Top 10-ranked Bantamweight contenders Jimmie Rivera (No. 4) and Thomas Almeida (No. 9) collided tonight (July 22, 2017) at UFC on FOX 25: "Weidman vs. Gastelum," which took place inside Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.
Quasi-local fan favorite, Rivera, came in with an undefeated record, while his Brazilian counterpart looked to get his own hype train rolling again, one win removed from a knockout loss to champion Cody Garbrandt.
The two men started out slowly, feeling out each other’s timing. Rivera threw a nice combination, double jabbing into a cross and hook that Almeida mostly blocked. Rivera pressured, and when Almeida looked to throw back he caught a solid left hook and went down. Rivera moved in for the kill and Almeida, popping back up, clinched him tightly. Rivera lost his mouthpiece and the referee reset the fight. Almeida looked shaky, but survived the next exchange. He landed a hook in the open. Rivera hit a low kick, then a body kick. They exchanged again. Almeida got dropped by another heavy right hand as Rivera stayed patient, but his heavy hands were clearly a problem for an Almeida whose instinct is always to exchange aggressively. Almeida seemed to recover well, landing a one-two combination when Rivera threw a low kick.
The second round started out much more quickly. They exchanged, and when Almeida threw a knee, Rivera ducked under for a takedown. Almeida stuffed it against the cage. They exchanged again and Almeida ate another left hook. A moment later he ate another two hard hooks as Rivera let loose. He didn’t let up, staying in the exchange. Rivera stood him straight up with a bolt of a right hand. Almeida landed a sharp inside low kick. He threw a switch front kick, then dropped Rivera in an exchange! Rivera popped back up immediately. Rivera tried a flying knee that didn’t land. Rivera threw a switch kick to the arms of Almeida and Almeida pressed forward in another exchange. Almeida landed a switch head kick as soon as Rivera began checking the inside leg kick. This was a high-stakes striking battle, with both men throwing at a high clip right up to the bell.
Rivera shot to open the third round, picking up Almeida and tossing him the canvas. He stayed heavy on top while Almeida looked to get back to his feet. He worked his way back up, leaning on the cage, and ate a knee for his trouble. He worked free and they threw hands in the center of the cage again. Whenever Almeida kept his head upright Rivera was tagging him with straights. Almeida slipped the initial straight to exchange hooks with Rivera. They kept throwing at the same time in the pocket, willing to trust their own power, craft and chins in essentially 50-50 exchanges. Almeida landed a body kick and then a sharp left hook. Rivera timed a nice right hand. Rivera shot a reactive double as Almeida came forward, but Almeida got his hips out, hit a switch, and escaped. Almeida put on the heat as the round ended, swinging for all he was worth. Rivera dug in and hung with him, swinging away to end a very well-matched fight.
They gave respect to each other before hearing the results. The local favorite, Rivera, celebrated when his announced the winner, calling out T.J. Dillashaw for an interim title fight, then Dominick Cruz if “Dominator” was done sitting on the sidelines. Cruz, on commentary, immediately began talking trash. Rivera walked over to say something to Cruz, who revealed what his words were, “nothing but respect, but I had to call you out.” Indeed, it was a great win — and callout — from the hometown hero Jimmie Rivera.
Official result: Jimmie Rivera def. Thomas Almeida by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-26)
For complete UFC on FOX 25 results, including play-by-play update, click here