In a closely fought, gruelling battle at UFC 133 late replacement Costantinos Phillipou got the better of long-time UFC fighter Jorge Rivera.
The first round wasn’t particularly eventful with Phillipou opting to press Rivera up against the cage for a significant portion of the 5 minutes without gaining a whole lot from it.
There was some nice action towards the end of the opening stanza however when Rivera caught his opponent with a left followed by a hard right down the pipe, while Phillipou responded soon after with a big uppercut.
Onto the second and Phillipou turned up the heat, dropping Rivera with a strike during an exchange and then swooping in for ground and pound in the hope of a finish.
It looked very closer to being stopped as Rivera turtled up, but not a moment too soon he managed to reverse the position and bide some time in top position to regain his senses before eventually they got back to their feet.
Coming off second best in the stand-up battle it was Rivera who was next to try to take the fight to the mat utilizing a nice trip, but Phillipou then showed his developing ground game by attempting an omaplata. Unfortunately he couldn’t find a way to finish it and Rivera made it out to the third.
Onto the final round and both men are starting to tire but they trade slightly wild blows anyway. It’s a risky gameplan and Phillipou thinks the better of it and decides to go for another takedown.
Suprisingly Rivera throws up a triangle choke but Phillipou shrugs it off easily and is back to his feet. The action’s getting sloppy now with both men running out of gas. Some lethargic clinch work against the cage follows and Phillipou fails on a takedown attempt leaving him on his knees with Rivera on top.
Unable to do anything with the position the two men are soon back up on their feet again where Rivera attempts a late takedown and gets it wrong allowing Phillipou to end the round on top.
It’s a closely contested fight and that’s reflected in the split decision scorecard, but in the end the right man wins, with Costantinos Phillipou getting his hand raised (29-28 x2, 28-29).
With his win the short-notice replacement may wel have confirmed the 39 year-old Rivera’s retirement from the sport, something he had stated would likely happen if he lost.