Six years passed between Pedro Munhoz and Jimmie Rivera’s first and second fights. But the result of the rematch at UFC Vegas 20 was set almost from the outset by a single technique.
The calf kick, ever-present in today’s octagon, was Munhoz’s key to dismantling Rivera over three rounds.
First one that I threw, I saw in his eyes that he felt a little bit lost, like a little bit hurt,” Munhoz told UFC broadcaster Laura Sanko on the ESPN post-fight show. “Then in the moment, I realized, I said, ‘I’m going to keep applying it.’”
The more kicks Rivera took, the less mobile he was. Unable to cut angles as quickly, he was forced to slug it out with Munhoz, whom he defeated by split decision in their first meeting in Sao Paulo.
Between the first and second round, Rivera informed his cornermen of his compromised position.
For Munhoz, it was another validation of his hard work in the gym. Known for his powerful kicks, he showed what separates him from other bantamweights.
“That’s something that I’ve been training for a long time and I display in a lot of my fights, too,” he said. “I just felt like the right moment to apply the technique.”
Of course, Rivera also applied it. By the end of the fight, both fighters’ ankles were swollen and red. They showed them off after Munhoz was declared the winner via unanimous decision.
Munhoz avenged his loss and snapped a two-fight skid that included decision losses to current No. 1 contender Aljamain Sterling and Frankie Edgar. The latter stung in particular to Munhoz, who felt he’d done more damage than the ex-lightweight champ. The win over Rivera was just what he needed.
“That’s the type of fight that I like to be in,” he said.
When it comes to his next bout, Munhoz is aiming high, proposing to face off with ex-champ T.J. Dillashaw, who this past month fulfilled a two-year suspension from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
Dillashaw has claimed he’ll get an immediate title shot. But if that’s not the case, Munhoz would suggest a first stop.
“Many people are saying T.J.’s coming back,” Munhoz said. “Nothing against him. He’s such a great fighter, a former champ. I respect him and his whole team. I think I would be ready to welcome him back.”