Almeida set to light up UFC Fight Night 77

Highlights – Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs 1. FSV Mainz 05

Thomas Almeida may have already chosen "The Terminator" as his nickname, but his first three fights in the UFC suggest something related to his show-stealing fight style may have been more appropriate.

Almeida is not the first and will not be the last young Brazilian to send ripples through the mixed martial arts landscape with displays of spectacular violence inside the Octagon.

However, his exploits have rightly caught the attention of the public and lead to his fights being scheduled progressively higher up each card.

In short: If excitement really is what sells fights, then Thomas Almeida is already one of the UFC’s most billable athletes.

The 24-year-old bantamweight had already won 17 out of 17 professional fights and picked up two bantamweight titles in lesser promotions when he signed for the UFC, and has since gone on extend his undefeated record to 20-0.

In his debut at Fight Night 56, Almeida battled through a badly bruised and swollen eye to pick up a unanimous decision victory against the heavily muscled Tim Gorman, in what was a stylistically challenging bout for the debutant.

The Sao Paulo resident showed off the high-volume, fluid and varied striking game that has become his trademark. Aggressive to a fault, Almeida continued moving forward no matter what Gorman threw at him. 

He also displayed solid take down defense, as well as excellent scrambling, and the technique and strength needed to get off his back when Gorman did manage to put him on the ground. 

That bout, subsequently declared Fight of the Night, was the first time Almeida had not finished one of his opponents and only the second time he had gone beyond the second round.

Five months later at UFC 186 he followed up with a first round technical knockout victory against Yves Jabouin, a slightly unorthodox veteran who is widely considered to be one of the craftiest, most skilled strikers in the division. 

Showing slightly more caution, better defence and more elusive movement, Almeida was able to hurt Jabouin with a left before finishing with a barrage of punches to earn a Performance of the Night (POTN) bonus.

Almeida went on to make international headlines at UFC 189 in July when he knocked out veteran Brad Picket with a flying knee worthy of any high-light reel to earn another POTN bonus, announce himself as one of the best young prospects in the organisation and rocket into the top 10 of the bantamweight rankings.

The same card saw Conor McGregor defeat Chad Mendes to win the interim featherweight title, but despite all the animosity between the pair the bout paled in comparison to Almeida’s gravity-defying knockout.

The Chute Boxe Academy product will now continue head-hunting the division’s gatekeepers when he takes on Anthony Birchak on Saturday at Fight Night 77 in his home town.

With the fight scheduled as the third-last on the card, ahead of two bouts featuring fighters well into the twilight of their careers, Almeida is poised to steal the show yet again.

Main card

Middleweight: Vitor Belfort vs Dan Henderson                 
Light Heavyweight: Glover Teixeira vs Patrick Cummins                 
Bantamweight: Thomas Almeida vs Anthony Birchak                 
Lightweight: Alex Oliveira vs Piotr Hallmann                 
Lightweight: Gilbert Burns vs Rashid Magomedov                 
Light Heavyweight: Fabio Maldonado vs Corey Anderson 

Preliminary Card 

Lightweight: Gleison Tibau vs Abel Trujillo                 
Lightweight: Yan Cabral vs Johnny Case                 
Featherweight: Clay Guida vs Thiago Tavares                 
Featherweight: Kevin Souza vs Chas Skelly 

Liam Moses