UFC Fight Night 131: Rivera vs. Moraes Staff Predictions

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Jimmie Rivera Marlon Moraes
Image Credit: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

On Friday, the Octagon touches down in Utica, New York, as UFC Fight Night 131: Rivera vs. Moraes (UFC Utica) goes down from the Adirondack Bank Center, airing live on FOX Sports 1 (FS1).

The show features a very interesting main event, as Bantamweight contenders Jimmie Rivera (#4) and former World Series of Fighting (WSOF) Bantamweight Champion Marlon Moraes (#5) square off in the headline bout.

As is always the case before a big Bellator or UFC event, some of the MMANews.com staff writers have joined up for a special pre-show predictions roundtable.

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Check out expert analysis, insight and predictions for the main card fights scheduled for UFC Utica below.

  • Bantamweight: Jimmie Rivera vs. Marlon Moraes
  • Lightweight: Gregor Gillespie vs. Vinc Pichel
  • Heavyweight: Walt Harris vs. Daniel Spitz
  • Welterweight: Jake Ellenberger vs. Ben Saunders
  • Featherweight: Julio Arce vs. Daniel Teymur
  • Light Heavyweight: Gian Villante vs. Sam Alvey

UFC FIGHT NIGHT 131 STAFF PREDICTIONS

Jimmie Rivera (21-1) vs. Marlon Moraes (20-5-1)

Matt Boone: If you’re a hardcore fight-fan, you’re probably anticipating this showdown quite a bit. A casual fan might not understand why this is a main event caliber bout, but anyone who follows the sport knows just how good Rivera and Moraes really are. Having said that, it’s an incredibly tough fight to predict. The odds makers have Rivera a very slight favorite at -120, while Moraes is a slight underdog at +100. Both guys can end the fight with one shot, as Moraes proved in scary fashion recently against Aljamain Sterling. With both guys ranked in the top five, this is a very important fight for the UFC’s Bantamweight division. The winner could very well be in line for a title shot. At the end of the day, I’ve got to go with Rivera, but I honestly could go either way on this one. (Prediction: Jimmie Rivera)

Fernando Quiles, Jr.: Rivera vs. Moraes is a quality main event. Rivera has proven that he’s worthy of a major fight, while Moraes has hit his stride. I see Rivera pulling off a decision here, but Moraes will keep it clsoe and have his moments. I think “El Terror” avoids big damage to slightly outperform Moraes (Prediction: Jimmie Rivera)

Ian Carey: Jimmie Rivera has a chance to go 6-0 (UFC) and put himself amongst the very top tier in the division with a win. Don’t sleep on the former WSOF champion, however. Moraes knocked Aljamain Sterling out in devastating style his last time out and sounds confident heading into this one. He’s also got a knack for pulling out tough split-decision victories in fights where he’s the underdog. I like Marlon Moraes to take a hard fought decision victory in a thriller of a main event. (Prediction: Marlon Moraes)

CONSENSUS: Jimmie Rivera (2-1)

Gregor Gillespie (11-0) vs. Vinc Pichel (11-1)

Matt: While the odds have Gillespie a solid four and a half to one betting favorite, to Pichel being a +350 underdog, I wouldn’t even bother looking at those numbers. The real numbers are their fight records, which have Gillespie undefeated and Pichel with only one loss in his career, which came six years ago. This is an exciting matchup, and while I agree that Gillespie will take it, I don’t think it’s as sure-a-thing as the odds would have you believe. (Prediction: Gregor Gillespie)

Fernando: Gillespie is dangerous, but Pichel is no cakewalk. I think Gillespie will find success with takedowns here. Eventually all that weight will bare down on Pichel and Gillespie may keep it standing with minimal risk. I think Gillespie takes it. (Prediction: Gregor Gillespie)

Ian: Both fighters come into this one having won 4 straight in the UFC. In Gillespie’s case he’s won 11 straight to start his pro career. Pichel, however, has won his last 4 and his first 2 since coming back from a 3-year layoff. Despite being “from Hell” though, Pichel might be in over his head here. Gillespie, like most undefeated fighters, feels unstoppable right now. Throw in the fact he decided to cut and make weight two weeks ago just to prep himself and there is something about this guy I just won’t bet against right now. (Prediction: Gregor Gillespie)

CONSENSUS: Gregor Gillespie (3-0)

Walt Harris (10-7) vs. Daniel Spitz (6-1)

Matt: In a battle of Heavyweights, we have Walt Harris coming off of two loses, one which was a DQ in his last fight, and a submission loss to former UFC Heavyweight Champion Fabricio Werdum. Regardless, the odds favor him to win as he sits as a three-to-one favorite. Every card has upsets, and Heavyweights are as good a risky pick as you can make. Having said that, I’ll go with the underdog upset pick in this one. (Prediction: Daniel Spitz)

