Zhumagulov — who also fought on the McGregor vs Poirier II card at UFC 257 — is a 32-year-old, 5-foot-4 flyweight with a 13-5 record. Rivera is a 26-year-old, 5-foot-10, featherweight with a 10-5 record. Both men are winless in the UFC, and the loser on Saturday night could be on his way out of the promotion.
Excited yet? Well, you should be! This fight is going to be a blast for two key reasons: Zhumagulov’s almost reckless commitment to blitzing forward with bombs and Rivera’s height and reach advantage which will allow him the opportunity to implement his solid submission game.
Zhumagulov vs Rivera betting odds
Zhumagulov opened as a sizable favorite and has maintained at -370. Rivera, on the comeback, is at +230.
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Zhumagulov vs Rivera Breakdown
Initially, this fight looks like your classic striker vs. grappler matchup, which should raise questions about the odds. What may be less obvious, to those who haven’t seen him fight, is Zhumagulov’s not-so-secret weapon: relentlessness.
In his debut, Zhumagulov threw 126 total strikes, landing 55%, and shot for 11 takedowns. He lost a unanimous, and in my opinion, controversial, decision to Raulian Paiva. Undeterred in his next fight, Zhumagulov came out like a bat out of hell again, throwing 150 total strikes and shooting for 3 takedowns. He lost another unanimous decision to Amir Albazi. With his volume, varied attacks, wrestling, and propensity to throw his entire body weight behind every strike, even his losses are exciting fights.
Rivera’s style is much more measured and calculated. Preferring a more stick-and-move approach that pairs with his long frame. While not a slow pace, a defensive-minded approach is how Rivera tends to strike, likely because three of his five losses have come by KO. Put another way, Rivera does not like pressure and does not like to be hit. Instead, he’d rather the fight be at range or on the ground where he can implement any number of his array of submissions.
Zhumagulov vs Rivera Prediction
Rarely do you see a -370 favorite when the opponent has a clear path to victory and the favorite is 0-2 in the UFC. That is what makes this one of the scariest fights on the card in terms of a betting perspective. Rivera could bounce around the edge of the cage, pepper, and frustrate Zhumagulov to another unanimous decision loss. Or, if the fight goes to the ground, a submission from the top or bottom is a very realistic outcome.
All that being said, I’m on Zhumagulov in this one. I think his pressure will overwhelm Rivera, his leg kicks will blister the taller man’s lead leg, his power could rock Rivera, and his wrestling is good enough to dispel any submission attempts. Even though he’s 32-years-old and winless, I think Zhumagulov is an exciting fighter and someone who can go on a real winning streak. I predict that streak starts at UFC 264 with a win over Rivera.
Prediction: Zhalgas Zhumagulov to win via decision
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How to watch Zhalgas Zhumagulov vs. Jerome Rivera
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Michael Pounders is a high school English Teacher, a boxer himself, and is a fan who loves, gambles on, and nerds out about all things MMA.