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In the UFC 199 main event at the Forum, which airs live on Pay-Per-View, Luke Rockhold defends his UFC middleweight
title against Michael Bisping. In the co-featured bout, Dominick Cruz defends his UFC bantamweight crown against
Unbeaten in three of his last four bouts, a stretch that includes wins over Andy Ogle and Sam Sicilia, American Top Team’s Miller has weathered his share of ups and downs over the years, and now can make a statement with a win over Miami’s Caceres, who shook off a three-bout losing streak in January by defeating Masio Fullen.
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Now at age 24, “Thominhas”, or “Toto”, as he’s known by his teammates, will step in the Octagon on Sunday in a main event clash in Las Vegas against Cody Garbrandt. One more win puts Almeida among the best in the division, and closer to his long-sought opportunity of a title shot.
Things have always happened fast for Almeida. Despite his young age, he has already 21 wins on his record, 16 of them by way of knockout. He has been complimented by his idol, Mike Tyson, with whom he was photographed after beating Brad Pickett in July 2015, and is constantly praised by Dana White.
His Octagon debut was in November 2014, when Almeida beat Tim Gorman by unanimous decision. He has since fought three more times, scoring three knockouts and three Performance of the Night bonuses.
“His goal is to be as damaging as possible,” says Diego Lima, his coach and mentor.
But Almeida’s preparation to become a phenom inside the Octagon began at the early age of 13. As a kid, he was walking the streets of Sao Paulo when he was first interested in a muay thai class he watched near his home. He then convinced his father, who had practiced jiu-jitsu, to put him in the gym.
“I trained for six months before I knew that’s what I wanted for my life, and then I started training to become a professional muay thai fighter,” Almeida explains.
Like many other young fighters, his gym time was limited by the full-time school he attended, but that didn’t last long. Thomas’ mother, Lucila Pinto, says when she noticed her son’s dedication and will to become the best fighter in the world, she gave a fighting career her blessing.
“I wanted him to keep studying, but I realized fighting was his wish. Thomas was always so sure of himself, so how can you doubt someone like that?” she recalls.
The solution? Move her son to a part-time school.
The first battle
Despite having begun his muay thai practices at age 13, Thomas Almeida had his first big fighting challenge at age 9. No, it wasn’t a professional one. It was just another school fight, but it proved he wasn’t afraid of a challenge.
There was a boy at Almeida’s school who used to steal food and bully the other children, including Thominhas, who didn’t want to involve his parents in finding a solution to this problem.
“He took the guts to kick the boy’s butt, even though this kid was much taller and had a judo-champion father,” Lucila recalls. “Thomas was smaller, but he was brave. It’s funny that they became friends afterwards, and that this kid still visits my house today.”
That’s the spirit Thomas brings to the Octagon. His training partners at Chute Boxe academy in Sao Paulo guarantee he is not afraid to go after his opponents and that he will fight back when hit first.
“What’s different about him is the fire in his eyes. When he’s hit, his instincts tell him to fight back,” Diego Limas says. “Nothing scares Thominhas, he has no fear and he steps in the Octagon to finish his fights.”
Davi Correia is a multimedia journalist for UFC.com.br. Follow him on Twitter at @davicorreia
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Hello Cleveland! After bringing his hometown its first major pro sports championship in 52 years, Stipe Mioic will defend his UFC heavyweight title for the first time at home on Saturday, September 10, when he faces No. 3-ranked contender Alistair Overeem at Quicken Loans Arena.
The bout marks the UFC’s first ever visit to Cleveland, and its first event in Ohio since UFC 96, which was held in Columbus in March of 2009.
On May 14 in the main event of UFC 198 in Curitiba, Brazil, Miocic made good on his promise to bring a belt back to his city when he knocked out Fabricio Werdum less than three minutes into their championship bout.
Now, with wins in six of his last seven bouts, the new champ is staying busy with a bout against the Netherlands’ Overeem, a former Strikeforce, DREAM and K-1 champion who is showing the best form of his UFC career at the moment. Winner of four straight, most recently back-to-back knockouts of former heavyweight titlists Junior Dos Santos and Andrei Arlovski, Overeem’s trophy case is missing just one title belt, and on September 10, he gets his shot at adding the UFC championship to his collection.
