No one could have foreseen the outcome of Ricardo Almeida’s bout with Matt Hughes this past August.
Almeida, considered one of the sport’s best pure practitioners of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, lost to Hughes via technical submission, placing Almeida in the unenviable position of having to win his next bout or possibly be out of the UFC.
So it was this past weekend at UFC 124 that Almeida stepped up against T.J. Grant and delivered a solid, dominating performance, keeping his UFC dreams alive in the process.
“It’s the big elephant in the room that I don’t think anybody wants to talk about. You lose two in a row or have two (poor) performances in a row, you can get cut. To me, it’s part of the game, and if T.J. had beaten me and I got cut, I’m fine with that, because that’s the way it’s got to be,” Almeida told MMAWeekly.com.
“You either perform or you don’t, and if you don’t perform, you don’t belong in the UFC. It’s a reality for a lot of fighters, and you’ve just got to make sure that when the fight comes, you’re prepared and ready to do it. I just focus on what I need to do to win fights and the rest should take care of itself.”
Luckily, Almeida was able to avoid such a situation by controlling Grant much of the fight. Still, being the competitor that he is, Almeida isn’t 100-percent happy with his performance.
“I got the win, but I wasn’t really happy that I wasn’t able to finish the fight,” he commented.
“I knew that his guard was going to create a little bit of a stalemate on the ground, (but) I just felt that it was a much higher percentage win when you’re on top of somebody, punching them, so I was pretty safe there and could control the action, so I decided to go there.”
While Grant’s defense was able to extend the fight to a decision, an injury sustained by Almeida may have been the true determining factor to why he wasn’t able to finish.
“I tweaked my knee pretty bad in the second round,” admitted Almeida. “When I had his back I tried to roll out and all his weight came on my knee and it ended up popping.
“So when I finally had a really good position to finish him in the third, I just couldn’t quite control him the way I wanted. Usually I work the body-triangle when I get there, but I couldn’t, so I actually had to grab my foot with my own hand just to keep the same kind of control.”
While an MRI is needed to fully assess the damage to his knee, Almeida believes it is sprained and most likely will not return to action until after February.
Injuries aside, Almeida feels he had a good year overall and has a lot he can build on for 2011.
“I trained pretty hard and got better in every aspect of the game,” he stated. “I had a little setback against Hughes, but I feel technically and physically I’m still improving and it puts me in a good position for the new year to come.
“When I stopped fighting in 2004 in most of the rankings I was ranked No. 2 behind (Matt) Lindland, and my goal now is to get back into the Top 10.”
Having righted the ship, Almeida can now focus on regaining the former heights of his career and more before all is said and done.
“I want to thank the fans, without them we wouldn’t be here; they make the sport what it is,” concluded Almeida. “I want to thank my family, my training partners, and everyone who supports me on a daily basis and believes in me – those are the ones that I fight for.
“Right now I’m focused on getting a couple good wins, fighting some big names, and we’ll take it from there.”