Is the UFC Sleeping on Jimmie Rivera?

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 10: Jimmie Rivera celebrates after defeating Urijah Faber in their bantamweight bout during the UFC 203 event at Quicken Loans Arena on September 10, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Jimmie Rivera scored the biggest win of his career last September.

With his unanimous decision victory over Urijah Faber, Rivera joined the ranks of an elite few who have also bested the former WEC legend, which includes the likes of Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar,

Even if it was towards the tail end of Faber’s career, stepping into the cage with the UFC Hall of Famer is never a walk in the park. Even with a high-profile win in the bag, there is not much clamor surrounding “El Terror”.

Referring to himself as the division’s “dark horse”, Rivera broke his silence with MMAFighting.com. He remains baffled that the UFC has not given him a promotional push yet. This is a common issue brought up by several fighters, including UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson and Felice Herrig.

To an extent, Rivera is right. He is ranked fifth in the UFC media-generated rankings but is overshadowed by more familiar names in the division, such as John Dodson and Aljamain Sterling. With all the focus on the Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor press tour last week, not much promotion, has been put into this weekend’s UFC on Fox 25 card, let alone Rivera’s fight with Thomas Almeida.

UFC’s Skepticism

Other than Faber, Rivera hasn’t fought anyone worth of note in his 20-1 career.

You could make a case for Marcus Brimage, but he is primarily known for McGregor’s debut in the UFC. For Dragon Ball Z fans, he is also known for dressing up like Vegeta for the weigh-ins.

In terms of excitement, 14 of Rivera’s 20 wins have come via decision. Sadly, in the age of billion-dollar debt and acquisitions, it might fall short in the eyes of the UFC.

Choosing Thomas Almeida

Dodson called him out earlier in May, but Rivera opted for Almeida. He claimed that a match-up with Dodson would not be an “interesting” fight. In terms of rankings, Dodson and Almeida rank seventh and ninth, respectively. After his impressive win against Faber, Rivera shot up to fifth in the bantamweight division.

Almeida may appear to be the easier fight, but that is not the case. Bryan Caraway was his original opponent, but the fight was scrapped due to Caraway’s injury. On top of that, a fight with any of the top five seemed unlikely.

Raphael Assunção recently fought in June, and the matchup between T.J. Dillashaw and current division champion Cody Garbrandt is still in the works. Previous champion Dominick Cruz looks content with waiting behind the commentary desk for the winner of that bout, while John Lineker constantly struggles to make weight.

Interestingly enough, Almeida was in the same boat as Rivera. Despite his one loss to current champion Garbrandt, it is tough to recognize anyone else Almeida previously crossed off his hit list. On the flip side, Almeida possesses a fighting style which resulted in a series of highlight reel finishes. This should create a crazy back-and-forth affair, which is probably what Rivera had in mind when he wanted an “interesting” fight.

Fighting in front of his hometown crowd, Rivera welcomes a brawl with the flashy knockout artist. The possibility of enamoring himself to the local fans and the casuals could be career-changing, and Almeida is the perfect opponent to create some fireworks.

What Happens Next?

If Rivera wins, it would certainly prove that the victory over Urijah Faber was not a one-off. If he loses, the UFC will be glad they played it safe. Either way, the UFC is in no rush when it comes to the bantamweight division. The current triumvirate of Garbrandt, Dillashaw and Cruz should occupy the title picture for the near future.

There is still the prospect of the champion fighting Johnson in a super-fight, which would be bad news for Rivera. The last thing Rivera wants to do is wait even longer to make a push, but a great performance could change the course of his UFC career.

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