Surging bantamweight prospect Thomas Almeida is only getting started in the UFC.
At just 24 years of age, the Brazilian knockout artist has already compiled a 3-0 promotional record (20-0 overall) with consecutive Performance of the Night bonuses. That’s quite a feat for a young up-and-comer, especially considering his latest victories came opposite wily veterans Brad Pickett and Yves Jabouin.
It’s an important feather in Almeida’s cap because it represents his ability to outpoint and outsmart big league talent, not just unsuspecting foe on the open Brazilian market.
In any case, the Chute Box Academy standout has flourished during his journey to planting a seed in the UFC’s 135-pound division.
Hailing from a camp made popular by the likes of Wanderlei Silva and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Almeida is taking the bantamweight division by storm. From powerful combinations to scintillating flying knees, the youngster is doing everything in his power to instill fear in a somewhat dilapidated weight class.
Former champion Renan Barao has relocated to the inflamed featherweight crop, while guys like Raphael Assuncao, Michael McDonald and Bryan Caraway continue to struggle with health or have failed to cash in on big opportunities.
That means that Almeida has a short list of fighters (Urijah Faber and Aljamain Sterling) to outperform before he finds himself contending for the divisional strap, which will be up for grabs when current kingpin T.J. Dillashaw welcomes former titleholder Dominick Cruz back to the championship fold at UFC Fight Night 81 in January.
But what should we expect from the relatively unproven Almeida leading into 2016? Can he evolve the other facets of his game in order to make his electrifying striking even more dangerous?
While mixed martial arts incorporates countless possibilities that can lead down unforeseen paths, there’s no indication that suggests the Brazilian will not be able to work his way towards the top of the bantamweight roster in quick fashion.
However, it seems as if the UFC is taking its time with Almeida by scheduling him opposite Anthony Birchak at UFC Fight Night 77 on Nov. 7. Birchak is a hard-hitting wrestler who has the submission game to test Almeida’s abilities outside of his striking, but “Thominhas” has looked too darn good thus far to warrant a bout with a relatively unknown fighter outside of the division’s top 15.
While many ranked names are unavailable at this time, Birchak is not the big notch that Almeida needs in his belt. If UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby wanted to give Almeida an un-ranked adversary, Team Alpha Male’s Cody Garbrandt, veteran Iuri Alcantara or even Manvel Gamburyan would have made more sense.
Nonetheless, the promotion deems it necessary to build someone like Almeida up. Feeding him fighters who he matches up well against only secures his potential to continue knocking out opponents in devastating fashion. That’s the undying prototype that the UFC fishes for and the organization may have found its next big catch in the form of the heavy-handed youngster.
Because of that stance, it’s going to take Almeida a little longer to ascend the proverbial bantamweight ladder in route to capturing the attention of Dillashaw, Cruz, Sterling and even Faber.
But that doesn’t mean his potential within the weight class is tarnished. Instead, it allows him to further mold his craft before he finds himself opposite a strong wrestler, quicker striker or a bruising veteran incapable of being finished. And considering his training outfit is known to bred champions, Almeida is more than likely already on his way to rounding out a complete MMA pallet.
A victory over Birchak at UFC FN 77 puts the staggering striker in reach of the division’s elite. And considering the bantamweight division has struggled to produce fresh contenders in year’s past, they’ll usher the undefeated Almeida in like a scantily clad woman at a bachelor party.