He doesn't rank up there with the likes of Matt Hughes, Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture, but Jorge Rivera certainly did his part as one of the building blocks for the UFC.
A long-time card filler since 2003, Rivera announced earlier in the day that he was retiring following his fight tonight. He seized the opportunity to shine in his final trip to the Octagon by wearing down and eventually punching out Eric Schafer at the 1:31 mark of the second round of the final fight on the FUEL TV portion of the UFC on FX 1 card.
"I want to thank Zuffa. I want to thank Dana White, the Fertitta brothers, Burt Watson, whose voice I'm going to miss dearly in the back," Rivera told UFC play-by-play announcer Jon Anik.
Rivera then turned his attention to thanking his family and training partners. That's when he got a bit emotional.
It was nice to see the near 40-year-old make it to the cage tonight for his 15th career fight with the promotion. He nearly retired back in 2009 after the tragic passing of his daughter Jessica.
Rivera (19-9) turned pro back in 2001. He finishes with an 8-7 record in the UFC. He rose near the top of the division facing former UFC middleweight champ Rich Franklin at UFC 50. He also lost to current contender Michael Bisping. He had to overcome some rough times in his personal life when Jessica, 17, passed away after a fatal reaction to birth control medication.
"I'm grateful I fought here in front of a lot of people. It's been a real nice trip. It's been real good to me," said Rivera.
Rivera's seen the sport come a long way. In 2003, UFC pay-per-views had trouble eclipsing 50,000 buys. Tonight, between FUEL TV and FX, all 11 fights are being televised to a nationwide audience.
The victory was typical Rivera. He never panics in the cage, so even when he was getting dominated in the grappling game, Rivera stayed composed in the first round. Schafer, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, had top control for much of the opening round, but never threatened with a submission.
Schafer (12-7-2, 3-6 UFC) is a new entry to the middleweight division. His stamina was an issue in his UFC debut fight at 185 pounds against Aaron Simpson and it happened again tonight.
"He's a strong guy. I was watching him in the back. He had a real tough [weight] cut, so I knew the longer the fight would go, he would have a harder time. And I could feel him breathing harder and harder," said Rivera.
Rivera escaped one final takedown attempt with 4:10 left in the second. With Schafer on his hands and knees, Rivera stunned him with a right uppercut. He eventually faded to the cage where he ate 23 unanswered shots. After several requests from referee Herb Dean to defend himself, Schafer didn't respond and the fight was stopped.