Thomas Almeida vs Anthony Birchak Preview and Analysis – UFC Fight Night 77

Thomas AlmeidaOne of UFC Fight Night 77’s featured fights is a bantamweight contest between fast rising and heavily hyped prospect Thomas “Thominhas” Almeida and Anthony “El Toro” Birchak. Almeida is one of the top prospects in the sport and could very well challenge for the bantamweight title someday. His counterpart, Birchak, is a solid fighter that absolutely starched Joe Soto in June.   Thomas Almeida (20-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC, -440 favorite) Almeida has quickly established himself as perhaps the most exciting prospect in the UFC. The offensive dynamo has reeled off three straight victories since signing with the promotion in 2014. The Brazilian was awarded a “Performance of the Night” bonus for each of those wins, which were a decision win over the durable Tim Gorman, and knockouts of veterans Yves Jabouin and Brad Pickett. The 24-year old is rapidly climbing the ladder in a division that badly needs fresh contenders. Almeida’s last performance was against Pickett, who provided Almeida with his stiffest test to date. While he struggled early, the Brazilian was able to find his groove late in the first round and ultimately knocked out Pickett early in the second round with a vicious flying knee that absolutely flattened the durable Englishman. Almeida will look to keep his undefeated record intact and continue his rapid climb up the ranks of the UFC’s bantamweight division with a win over Birchak this Saturday night. The youthful Almeida is one of the most violent strikers in the UFC. The Muay Thai specialist puts tremendous pressure on his opponents by constantly moving forward and firing quick combinations. Almeida prefers to exchange in the pocket, where he is adept at slipping his opponent’s strikes and coming back with multi-strike combinations that often leave his opponents reeling. A stiff jab opens up his straight right to left hook combination, which is one of his go-to techniques. Uppercuts, hooks, overhands, standing elbows, and knees are just a few of the strikes in the Brazilian’s toolbox. There are not many, if any, fighters in the division that have as deep of a striking arsenal as Almeida. Almeida has finished all but one of his 20 fights, including 15 by knockout and 4 by submission. However, like a good football team, you can’t be good only on offense. Almeida has a few defensive holes that have been exploited in recent fights. Striking defense, such as moving his head off the center line after throwing a combination, has been his only issue in the UFC thus far. I am confident the young fighter is working on these issues, as he works with a good camp and will continue to improve. The general consensus on how to beat Almeida is to take him down and keep him there. However, that has proven to be one tough task. Almeida is adept at securing double underhooks and stuffing his opponent’s takedown attempts. However, he can be taken down by a strong blast double-leg, as his constant forward pressure leaves him open to the technique. Once on the mat, Almeida is very good at creating space and working back to his feet. Additionally, he is decent at threatening with submissions, which often creates space for him to make his way back to his feet. We will find out more about his ground game once he starts to face some of the better wrestlers and grapplers in the division. Lastly, Almeida has strong conditioning, which allows him to push the pace for the duration of the fight.   Anthony Birchak (12-2 MMA, 1-1 UFC, +350 underdog) The 29-year old is another impressive young prospect that has a good shot at becoming a long term fighter in the UFC. He entered the UFC in December of 2014 with a decent amount of hype behind him. That hype came after Birchak won the Maximum Fighting Championship’s Bantamweight Title in late 2013. His two-fight stint in the Canadian promotion included a decision win over current UFC flyweight Ryan Benoit and a submission victory over Tito Jones that won him the title. His fight against Benoit was highly praised by fans and was a contender for fight of the year. Although Birchak entered his UFC debut against Ian Entwistle as a sizeable favorite, he ended up getting submitted early in the first round. The Arizona native is known for his aggressive fighting style and tendency to get into exciting fights. Birchak is an aggressive fighter that has a decent wrestling background and a wild striking style. The Mexican-American was a wrestler for Grand Canyon University, which is a division II school in Arizona. Birchak has not strayed from his Arizona roots, as he still trains there with fellow UFC stars Henry Cejudo and Frankie Saenz. On the feet, Birchak can get a bit too wild, as he tends to come forward while throwing sloppy punches and kicks. However, he has found success on the feet in several fights and has four knockout wins in his 12-fight career. That success was often due to him overwhelming his opponents with sheer aggression and tenacity. Birchak’s wrestling background often allows him to dictate where his fights take place, which is a big advantage. His Greco-Roman style includes strong takedowns in the clinch, including trips and throws. Once top position is established, Birchak is aggressive and looks to immediately pass and threaten with a submission. While he has six submission wins out of his 12 career wins, he does tend to be a little too eager while in top position. Birchak is willing to take risks to pass and attempt submissions, which gives his opponent chances to reverse the position or get back to their feet. Further, there are serious questions surrounding Birchak’s in-fight decision-making, as he has made several poor decisions in some of his fights. For example, he had a big advantage on the feet against Entwistle, but he chose to take Entwistle down. That was problematic because Entwistle’s only way to win that fight was by submission, as he is a leg-lock specialist. Birchak should have known he needed to stay on his feet, especially early when both fighters were not sweaty and it is easier to secure leg-locks.   Thoughts There is a lot to like about this matchup. Almeida has breezed through his first three UFC fights, notching performance bonuses in all three contests. He has been marked as one of the top prospects in the sport and an eventual title contender. Birchak, on the other hand, lost a lot of his steam when he was submitted by Entwistle in his UFC debut. Birchak and Almeida are both exciting fighters that do not waste time in going for the kill. Birchak’s aggressiveness, especially on the feet, plays right into Almeida’s hands, as he is the much more technical and efficient striker. Birchak’s wide, looping punches will be easy prey for Almeida’s strong counter attacks. Birchak’s best shot at winning this fight is to take Almeida down and keep him there. That is easier said than done, however, as Almeida is adept at scrambling back to his feet. Birchak could land a big shot on the feet, as he has decent power in his hands and Almeida has some defensive issues. However, I do not think that is very likely. Almeida’s hype train should continue to roll here, as he should put Birchak’s lights out with one of his vicious combinations.   The Prediction: Thomas Almeida defeats Anthony Birchak by knockout (round 1)

Written by Mike James

Leave a Reply

UFC Fight Night 77’s Johnny Case on Yan Cabral “I’m going to expose him and he’s going to get desperate”

Bellator 145’s Michael Chandler: ‘I don’t think David Rickels is on my level’