CLEVELAND -- Jimmie Rivera just keeps rolling in the UFC bantamweight division.
Despite absorbing a low kick and eye poke throughout the fight, Rivera earned a unanimous-decision win over the No. 2 ranked bantamweight in the UFC, Urijah Faber, on the main card of UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland Saturday night.
With the win, Rivera improved to 20-1 in his pro career, and is now on a 19-fight winning streak. Faber (33-10) has dropped two straight fights.
Both fighters started out measuring each other and keeping their hands near their chins, but still willing to test the range.
Rivera proved to be the more active -- and accurate -- fighter in the first round. Rivera landed 17 of his 51 attempts, and all of those were deemed significant against Faber. Conversely, Faber, the former World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight champion, connected on just 10 of his 33 throws. Also, Faber rushed in twice for clinches, but was shrugged off by Rivera.
Just 29 seconds into the second round, Faber threw a left leg kick that landed below Rivera’s belt, and the referee called for a break in the action. After the brief respite for Rivera to catch his breath, Faber threw and landed a stiff left-handed punch to his opponent’s chin.
However, Rivera withstood the shot and kept Faber away from pursuing takedowns by throwing several leg kicks. One of those kicks landed to Faber’s lead leg and spun the No. 2 ranked bantamweight nearly 180 degrees before he recovered.
Rivera continued to pepper Faber’s lead leg with kicks for the remainder of the round, but the two fighters were relatively inactive, combining for just 32 strikes landed in the second stanza. Rivera landed 23 of those strikes, most of which were leg kicks.
Both fighters continued to measure each other and throw judicious punches in the third round, but while attempting to shoot in for a takedown with 3:35 showing on the clock, Rivera caught Faber with a left leg kick to the face.
Faber absorbed the kick, and was undeterred by the strike. However, while throwing a punch with his left hand, Faber poked Rivera in the eye, and that led to another delay in the action. Once the fight resumed, Rivera landed a flurry of punches before Faber recovered and attempted to change the pace of the fight.
Rivera outpointed Faber, 19-5, in strikes in the third and final round.