Takeya Mizugaki (17-7-2, 3-2 UFC) vs. Erik Perez (13-4, 3-0 UFC)
Two bantamweight fighters looking to move themselves into the top ten in the UFC’s rankings as they head towards title contention get the bump to the main card as Mizugaki and Perez square off. Mizugaki has won two straight fights scoring back-to-back decision wins over Jeff Hougland in November, and over Bryan Caraway in March. Mizugaki is 3-2 over his last five bouts. Perez is a rising bantamweight contender who is undefeated in the UFC, and he will enter the fight with Mizugaki riding an eight-fight win streak. Perez was last in action in December where he scored a first-round knockout over Byron Bloodworth at UFC 155.
Fight Breakdown- Mizugaki signed with the Zuffa organization to compete in the WEC in 2009 and got an immediate title shot at then WEC Bantamweight Champion Miguel Torres. In one of the best fights in WEC history, Mizugaki pushed Torres the full 25 minutes but was unable to win the fight and Torres remained the champion. Mizugaki has struggled to find consistency as he then rotated wins-and-losses for the next few years before finally putting together his first two-fight win streak under the Zuffa banner with his last two fights. He could very well be on a four-fight win streak as the only loss in his last four fights came controversially against Chris Cariaso at UFC 144. Many thought Mizugaki won the fight, but Cariaso took the decision, and UFC President Dana White even thought Mizugaki won the fight and awarded him his win bonus. His recent wins over Hougland and Caraway show proof that Mizugaki is ready to return to a title fight.
Perez is a fighter being banked on to be a big star in the Hispanic market as his upbringing in Mexico and the fact he wears lucha libre masks to the Octagon have garnered him a decent amount of attention. He is getting the full marketing push from the UFC, and through three fights in the UFC, he has delivered with three first-round wins. He scored a submission win over John Albert in his debut, and then followed that with a 17-second win over Ken Stone, and then closed out 2012 with the knockout win over Bloodworth. He was set to fight in April against Johnny Bedford, but a serious staph infection forced him out of that fight, and he spent some time in the hospital recovering from it. Recovered and ready to go, he gets a big step up in competition in fighting a former title challenger, and as Perez puts his eight-fight win streak on the line, it’ll be time for him to show whether he is ready to contend for championships.
Mizugaki is a tough fighter who will never quit and he has only been finished twice in his career. The only time we’ve seen him finished on a big stage was during his fight against Urijah Faber when he was choked unconscious, but he never tapped out during that fight, so it showed how tough he is. He will need to display that toughness against Perez as he has looked like a title contender in his three prior UFC bouts. Perez packs a lot of power in his hands and has a solid submission game to go along with his striking. He comes from the Greg Jackson camp as well, training alongside some of the best fighters in the world. Mizugaki is a fighter that doesn’t do one thing great, but he sticks his nose in there and battles his opponents and forces them to do the right things to win the fight. Perez is coming off a gruesome staph infection that almost cost him his leg, and it remains to be seen how that will effect his performance.
Perez will probably win the fight on the feet so Mizugaki should look to mix it up and take the fight to the mat and establish top position. The problem with doing that is Perez has such good submissions and transitions that whether he is on top or bottom, he is likely winning the battle on the ground. Perez will have a solid gameplan at the hands of head coach Greg Jackson, and he has the potential to be great. Mizugaki does not have that same potential. Perez also has shown a knack for finishing fights while Mizugaki is a grinder who likes to take fights the distance. That will hurt him here as Perez looks to end this fight quickly. Mizugaki is tough to knock out, and while he has only been submitted once, it was by one of the best in the world. He will be submitted again but not without putting up a battle and surviving some deep waters.
Why It Matters- Perez saw his career flashing before his eyes when he suffered the serious staph infection. From training for a fight to potentially life-altering news, Perez has been through hell and back since his last fight. He is ready to return and show why he is being hyped as a potential future star in the sport. Perez has a long winning streak riding on the line in this fight, and this is his chance to firmly break into the top ten in the UFC’s bantamweight division.
Mizugaki would love to get the chance to fight for that championship once again. He is on his first win streak since signing with Zuffa, and by all means he should have won four straight fights. A win over Perez would bring a huge upswing in Mizugaki’s stock, and it would likely net him a top-ten ranking and a top-ten fight next. Mizugaki has his future aspirations of title fights riding on the line, and a win would put him on that track, so this is a huge fight for him.