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Season One of WATN? was released today “Netflix style” – meaning all six episodes were made available at once giving FIGHT PASS fans the choice of watch one or two episodes or “binge watching” all six in one go.
WATN? catches up with some of the most memorable characters from the first four seasons of The Ultimate Fighter: Bobby Southworth (Season 1), Luke Cummo (2), Noah Inhofer (3), Tait Fletcher (3), Din Thomas (4) and Shonie Carter (4).
All six men have retired from active MMA. Some have completely moved on from the sport, some have become trainers and gym owners, some have found great success outside the Octagon while others are still trying to find something beyond MMA.
The concept of the new show was a simple one: catch up with former UFC fighters – in Season One’s case six contestants from the first four series’ of The Ultimate Fighter – and see what they’d been doing since they walked away from the Octagon for the final time.
Some of these guys haven’t appeared in the UFC – or even MMA in general – in years. What has been the next chapter of their lives been like? Those are the stories Where Are They Now? sets out to tell.
Don’t have FIGHT PASS yet? What are you waiting for? Check out the season trailer for “Where are they now” and sign up here
STERLING LOOKING TO SECURE TITLE FIGHT THIS SUNDAY
The Featured Bout on the Fight Pass Early Prelims for this Sunday’s UFC FIGHT NIGHT in Las Vegas sees the undefeated Aljamain Sterling take on the very much underrated Bryan Caraway.
It is a high-stakes bantamweight match-up between the No.4 ranking Sterling and the No.8 ranked Caraway, and both men believe victory this weekend should result in a title shot.
Unsurprisingly, the outspoken “Funk Master” Sterling has been very vocal about what a win will do for his title ambitions.
He said: “This is my coming out party. Look at the rankings. I am at No.4 and when I beat the No.8 guy I have to get a shot next. (Champion Dominick) Cruz is fighting the No.3 (Urijah Faber) at UFC 199 (June 4), the No.2 guys (Renan Barao) has moved up to featherweight and the No.1 guy (TJ Dillashaw) already has a fight lined up in July, against (Raphael Assuncao) who is ranked lower than me.
“I think the kind of performance I’m going to be out there on Sunday will show who the next No.1 contender is – and who the next UFC champion is.”
If that sounds confident, it is a confidence shared by Long Island trainers Ray Longo, Matt Serra and gym-mate Chris Weidman. Check out this special preview to hear from a camp who feel they have a UFC world-champion in waiting in the Funk Master.
MORE THAN JUST “MR TATE” – CARAWAY IS WORTHY CONTENDER
Ahead of the biggest fight of his 11-year career, Bryan Caraway admits most MMA fans were introduced to him in less than ideal circumstances.
He said: “I think most fans first really heard of me when I made a mistake and tweeted that I’d fight Ronda Rousey. This was around the first fight (between Ronda and Caraway’s partner Miesha Tate) and emotions were running high. It was a stupid thing to tweet, I was replying to one fan who kept tweeting and tweeting at me trying to get me to lose my cool, and, for 10seconds I did lose my cool.
“I tweeted something dumb, Ronda was the darling of MMA at the time and everyone thought I must be (not a nice guy) based on that.”
Caraway was cast as a villain from the second that 140 character comment was sent into cyberspace. Baiting the bantamweight on social media became a sport. The experience of a social media crucifixion turned Caraway off Twitter – and even doing media interviews – for the next five years.
He said: “Honestly, there’s only so many times you can read the most horrible things about yourself, your girlfriend and your mother before you ask yourself why do you bother going on social media.”
Caraway said it has taken a long time for Tate – the newly crowned UFC bantamweight champion and one of the biggest stars in the sport – to convince him that he was only hurting his own career ambitions by refusing to promote himself.
The 11-year veteran, 31, said: “Miesha is really learned to put herself out there. She’s the champion now, but even before that she got so comfortable in front of the cameras. She’s been pushing me to do more to outreach the fans and media. She says ‘If they saw the Bryan I know, you’d start building more of a fan base. But to do that, you’ve got to do media and put yourself out there.’”
Caraway has begun to do exactly that, as can be seen in this interview but he stresses the obvious: “If I don’t win fights, all the interviews and other stuff won’t happen anyway. The focus is on beating Sterling, who’s a really tough opponent, style-wise, because he’s a great athlete.”
