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UFC Ultimate Fighter recap: Team Nelson pulls off the upset

Results and recap from week 3 of The Ultimate Fighter, as Team Nelson takes on Team Carwin's #1 pick.

Week 3 of The Ultimate Fighter finds us settling into the regular groove of the show. Nothing too surprising... until fight time rolled around that is. Team Carwin sent the #1 overall pick in there to win an easy mismatch. But it didn't go according to plan:

Joey Rivera (Team Nelson) def. Sam Alvey (Team Carwin)
2nd round majority decision (19-19, 20-18, 20-18)
Teams tied at 1-1

I absolutely did not see that result coming, as Alvey looked like a possible finalist to me. Pre-fight, Team Nelson talked about how tough Rivera is and blah blah blah, but I took it to be the normal pre-fight hype from his teammates. Turned out they were right, as Rivera just shut Alvey down.

Key to Rivera's success were two things - a headkick that landed again and again, and a well timed takedown where Rivera ducked under Alvey's punch, shot in for the takedown, and took control. He used those two techniques repeatedly, and while Alvey had a bit more success shrugging off the takedown in round 2, it wasn't nearly enough. I had it 20-18, though I can see how one judge was swayed by Alvey's hard hammerfists to close out round 1. It's still a bad call to give him the round, but I see why they did it. Alvey also seemed hurt by one of those powerful headkicks in round 2, as he caught it on the arm, then shook out the arm a number of times. It wouldn't susprise me at all to discover he had broken something.

In the end, Rivera had better takedowns, more control, bigger strikes, and a lot of quality submission attempts. This was a shockingly easy win for Team Nelson, as their #7 pick takes out the early favorite.

Other random notes from the week:

  • Joey Rivera spent considerably more time talking about his sexual habits than was needed. Fighters are weird sometimes.
  • Also weird - Alvey met his fiancee at he Bristol Ren Faire? Awesome.
  • Very little from the coaches this week, though next week looks very Roy vs. Dana centered.
  • Speaking of coaches, I want lots more of serious Pat Barry. He always comes across as such a goof, but seeing him focused and giving advice here is fascinating. More please.
  • I'm really liking Mike Ricci so far. His take on Nic's annoying pool playing was fascinating, as Ricci immediately saw it for what it was - a fighter who was not confident in his skills and needs to rely on headgames starting to fold under the pressure. Very accurate and well said.
  • Quote of the week comes from Rivera: "My goal is to finish him, whether by KO, TKO, Submission, or Decision." So... mission accomplished?

Finally, we close things out with a look at this week's winner and try to predict how he'll do both on TUF, and in the UFC.

32 years old | 5'11" | 72" reach

Joey "Boom Boom" Rivera is one of this season's oldest competitors at 32 years old, but he's only been a pro since 2007. He fights out of Apex MMA in Tucson, AZ, and has competed mainly in their regional scene up until now. Rivera won his first seven pro fights, all via stoppage with many quick wins, before losing his last pre-TUF fight via doctor stoppage. He doesn't have any notable names on his resume, with his best win coming over Shannon Ritch (but seriously, who hasn't defeated Ritch? The guy's Sherdog record is listed at a jaw-dropping 50-75.) Overall, he hasn't faced a very tough level of opponent yet.

In his fights, Rivera likes the technique he used so well against Alvey - duck the punch, blast through with a takedown, secure top position. He's good at controlling the ground game, and goes for a lot of submissions. One thing that concerns me though (and you saw this against Alvey) is his inability to finish subs. He consistently gets them locked on tightly, but then struggles to get the tap. Standing, he has decent power, but uses that power primarily to transition to the ground.

Overall, I think Rivera was clearly a bit underrated by Team Carwin, but I still don't think he gets past the next round. He's pretty one dimensional, and at 32, is a bit older to be starting his UFC career. That said, with the right match-up, his takedown and ground control could be enough. But I don't see him pulling off another upset.

Here's video of Rivera in action against, oddly enough, K-1 veteran Rick Roufus. This fight doesn't show up on either man's record, so perhaps it's some sort of amateur/exhibition fight? Anyway, some nice work from Rivera here, with a good finish.

Joey Rivera vs. Rick Roufus Video:

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