This Saturday will feature the UFC’s Nassau County card led by Chris Weidman and Kelvin Gastelum, but the first fight on the undercard holds quite the amount of importance in terms of the UFC’s bantamweight division. The undefeated 28-year-old Jimmie Rivera was last seen taking a decision win over Urijah Faber last September, and he is scheduled to fight the dangerous Thomas Almeida who bounced back with a TKO win over Alberto Morales last November from his first defeat against Cody Garbrandt.
Both men possess a striking heavy base, but Almeida will enter the bout with the power advantage. While that may sound good, it’s important to remember just how reckless Almeida is with hi striking and we already witnessed him getting finished by a more polished fighter in the current UFC bantamweight champion. Almeida was also dropped twice and nearly finished in a back-and-forth battle against Brad Pickett back in 2015, before finishing Pickett via flying knee.
One of Almeida’s best qualities is his ability to lead the dance and for the most part when he is able to turn a fight into a brawl, he’s managed to come out successful. Rivera on the other hand possesses more of a kicking game mixed with wrestling. Both men are entering Saturday night with momentum as well as extensive shelf time.
Almeida hasn’t fought in 8 months and Rivera has been out for 10 months, which could play a factor early in the bout. Almeida likes to finish his opponents as quickly as possible and if Rivera is forced to shake off the cob webs early on, he could fall behind on the scorecards or find himself on the wrong side of a highlight reel. Almeida possesses a three inch advantage in height and five inch advantage in reach, which gives him another advantage early on if he can use his reach correctly while Rivera attempts to adjust to the size difference.
Both men have made it clear that the goal is another step closer to the title shot and with Dominick Cruz on the sideline and Rafael Assuncao coming off a close win over former World Series of Fighting bantamweight champion, Marlon Moraes at UFC 212, they could wind up facing the winner next now that TJ Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt are likely to be scheduled to fight at the end of 2017. Brazil’s Almeida already proved himself to be worthy of carrying a fight night card in the past, while Rivera could be a nice addition to a future UFC card in Puerto Rico. Saturday night could be either man’s coming out party as a potential dark horse in the ever growing UFC bantamweight division.