Saturday, July 22, will mark the 25th time the UFC is broadcast on big Fox. The event takes place in Long Island, N.Y., and will be held at the prestigious Nassau Coliseum. Chris Weidman and Kelvin Gastelum headline the Fox main card, and Darren Elkins goes to battle with New York’s own Dennis Bermudez in the co-headliner. There are 13 fights in total on the night, but let’s take a look at a couple of the contests that aren’t getting the coverage they deserve.
The first bout is on the Fox main card, but it’s really not getting the attention it warrants. The contest features Jimmie Rivera, who is out to continue his assault on the bantamweight division against equally game Thomas Almeida. Why the UFC hasn’t hyped this fight more or featured it on the Road to the Octagon show is beyond me. The two combatants have a combined record of 42-2, and Rivera, a New Jersey native, is essentially fighting in his backyard.
Rivera is on an impressive 19-fight winning streak. He dropped an exhibition bout at the hands of the aforementioned co-headliner Bermudez during The Ultimate Fighter 14 competition in 2011. Rivera’s only official defeat came in his second professional fight in 2008. “El Terror” is currently ranked No. 5 in the UFC’s bantamweight division. He could arguably be as high as No. 3, right behind Dominick Cruz and T.J. Dillashaw. No matter where Rivera is ranked, one thing’s certain: if he runs through Almeida on Saturday night, a title shot is in his future.
“Thominhas” does stand in the way of the hometown fighter, though, and make no mistake about it, the 25-year-old Almeida is looking to disappoint the fans at the Nassau Coliseum. The Brazilian is ranked No. 9 in the bantamweight division, and his only lose came at the hands of the reigning king of the 135-pounders, Cody Garbrandt.
Almeida is a notoriously quick starter, so don’t blink during this fight. His last four victories have all ended early via knockout. Rivera and Almeida get the Fox main card started with a bang. This one is most likely not going the distance, and it could easily snag “Fight of the Night” honors.
The other low-key fight to consider is on the UFC Fight Pass early prelims, where Shane Burgos meets Godofredo Pepey.
Burgos is undefeated and sports a professional record of 9-0. He has truly looked better in each consecutive fight. Burgos has been honing his craft at Tiger Schulmann’s Mixed Martial Arts in Elmwood Park, N.J. In the “Hurricane’s” last outing, he put on a “Fight of the Night” performance against an always-game Charles Rosa, turning up the pressure in round three to get the TKO victory. With an equal number of knockout and submission wins, Burgos is comfortable and confident wherever the fight goes.
Pepey would like to play the role of spoiler in this match-up. The Fortaleza, Ceara, Brazil, product is looking to show that he is more than just the runner up of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 1. At 30 years old, Pepey could be entering the prime of his career, but will a 10-month layoff from competition be a factor?
The two things I’m most interested in seeing from Pepey are the color of his hair and how he goes about getting this fight to the ground. It’s no secret what Pepey’s game plan is going to be — he wants to get the fight off the feet as efficiently as possible. The featherweight division is up in the air at the present moment, but the winner of this fight should get a top-15 opponent in their next bout.
These two bouts might not have received the attention they deserve, but they will have an impact on their respective divisions.