Bloody Elbow has profiled Thomas Almeida multiple times just within the past few months, and for good reason. The Chute Boxe talent has an astonishing 100% finish rate and a 17-0 record, with his 17th win coming last Friday at Legacy FC against Caio Machado for the promotion's bantamweight title. Not even a week after the 22-year-old scored his latest knockout win, the UFC came calling. MMA Fighting's Guilherme Cruz reports that the UFC has signed the Brazilian to its roster. As of this writing, no opponent or targeted date is lined up for him.
This is a fantastic addition to the UFC's bantamweight division. While it's not necessarily at a "crisis" as is the case for light heavyweight, it is lacking depth in a pretty bad way. Almeida has tremendous finishing abilities, is only 3 years into his career, and already looks to be one of the best strikers at 135 lbs today. There are still question marks concerning his takedowns (offensively and defensively), and ability to engage in a predominantly grappling-based fight, but from what has been seen thus far, it's hard to imagine him not being a potential top 15 caliber fighter if he does as much as win even his debut. I suggest a gander at the current rankings, where #15 ranked Wilson Reis is dropping to flyweight, top 5 ranked Eddie Wineland is pondering retirement, #11 Dominick Cruz is basically an inactive fighter, and #14 MIke Easton probably should be cut. That's 4 of the top 15 (not counting T.J. Dillashaw as champion) that could soon be off the rankings list entirely, so the path towards the top isn't that far off for Almeida. I personally would be up for someone like Yves Jabouin for his debut.
Clean, technical striking is Almeida's bread and butter, and he sets a blistering pace from the moment the first bell sounds. He has good footwork and movement, and likes to find his range with his quick jab and sharp inside and outside low kicks as he circles. Unlike many counter-strikers, Almeida won't simply wait for his opponent to make a move; instead, he employs a variety of strategies to force his opponent into engaging in Almeida's wheelhouse. The low kicks are a means to establishing Almeida's preferred distance and timing and showing them that staying at kicking range is a poor idea. Once his opponent begins to throw, Almeida really lets loose. His timing is absolutely superb, whether he's throwing a blistering three-to-five punch step-back combination or a vicious step-in elbow.