Sterling says this Sunday night’s Featured Fight on the UFC FIGHT PASS Early Prelims is his coming out party. Caraway has his own ambitions, though. He said: “Every fight is the most important one, but this fight, with all the hype, all the talking, this is the one where I get to show everyone what the real Bryan Caraway is all about.”
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Heading into his most recent Octagon outing in January, the hard-hitting lightweight prospect from the Blackzilians did not need to search too hard to find extra motivation. Between coming off back-to-back losses and some timely advice from a respected coach, Trujillo was set on a path that concluded with an impressive win.
“Going into the UFC 195 fight, it was more of a thing where I had to win,” Trujillo said. “I was talking to one of my coaches, Neil Melanson. He had seen the situation, that I was coming off a couple losses, and he kept it real with me. He was like, ‘You can’t let yourself get too comfortable in this life, in this game. You need to get comfortable being uncomfortable.’ The way his delivery was, it hit me. It was a very uncomfortable camp for me, but it paid off though. It paid off with victory.”
The 32-year-old, who was born and raised in North Carolina and is pursuing his dream in south Florida, pushed himself both mentally and physically through those rough three-a-day training sessions to snatch a first-round guillotine choke on Tony Sims at UFC 195. The submission was his first inside the Octagon, as he is mostly known for his knockout power. The win was more of a throwback than a new addition for Trujillo, as that hold used to be a staple in his arsenal that he is simply rediscovering.
“That’s just a natural move for me, I’m a wrestler,” Trujillo said. “When he shot for the double, he gave me his neck. He was very slow in the transitions, which I was kind of surprised with, and it let me sink the choke in even deeper. I knew it was so deep that I just needed to squeeze it and he tapped. A lot of people don’t know that I have an amateur [MMA] background as well because they weren’t really recorded. I had nine amateur bouts and eight of them were first-round guillotines. I felt like that was my special move at the time. I was just guillotining everybody, so it’s always been in my roots, but I have to find it and capitalize on it when it’s there.”
If one win wasn’t enough to smile about, Trujillo’s highly-controversial loss to Gleison Tibau in November was overturned due to Tibau testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. “I went from being on a two-fight losing streak to now being on a two-fight winning streak,” he laughed. And, more than anything, Trujillo is a happy camper with excellent training partners and coaches, like Melanson for grappling and Henri Hooft for striking, that Trujillo believes are helping him evolve into the fighter he needs to be.
“I think my game is sharper now and has a purpose,” Trujillo said. “Before, I used to go in there and just be tough and brawl with people. I was just using my athleticism and power. I’m still using that, but in a controlled way. Neil Melanson has been a great asset to the team. He knows about MMA and the grappling and the sequences that actually take place in a live fight. It’s simple things that you wouldn’t think of unless you didn’t have a coach like him. And I’ve always worked with Henri. He’s got a basic style, a very effective style.”
In addition to the training changes, Trujillo has made some life changes in 2016, with becoming a vegan high on that list.
“I’ve noticed a big difference in my energy and how clean it is when I train and I’m really looking forward to seeing how I do competing with it,” said Trujillo, whose spirits are at an all-time high between his new eating habits for the past four months and his recent role as a Kundalini yoga teacher for the past two months.
Up next, Trujillo travels to Las Vegas for a showdown with Jordan Rinaldi this Sunday. It’s been a journey for Trujillo to get to this fight, as his March bout with Ross Pearson was unfortunately scratched and Trujillo’s original opponent Diego Ferreira was pulled from this matchup as well. Months of work have led Trujillo to a bout with a fellow Carolinian in Rinaldi.
“I know by looking at his film that he’s a grappler, a jiu-jitsu guy,” Trujillo said. “Which is very similar to the guy that I was supposed to fight, Diego Ferreira. It’s not going to be a huge adjustment, as their strengths are similar. When somebody gets injured or gets popped for a banned substance, it sucks for the other guy as well. I’m just thankful this guy took the fight on short notice. This has been a real hard camp. This is like our first full camp with all of my coaches, and they pushed me and I pushed myself. I put a lot of overtime work in. That’s why I’m so thankful Jordan took the fight because I’ve been working so hard. I definitely plan on shining. All I’ve been manifesting right now is victory and winning this fight in phenomenal fashion.”