Fernando: A lot of people are picking Walt Harris and for good reason. He simply has more experience inside the Octagon than Spitz, who is 1-1 in the UFC. With that said, I’ll go with the slight underdog here. I think Spitz catches Harris sleeping and locks in a choke for the tap (Prediction: Daniel Spitz)

Ian: Despite being a -265 favorite, I’m not sure Walt Harris is a guy I would want to invest in at the moment. He’s 3-7 in the UFC and will turn 35 years old a week after this fight. On the other side of the cage will be 27-year-old Daniel Spitz who needed all of 24 seconds to disperse of Anthony Hamilton in his last fight. The only loss of his career occured at UFC 209 when he took his first UFC fight on 9 days notice. I like Spitz to end this early. (Prediction: Daniel Spitz)

CONSENSUS: Daniel Spitz (3-0)

Jake Ellenberger (31-13) vs. Ben Saunders (21-9-2)

Matt: Am I crazy, or is this the second most interesting fight — on paper — coming into the event? I know both guys are on the back-nine of their MMA careers, but still, it’s two well-known veteran stars battling in an exciting welterweight tilt. The odds favor Saunders, who sits at +170 to Ellenberger’s -200. At a glance, I pick Saunders, but I have a feeling about this one. I can’t really explain it. I think Ellenberger pulls it off. (Prediction: Jake Ellenberger)

Fernando: At least for one night, one of these men hope to turn back the clock. Saunders will hope to land one of those big knees in the clinch, or submit Ellenberger on the ground. Ellenberger will be in search of the one-hitter quitter. I see Saunders fishing for a submission, but getting bombarded with ground-and-pound. (Prediction: Jake Ellenberger)

Ian: Jake Ellenberger and Ben Saunders are both guys who can win fights, it’s just they haven’t been doing so with much regularity the last few years. Ellenberger has lost 7 of his last 9 and has been out over a year since a 1st round KO loss via Mike Perry. Saunders is coming into this having been knocked out in his last two bouts as well. While both fighters have been making a habit out of losing as of late, I think Ellenberger is going to KO Saunders here. Despite his recent record, Ellenberger showed when he KO’ed Matt Brown that he can still finish tough guys. (Prediction: Jake Ellenberger)

CONSENSUS: Jake Ellenberger (3-0)

Julio Arce (13-2) vs. Daniel Teymur (6-1)

Matt: This is another tough one to pick. The odds have Arce a two-to-one favorite and Teymur a +170 underdog. I don’t know a lot about these guys, but I’ll go with Arce. (Prediction: Julio Arce)

Fernando: Arce is on a roll at the moment. He’s riding a six-fight winning streak and has finished three of his opponents in that span. Meanwhile, Teymur hit a snag recently. He lost to Danny Henry in his UFC debut. I think Arce keeps the momentum going and takes a decision win. (Prediction: Julio Arce)

Ian: Both featherweights just started their UFC careers last year. Arce is off to a fast start having already won 2 straight. Teymur meanwhile dropped his UFC debut but picked up Fight of the Night honors after his decision loss to Danny Henry. I like a heavily motivated Teymur to fight a smart bout and avoid his 2nd straight UFC loss. (Prediction: Daniel Teymur)

CONSENSUS: Julio Arce (2-1)

Gian Villante (16-9) vs. Sam Alvey (32-10, 1 NC)

Matt: I love this match as the opener for the FS1 main card tomorrow night. Both guys always bring it, and each are closely matched. Having said that, the odds reflect those sentiments, as Villante sits as a +124 underdog to -144 betting favorite Alvey. I’ll agree with those odds. (Prediction: Sam Alvey)

Fernando: This won’t be the most techincal bout you’ve ever seen, but it could prove to be a fun opening main card bout. Villante has been known to swing for the fence and I expect him to throw power punches here. I think Alvey will land more strikes and maintain control in clinch positions. I’ve got Alvey taking this fight. (Prediction: Sam Alvey)

Ian: This will be Sam Alvey’s 14th UFC fight in just under 4 years with the promotion. If it wasn’t for a couple of decision losses to Thales Leites and Ramazan Emvee, he’d be on a 6 fight winning streak too. In his 43 career fights he’s only been knocked out once and submitted once. He’s also married and has 3 kids with a woman who won America’s Next Top model in 2008. Sam Alvey is a winner. Don’t bet against him. Villante is a tough veteran who is 6-6 in the UFC but Alvey will find a way to beat him. (Prediction: Sam Alvey)

CONSENSUS: Sam Alvey (3-0)


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