From the opening bell, Mateo Rios exuded confidence. Light on his feet, he bounced easily in and out of range, peppering Nate Esquivel with long kicks to the legs and body, and following with crisp, straight punches. Esquivel, in the early goings, struggled to find his range as Rios kept him at bay with those long, probing strikes. Still Esquivel showed smart footwork as he worked toward the inside — something that would pay dividends later.
Through the second, the story was much the same, as Rios used his reach to keep Esquivel at the end of his range, and Esquivel kept working to find a way into the pocket. As the round wore on, and Rios began to tire, those openings started appearing, and Esquivel found home for his first strong combinations on the inside.
In the third, Esquivel kept the pressure on Rios, working short combinations into the clinch, before resetting to begin the work again. Rios, to his credit, kept a string defense and moved well to avoid the heaviest punches, but Esquivel showed his strengths in the later exchanges.
Ultimately, though, the early rounds decided the outcome, and Rios’ confidence was rewarded with a unanimous decision.