by Samantha L. Johnson – MMAWeekly.com
Saturday evening Ricardo Almeida (12-3) will take on a legend of MMA, but Matt Hughes’ status among MMA greats is not what is driving Almeida. Hughes (44-7) has defeated Renzo Gracie and Matt Serra, both of whom Almeida considers brothers.
“It’s not revenge; it’s redemption,” said Almeida. “It’s about competition. You want to see your team do well and stay on top. If you root for the New York Yankees and they lose the series, you’re going to want to have that back. It’s more that than anything, and you’re going to take the preparation a little bit more seriously, especially if you’re team just lost.”
If it’s a matter of team, Team Renzo Gracie is down 0-2 to Team Hughes. Hughes has only fought once a year for the last two years. After dropping a loss via TKO to Thiago Alves in June of 2008, Hughes went on to beat Matt Serra (via unanimous decision) in May 2009, and Renzo Gracie via TKO in April of this year. A third-degree black belt under Gracie, Almeida is determined to settle the score at UFC 117.
“Here I am, I asked for the fight and the UFC gave it to me,” said Almeida. “They thought it would be a good match-up, and it’s a fight that has implications on the top echelon of the welterweight division. If Matt Hughes beats me it puts him in a good position, but if it’s the other way around, I come out there and put on a strong performance, it pushes me up the top ten rankings.”
MMAWeekly.com rankings place Hughes at number nine in the top ten, beating out only Dan Hardy; however, if Almeida beats Hughes, it may be enough to bump Hughes out. “Big dog” is not relying on having the advantage of training with two of Hughes’ past opponents. He is watching video and studying defense and how to overcome the techniques Hughes is known for.
“Our camp is pretty meticulous about trying to watch a ton of video,” said Almeida. “We don’t really prepare for fighters, we just prepare for techniques. So coming into (this fight), I’ll definitely be looking out for the leg kick he caught Renzo with a bunch of times. There’s a couple of more things he didn’t use in that fight, but that he’s used before, and I have prepared for. Plus, he’s a great wrestler and I don’t want to be caught.”
Almeida originally fought at light heavyweight, but after making his middleweight debut in 2001, he eventually dropped to welterweight at UFC 111 in March of this year. Having the frame to compete in a heavier weight class, Almeida has quite a size advantage over the five-foot-nine-inch Hughes, something “Big Dog” hopes to capitalize on.
“I definitely have a bigger frame than Hughes,” said Almeida. “He’s a pretty muscle-bound guy, probably one of the strongest guys at 170, no doubt about it. But as far as reach and length, I believe I’ll be able to utilize that in the stand-up and on the ground. That is why I’m going to cut all the weight I’ll be cutting and be miserable the whole week, because the night of the fight it will pay off.”
Samantha L. Johnson is a freelance writer originally from Southeast Idaho, currently living in Las Vegas, NV. Visit her website for her ramblings of on living in the MMA Mecca. Follow her and MMAWeekly.com on Twitter at @sxjohnson and @mmaweeklycom.