lot. Granted, it's a trade off. He loves the left hook, which he often loops because he likes throwing to counter an opponent's lateral movement. This is how Torres was confined to slugging it out. He could never establish range, and eventually didn't care to. He was getting hit, so he decided to had to hit back.

Rivera will gladly accept this, so those odds are solid.

This will be a pretty violent fight. Neither guy moves that well. Rivera plods his way through exchanges, standing flat footed at all times.

Do they have a common opponent?

Reuben Duran.

Mizugaki won a close decision while Rivera got finished via RNC.

In the exchanges, Rivera can win this one. He's got solid power for anyone at that weight, and is pretty quick. The problem for Rivera is that he doesn't defend the takedown all that well (which I suspect is sometimes deliberate: he drops down for a guillotine very quickly when he can get it), and Mizugaki carved out a nice Shooto career for himself before coming to NA as a top control wrestle-boxer type. It's why his game translated so well from overseas; his wrestling is more than adequate.

Still, Mizu is not a go getter when it comes to submissions and that's how Duran closed out the show against Rivera. If Mizugaki can't score a submission then three rounds of dealing with that kind of power is a tall task, which makes Rivera an increasingly attractive bet.

Still, Mizugaki is capable of eating a big punch. He's only been finished once by TKO, and it's not like his dance card is lacking: Miguel Torres, Scott Jorgensen, Urijah Faber, Brian Bowles, Jeff Curran, Ryota Matsune before knee injuries turned him into a vegetable, etc.

This fight could easily go Rivera's way with a simple right hand left hook combo, but I prefer Takeya's durability, and well roundedness.

Takeya Mizugaki by Decision.

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