After spending some time in Brazil and South Korea with our #5 and #4 picks on our 2011 World MMA Lightweight scouting report, we now make our way back into the land of the free and home of the brave... sort of. A growing trend among many international fighters, especially Brazilian-born competitors, is to train in North America in order to gain some exposure to some of the more dominating styles that have been bred here. We talk constantly about European fighters needed to migrate to the U.S. to face challenging wrestlers in training, and the same can be said for Brazilians. Our #3 pick, Magno Almeida (8-1), happens to be one of the few Brazilian prospects who makes his home in Brazil, but trains and fights in the United States whenever possible.
Offensive Skills: In the modern era of mixed martial arts, Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts have become quite commonplace in the major promotions throughout the world. In fact, it's become an attribute that many of us simply shrug off as -- "he's good at grappling, we get it". Since the number of Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts has increased among active fighters, it isn't uncommon to see two of them battle it out against one another, and it's even more common that the North American wrestler is pitted against the grappling acumen of these masters of the ground game.
Some BJJ fighters like to use their prowess in the grappling arts as a defensive technique to gain control on the top, or regain their feet and use honed striking skills to blast their opponents. Others are much more offensive in their style, and those types of fighters have found success with quick transitions and strategic chess play on the ground.
Magno fits into the latter category, and the most appealing part of his game is his transition ability. As I've stated in the past, agility in the transition game can be overwhelming, and we can take one look at what Demian Maia accomplished to see that it can take someone quite far before having to become multi-tooled.
Almeida hasn't faced the strongest competition, but he's shown some incredible control on the ground against guys who've tried to topple him with wrestling from top control. He isn't a bad striker either, although if there was one area he needs improvement -- it's there.
Defensive Skills: Defensively, Almeida's grappling and awareness is a combination that keeps him out of trouble. When he's put on the defensive from takedown attempts, Almeida uses the leverage from the shot to roll opponents over him and into his wheel house. He's done that on more than one occasion and quickly threatened with submissions. He's an above average takedown artist as well, and his quick transition ability has proven to be a nightmare for fighters who tend to scramble to their feet immediately. The Mike Campbell fight is a perfect example of Almeida taking full advantage of an exposed back following a scramble.
On the feet, I haven't seen enough footage to suggest he's a bad striker. He seems rather confident in his punching, and he's landed some solid blows to down opponents and put them into danger on the ground. His chin does elevate a bit in exchanges, and he'll need to learn to keep it down if he wants to continue winning fights.
Progression & Learning Ability: The fact that Almeida comes to the U.S. for half of his camps is a good sign that he's eying a successful future in the sport. While it was hinted that the reasoning behind the move was due to an inability to find fights in Brazil, there was probably some discussion as to the exposure he could receive in the U.S. along with the level of training he could receive. After all, Brazil isn't exactly filled with NCAA D-I wrestlers.
I do think, however, that the level of competition he would have faced in Brazil would have been a bit better, but he seems to progressing upward in the difficulty department. Former WEC fighter Mike Campbell was his latest opponent, and he trounced him in quick fashion. He also defeated M-1 veteran Mikhail Malyutin via kimura in 3:26... not exactly an easy task.
Environment: Almeida fights out of Fenix Fight Club in Massachusetts when he comes stateside for events, hence his conglomeration of fights in the Northeast. But he has trained in California with Anderson Silva a number of times, and that should give him that edge above other lightweights.
Potential: I'm pretty excited to see where Magno ends up next after dispatching of Mike Campbell in September. While Campbell didn't present a huge challenge to Almeida's ground prowess, he did have the power to knock Almeida out. Almeida calmly waded through the powerful overhands and toppled Campbell, and I imagine he'll be able to do the same to other regional champions. I would have loved to see him battle Daniel Straus, but Straus pulled out due to an injury... then signed with Bellator on October 28th, six days after their scheduled bout.
Despite that setback in his progression, I think Almeida has all the tools to become a marquee fighter in a major promotion. He may need to work on his stand-up skills in order to threaten opponents in multiple ways, but I imagine his ground acumen is going to cause a lot of his opponents to think twice about committing to strikes. He's just way too good on the ground to be allowed to gain a dominant position on the ground, and for that reason -- Almeida deserves his ranking at #3 on our 2011 World MMA Lightweight scouting report.
Magno Almeida vs. Mike Campbell
Magno Almeida Highlight