One of the top up-and-coming fighters in the world of mixed martial arts has signed with the UFC. Thomas Almeida, the undefeated Brazilian who was the Legacy FC bantamweight champion, yesterday signed with the Ultimate Fighting Championship on the heels of a vicious knockout win over Caio Machado this past weekend at Legacy FC that saw him claim that promotion’s bantamweight title. With a perfect 17-0 record — all wins coming via stoppage — Almeida enters the UFC’s bantamweight division as a possible future title contender. MMA Premium was first to report the signing, which was subsequently confirmed by MMAFighting.com. Right now, the UFC bantamweight division is in dire need of new prospects. Looking at the top 10 of the division, many of the fighters at 135lbs in the UFC are over the age of 30: Urijah Faber, Eddie Wineland, Johnny Eduardo, Francisco Rivera, and others are all over 30 and on the decline. So while youngster TJ Dillashaw and top contenders like Raphael Assuncao, Michael McDonald and Renan Barao are all in their primes, other than that elite group there aren’t too many up-and-comers to be excited about, which is why the signing of Almeida is so important. Although Legacy FC is losing another one of their champions to the UFC, it’s pretty obvious that the promotion has some sort of a working relationship with the UFC as many of their champions and best fighters have ventured over to the Octagon following decisive wins in Legacy. Last week, their middleweight champion Bubba Bush signed with the UFC, and in the past other top prospects like Andrew Craig, Sean Spencer, and countless others have been signed to the UFC following standout performances in Legacy. In the future, expect other young champs as well as veterans on the rebound like Leonard Garcia who are fighting in Legacy to get their shot in the UFC if they are successful in that promotion. As far as Almeida goes, he is an extremely nasty striker who has 13 career wins via T/KO, as well as four more wins by submission. He’s a stud prospect and he could have been in the UFC a while ago, but obviously they wanted him to prove himself in Legacy FC and this past weekend’s knockout over Machado certainly showed he is deserving of a spot on the UFC roster. With the UFC bantamweight division being on the most shallow weight classes in the promotion, expect other top prospects like Almeida to be signed in the future to help strengthen a division that is sorely lacking on new contenders. And don’t be surprised if one day one of these prospects is fighting for the belt.