Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight contenders Jimmie Rivera and Thomas Almeida battled last night (Sat., July 22, 2017) at UFC on FOX 25 inside the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.
With just a single loss in UFC — to the world champion no less — Almeida was something of a forgotten contender. Nevertheless, Almeida had the chance to remind fight fans of his particular brand of Chute Boxe violence. Rivera came into UFC with a great record just like his opponent, and he has impressed with four straight victories. Despite his No. 4 ranking heading into this bout, Rivera was also a bit overlooked. This was a huge opportunity for both men — a chance to shift from dark horse contender to imminent title challenger.
The fighters exchanged a lot of low kicks to begin the fight, and Rivera soon began to pressure his opponent. Suddenly, a big left hook connected on Almeida’s jaw, sending him to the mat.
Almeida appeared to be pretty out of it, but he recovered well and spent some time breathing in the clinch. Once they separated, the pace increased on the feet, with Rivera’s accurate combinations proving quite effective. With about a minute remaining, Rivera dropped his opponent a second time, landing a hard cross.
Once again, Almeida recovered well, but he took some real damage in the opening round.
Rivera opened the second round with some body shots and a takedown attempt. Before long, Rivera was again connecting on some hard power punches, but Almeida hung in there and threw back despite being stunned. The Brazilian was getting out-boxed quite handily, with only his inside low kick connecting with any consistency.
With two minutes remaining in the round, Almeida landed a hard cross that stunned Rivera and brought him back into the fight. He was able to score with some nice counter punches in the second half of the round, though Rivera was still scoring too.
It was a far closer round than the opener.
Rivera switched it up with a true power double at the beginning of the third, finishing with a slam. Almeida was able to scramble up after a minute or so, but he ate some knees in the process.
Back on the feet, Almeida returned to his low kick but absorbed some counter puncehs instead. Rivera was sharp, picking his moments to attack and catching Almeida with his surprising speed. Almeida was game and kept pushing forward, but Rivera was smart to stymie his offense with clinch and takedown attempts.
Almeida finished by flurrying, but it wasn’t enough to win him the decision.
Rivera’s boxing won him this bout. His ability to blend wrestling into his offense certainly helped, but Rivera’s sharp combinations continually landed inside Almeida’s own offense. The Brazilian threw more strikes, but Rivera was more accurate and ultimately did more damage.
Though his low kick didn’t land with its usual consistency, Rivera worked around his opponent’s defense by going to the body frequently. Coming on off his level changes, Rivera frequently attacked Almeida’s mid-section with the left hook. It slowed the Brazilian just a bit, as well as setting up a home for his left hook to the jaw.
The takedowns were just a bonus on top score-wise, and they again helped him land more punches.
Following this victory, Rivera has more than proven himself as an elite Bantamweight. His next fight is clear: Rivera is definitely ready for a scrap with Dominick Cruz, which would determine the next man to fight for the title after TJ Dillashaw.
Almeida got off to a slow start, and it really cost him. The second half of the fight was remarkably even, as Almeida began to connect far more frequently after finding his range. He also seemed to be the fresher man at the final bell, despite absorbing multiple knockdowns.
Things may have been different across five rounds.
Ultimately, however, slow starts and a lack of head movement are his historic problems. They’re what allowed Cody Garbrandt to knock him out in just a couple minutes, and now his issues are also keeping him out of the Top 10.
Last night, Jimmie Rivera picked apart Thomas Almeida in a fantastic scrap. Is Rivera a future champion?
For complete UFC on FOX 25: “Weidman vs Gastelum” results and play-by-play, click HERE!