There was no time wasted wondering why Thomas Almeida was considered the greatest unsigned talent outside of the UFC when he eventually made his debut as a 17-0 bantamweight.
In his promotional bow in Brazil last November, the bellows of the crowd in Uberlandia so early in the night brought something special out in both Almeida and his opponent Tim Gorman. ‘The Psycho’ Gorman shot out from his corner with a big right hand and took the Brazilian’s back within the first minute of action. The big leagues had come calling and it was Almeida’s time to answer.
Just 23-years-old despite his extensive professional record, the calmness of the young bantamweight was a sight to behold. When he broke free we finally got to see what the hype was all about as he let his hands go in combinations with a dynamic array of techniques. He tasted the power of Gorman on several occasions, but Almeida continued to walk forward throwing knees, liver shots, uppercuts and looping overhand rights in measured bursts of fury.
A less durable man would have found a way out of the contest sooner, but Gorman kept plugging away as the disparity between him and his counterpart became more obvious as the fight wore on. The bantamweight duo’s claim to the ‘Fight of the Night’ bonus was justified and as Almeida had his hand raised in victory, you couldn’t help but notice the Chute-Boxe logo printed on the right shoulder of his shirt.
The legendary gym left a lasting impression of the international MMA world with their rise through the Pride ranks. The history of MMA could not be told without the raw aggression of their charges like Wanderlei Silva, the Rua brothers, and Anderson Silva.
Wanderlei Silva and Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua might have been the two breakout stars from the camp in relation to the Japanese crowds. Silva’s ultra-aggressive style drew rapturous applause from the usually reserved nation. Planting his feet and throwing wild hooks that could knock out a bus, ‘Wand’ became one of the biggest icons in the world through his various Grand Prix wins and his capture of the Japanese promotion’s middleweight title. Rua had a similar dual background of Muay Thai and jiu-jitsu as Silva. A young gun on the Japanese seen back in the Pride days, Rua was known for his high-level submission game on top of dynamic striking offense.
Although Almeida is not fighting out of the same hallowed halls of Chute Boxe that Silva and Rua once did, the aggressive lineage of the gym is a hallmark in the young Brazilian’s game. Honing his skills in Sao Paulo in Diego Lima’s Chute Boxe affiliate, the highly touted bantamweight seems to be even more refined in certain respects than his legendary predecessors, but he too boasts a brown belt in the gentle art and a black belt in Muay Thai.
From hometown favorite to foreign rival, when Almeida met Canadian veteran Yves Jabouin at the Bell Center in April, a man who was supposed to give Almeida the toughest test of his young career, the Brazilian’s calculated boxing coupled with his shifting attacks to the body and the head of the Tristar man were emphatic. Jabouin could do nothing more than cover up as Almeida lit him up to the point that Yves Lavigne had to step in and stop the bout in the last minute of the first round.
A July call-up to meet Brad Pickett posed a new threat to Almeida as he met his first ranked opponent. The crafty Brit rocked the Chute Boxe bantamweight with a hook and then a knee before the Brazilian found his feet later in the first round. It took only 30 seconds for him to stun the Englishman out of contention in the second as he landed a flying knee of his own.
We’ve seen Almeida with a significant amount of damage to his face on two occasions. A big factor that makes him so exciting is the fact that he is willing to take a few shots to give out a few of his own.
On the current UFC bantamweight landscape, two of the best examples of the “neo footwork” style sit at the top of the bracket—TJ Dillashaw and Dominic Cruz. When UFC audiences first got acquainted with Cruz’s deft movements and laser beam accuracy that picks his opponents apart, they weren’t quite bowled over. Although analysts have heralded his style since the beginning, it seems that there is more of a want for Cruz to return more than ever before now that a style similar to his in TJ Dillashaw represents the championship caliber.
The constant creation of angles after each shot and the intricate footwork and head movement displayed by Cruz and Dillashaw deserve the highest form of praise, but there is something to be said for the brutal exchanges that Almeida is willing to engage in. A delight for the fans, Almeida appeals to the most primal side to spectators as he meets his opponents in the pocket and trades without taking a step back. There is undoubtedly a stress on the offensive aspect to the Brazilian’s game rather than the defensive.
Now ranked in the eighth spot on UFC’s bantamweight books, Almeida has a chance to take another significant leap this weekend when he meets Anthony Birchak. The fans are no doubt expecting to be given the Chute Boxe treatment on the night with ‘Thominhas’ competing in front of his hometown crowd in Sao Paolo.
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