UFC 122: Is Jorge Rivera a Dark Horse in the UFC Middleweight Division?

Brian O. BlakeCorrespondent INovember 12, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 24:  UFC fighter Jorge Rivera (L) hits UFC fighter Rob Kimmons (R) during their Middleweight bout at UFC 104: Machida vs. Shogun at Staples Center on October 24, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)
Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

At the age of 38 and with nearly 10 years under his belt as a professional fighter, Jorge Rivera's journey through the mixed martial arts world has had the feel of a turbulent roller coaster ride.  While most men his age would have gotten off the ride, he remains fully strapped in.

Back in June of 2001, Rivera quietly made his pro debut against Branden Lee Hinkle in the town of Chester, West Virginia, where he was topped just shy of the two minute mark in the second round.

Over the next two years, he would string together five wins, one of them being a third-round TKO over Travis Lutter, ultimately granting him an invitation to the UFC. 

While most will remember UFC 44: Undisputed for Randy Couture's one sided drumming of Tito Ortiz to unify the Light Heavyweight Championship, Rivera will look back and recall his unanimous decision win over David Loiseau.

Success for Rivera on the sport's biggest stage wouldn't last long as his next outing at UFC 46: Supernatural ended in under two minutes when Lee Murray submitted the Milford, Massachusetts fighter known as El Conquistador.

It is that kind of inconsistency that has haunted Rivera throughout the duration of his career.  Just as his stock appears to be rising, the likes of an Anderson Silva, Rich Franklin or a Chris Leben will send him crashing back down.

Following his 2006 TKO loss to Leben, Rivera appeared as a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter's fourth season which was billed as "The Comeback."  While the Milford fighter known as El Conquistador failed to make it out of the quarterfinals where Patrick Cote defeated him via unanimous decision, Rivera looked impressive during the live finale where he scored a TKO midway through the first round over semifinalist Edwin Dewees.

Rivera's most recent loss came at the hands of Martin Kampmann, when Kampmann slapped on a guillotine choke a couple of minutes into the bout.

Just months after the Kampmann loss, Rivera was dealt a blow far more devastating than anything he had previously felt inside the Octagon when his eldest daughter Janessa passed away prematurely.

Considering his recent losses both in and out of the cage, at the age of 36, people had every reason to believe that the end was drawing near for Rivera.

Instead of quietly walking into the sunset, Rivera did what he's done all throughout his career: he battled back.

He's now riding one of those all too familiar winning streaks, and now would usually be about the time the door to next level of stardom and success gets violently slammed in his face.

But this time around, things have a different feel for Rivera as he gets ready to do battle with Alessio Sakara at UFC 122: Marquardt vs. Okami in Germany.

Ever since his return to the cage in April of last year, he's been a man on a mission, exuding a level of focus and intensity that previously hadn't been seen from him.

His renewed dedication had never been so apparent as when it paid dividends in his last outing, which many feel was the greatest performance of his career, when he scored a spectacular TKO win over Nate Quarry, officially putting the middleweight division on notice that he's not messing around.

With such a talent rich division filled with some of the sports biggest names, whether it's an Anderson or a Wanderlei Silva, a Marquardt or a Maia, it's easy for one to get lost in the shuffle.

Whether he's doing it all on his own or he's getting a little help from above, it appears that Jorge Rivera is finally ready to reach the great heights that have eluded him for all these years.


Questions and comments can be sent to brianoblake@yahoo.com .