Middleweights Jorge Rivera and Constantinos Philippou will do battle on the main card of Saturday evening's UFC 133 event from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Constantinos "Costa" Philippou is a relative newcomer to the UFC. He's a native of Greece who holds an undefeated record in professional boxing, has over eighty amateur boxing matches, and tried out for the Greek Olympic squad. He trains out of the Serra-Longo team in New York, and faced Ricardo Romero -- who just split two fights in the UFC's light-heavyweight division -- in his MMA debut in 2008, losing a split decision. He also appeared briefly on the The Ultimate Fighter in the Ortiz vs. Liddell iteration, but was submitted by Joe Henle in the opening eliminator round.
Costa would go on to piece together a seven fight clip with one No Contest, all in Lou Neglia's Ring of Combat promotion, to earn his opportunity in the Octagon. Wrestler Nick Catone was his first foe and defeated Philippou by decision at UFC 128.
Jorge "El Conquistador" Rivera is a seasoned UFC veteran approaching forty-years old. Rivera deviously stirred the pot by poking and prodding Michael Bisping in a series of instigating videos leading up to their UFC 127 clash, but Bisping finished him by TKO in a bout marred by the controversy of the Brit's illegal knee.
Rivera has historically crushed the middle of the pack and nipped at the heels of the division's best, but fallen short. The two monumental performances of his recent UFC stint were the knockouts of Kendall Grove and Nate Quarry, which demonstrated the massive power he still holds in his fists.
A quick comparison of their fighting styles awaits after the jump.
Rivera's best asset is close-quarters brawling.
He's not the most fluid boxer in open space, but put him directly in front of someone and he can take and give punches with the best.
Rivera also loves to grab a single collar-tie and ram short right hands down his opponent's mouth. His overall clinch skills are excellent, having jockeyed back and forth with the likes of Rich Franklin and Anderson Silva.
He's a very no-frills grinder who does nothing fancy or excessive. He's difficult to take down and has solid submission defense and decent wrestling.
Rivera's standard strategy is to walk his opponent down with nothing more than a heavy, straight right hand and a left hook with the occasional jab mixed in.
He doesn't dance around with a lot of circling or angles, but prefers a head-on clash while staying on balance and light on his toes to repel any takedowns.
His chin isn't bad, but his propensity to stand in the pocket and wail away have garnered him six defeats via TKO, though they were delivered by some of the hardest hitters in the biz (such as Anderson Silva, Chris Leben, Terry Martin, and Bisping).
Philippou's past in professional boxing makes him an interesting match for Rivera, as both should be happy to oblige the other in a standing brawl.
Costa should rely on all of his footwork and defensive prowess to pick Rivera apart and then escape the pocket. If Rivera can clinch up or dig in and unload a volley at close range, there's not many who can carry on when he lands flush like Bisping does to the left.
The coaches at the Serra-Longo team are top-notch and will have Philippou rounded out as much as possible and fully prepared to impose his strengths.
While Philippou's comfort in a stand up fight might propel him to a win, I'll always side with the hardnosed veteran rather than emphasize potential. Rivera is nasty anytime he's within striking range, his clinch is fine-tuned, and he could always spring a takedown on the newcomer to capitalize on his grappling weakness. Costa has shown a pretty solid chin himself, so I think Rivera will methodically wear him down if he can't catch him by TKO.
My Prediction: Rivera by decision
Gifs via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com
Quarry x Rivera gif from mmagif.blogspot.com