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UFC on FOX 25 fight card: Thomas Almeida vs Jimmie Rivera preview

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Albeida vs Morales Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight kickboxers Thomas Almeida and Jimmie Rivera will go to war this Saturday (July 22, 2017) at UFC on FOX 25 inside Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.

It’s pretty easy to forget just how excited the MMA world was about Thomas Almeida. The Brazilian was 21-0 with 16 knockouts before suffering his first defeat, which came at the hands of the current champion. Almeida moved from (a little) over-hyped to seemingly forgotten after just one loss to a great fighter, and he’ll look to rebound back into the title mix here.

Almeida, however, isn’t the only one with a pretty record. Rivera has tasted defeat just once in 21 fights, most recently knocking around Urijah Faber to score the biggest win of his career.

Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for both athlete.

Thomas Almeida

Record: 22-1

Key Wins: Brad Pickett (UFC 189), Yves Jabouin (UFC 186), Anthony Birchak (UFC Fight Night 77), Albert Morales (UFC Fight Night 100)

Key Losses: Cody Garbrandt (UFC Fight Night 88)

Keys to Victory: Almeida is an offense-first wrecking machine. The Muay Thai specialist is excellent at using a wide variety of punches, kicks, elbows, and knees to break his opponent down, and he keeps a ridiculously high pace.

In this bout, Almeida will have to keep a tighter focus on his defense. Rivera doesn’t have a ton of knockout wins on his record, but he has proven in his last few fights to pack a real punch and is definitely a sharp counter puncher.

To avoid eating big hooks as he pursues, Almeida needs to make full use of his range. The Brazilian is a fair amount taller and longer than his opponent, and he can take advantage with long kicks and straight punches.

Almeida does his best work with combinations, and that doesn’t have to change. If Almeida fires lengthy combinations without falling too close to Rivera, he should be able to land at a high rate while avoiding a good deal of his foe’s counter punches.

As the fight wears on, Almeida’s volume and damage should be the difference.

Jimmie Rivera

Record: 20-1

Key Wins: Urijah Faber (UFC 203), Pedro Munoz (UFC Fight Night 77), Yuri Alcantara (UFC on FOX 18), Marcus Brimage (UFC Fight Night 72)

Key Losses: None

Keys to Victory: Though Rivera is just four fights into his UFC career, he’s really proven his talent in those bouts. Rivera is a really strong striker, able to pressure with fast combinations or maintain his range with sharp kicks and counters. Additionally, he may not have an extensive wrestling background, but he’s looked damn good in that area as well.

This is not an easy match up for Rivera. Almeida is very difficult to hold down, and he throws at such an insane volume that winning a decision on the feet is a tough challenge as well.

Opposite the Chute Boxe representative, Rivera will need to score an early knockout or execute a perfect game plan. Ideally, Rivera will use his speed and movement to get Almeida reaching, which would be a great set up for Rivera’s counter punching. Additionally, Rivera made great use of low leg kicks — often to the calf — against Faber, and that’s a weapon that could off-balance Almeida.

Finally, Rivera needs to mix reactive takedowns into his game. Almeida cannot be allow to push forward without paying for it; counter punches and takedowns are a great answer to slow him down.

Bottom Line: This is a fantastic fight.

It’s also a great opportunity for both men, a pair of divisional dark horses. Though they’re both in the top 10, they’re younger contenders and newer to the title mix. A win here — on the main card of a FOX event opposite a fellow top-ranked athlete — pushes the victor forward.

It could even set up a title eliminator with Dominick Cruz.

Alternatively, a setback here sends the loser to the back of the long line of up-and-coming Bantamweight contenders. There’s a great deal of 135 lbs. fighters with talent looking to break into the title mix, which means any loss of momentum will be hard to replace.

At UFC on FOX 25, Thomas Almeida and Jimmie Rivera will open the main card with a Bantamweight scrap. Which fighter will have his hand raised?

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