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Thomas Almeida has been asking to fight Jimmie Rivera for months and he finally got his wish. They will square off on July 22nd at UFC Long Island.

Compiling an impressive 5-1 record in the UFC, with his lone loss to current champion Cody Garbrandt, Almeida believes a win over Rivera would put him in the top 5.

“I don’t know if it would give me a title shot but it would put me in the top 5 and it’ll be very close to a title shot,” Almeida said. “This fight is very very important for me.”

Rivera, who is 4-0 in the UFC, is coming off a big win over former WEC champion Urijah Faber. Both Rivera and Almeida have a combined 42-2 pro MMA record which is quite remarkable.

For Almeida, this is an opportunity to throw his name into the mix of title contention. He is currently ranked number 9 and has no problem fighting in Rivera’s backyard.

“For me no,” Almeida said when asked if he minds fighting in enemy territory. “When the octagon door closes the fight is just between me and him. Fighting in New York is a unique opportunity, it’s famous for boxing and I’m very excited.”

“I’m having a great preparation for this fight,” Almeida said. “I’m very confident in my training camp and all my coaches and I’m very happy to be fighting in this event. This fight is very important for me.”

Almeida last competed back in November when he dispatched of Albert Morales in the second round. He showed much improved footwork and movement, something he’s been working on since the loss to Garbrandt.

Photo by MMA Junkie

“I’m working a lot on my footwork, that’s been my main focus. I’ve watched all his fights, he has good wrestling and he tries the double leg a lot. He has powerful hands, his right hand is very dangerous so I have to take care and not expose myself.”

And no matter where the fight goes, he’s been meticulously working on his all round game but will look for the knockout as he always does.

“I really trust in my jiu-jitsu, Almeida said. “It’s getting better every day. I have one of the best teams in Brazil, Barbosa Jiu-Jitsu so I’m very confident but I prefer the striking game. All the UFC fans like to watch my type of fight so I prefer to use my boxing and my Muay Thai.”

Despite the majority of Rivera’s wins coming by the way of decision, Almeida knows that the most important thing is that Rivera has been finding ways to win. He will look to be patient and let loose when an opportunity presents itself.

“He’s a very strategic fighter,” Almeida said on Rivera. “He goes to win, it doesn’t matter where or what he has to do. The fight against Faber, he used a lot of low kicks and that was the best way to get the victory so he’s tough.”

“I have 3 rounds to work so I’ll find my distance and unleash the real Thomas Almeida at the right time.”