Jimmie Rivera has emerged as the next top bantamweight contender after getting the better of Thomas Almeida at UFC on FOX 25 on Saturday on Long Island, N.Y.
While UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt is expected to fight former titleholder TJ Dillashaw next, Rivera and Almeida both knew that the winner of their bout would be knocking on the champion’s door.
Almeida opened with a steady attack of leg kicks, but Rivera soon began to fire back with kicks of his own. They danced around the middle of the Octagon for a time, but Rivera finally found an opening for his right hand and dropped Almeida, but he was quickly back to his feet.
Remaining patient, Rivera timed his counters well and landed some solid body shots, which eventually set up another heavy right hand, again dropping Almeida. The Brazilian again was quick to regain his footing, but ate another right hand as he stood. Somehow, Almeida seemed to regain his senses and looked fluid as the opening round came to a close.
Rivera started strong in round two, enduring some heavy exchanges, but continuing to find a home for the right hand, looking like he might take Almeida out of the fight.
Midway through the frame, however, Almeida ate a right hand, but then countered with his own right that briefly put Rivera on the floor. Rivera bounced up, immediately continuing to press forward, but he missed frequently as the round wore down and Almeida gained steam.
Not one to allow Almeida to continue building on his successes in round two, Rivera opened the final frame with a double-leg takedown, planting Almeida on his back. Rivera couldn’t do much with the position, as Almeida squirmed to the fence and worked his way back to standing.
Although Almeida found a good range on his feet and landed frequent strikes, Rivera’s striking was more calculated and his hands heavier. Rivera landed a heavy uppercut in the middle of the round and followed with some solid body work. He punctuated the fight by catching Almeida mid-air when the Brazilian attempted a jumping double-knee attack. Rivera again put him on his back.
Almeida again escaped to his feet and the two traded punches until the final horn.
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It was a solid effort by both men, but Rivera earned a unanimous nod from the judges, scoring his twentieth consecutive victory.
“I wanna give it up for Almeida. He’s a very tough opponent. I gave him my bombs. He stuck it out,” Rivera said after the fight before trying to line up his next opponent.
“I came in here. I’m 5-0 right now (in the UFC). If Cody is still hurt, I’ll fight TJ for the interim belt. And if (Dominick) Cruz is done sitting on the bench, let’s fight baby in November at (Madison Square Garden).”
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