In the end, Almeida decided heavyweight was his new home for the time being and rose to prominence for a big fight with the big boys.
At 16-2 with two impressive UFC performances, Almeida got what he was looking for in a Top 15 heavyweight shot at UFC 279 as he signed the contract to face Shamil Abdurakhimov. Unfortunately, Abdurakhimov was kicked out of the fight, but that didn’t stop Almeida from finding a new opponent.
That’s when Anton Turkalj of Sweden stepped in, agreeing to face Almeida at a catchweight of 220 pounds. It’s a good opportunity for the 26-year-old, who didn’t receive a contract after his decision win at the start of Contender Series season six.
” I do not think so [the opponent switch] change anything. I wanted a ranked guy, but I don’t think that makes a big difference,” Almeida said. “I’m sure I’ll end up getting a ranked guy.”
Although he came at the last minute, Turkalj will certainly be a test for Almeida, who can extend his winning streak to 12 with a win at T-Mobile Arena this weekend.
“My opponent is a very versatile guy, and he also has grappling experience. We have similar games,” Almeida said of Turkalj. “I think Mick Maynard picked this fight to prove who the best grappler in the division is. I’m sure I’m the best grappler. I train very hard for this. I have a very solid game. Even though his game is similar to mine, he’s really going nowhere. I end my fights, either with a choke or with a ground and a pound.
If Almeida can look anything like he looked to Marques and Porter, then an impressive win over Turkalj will do nothing but help ‘Malhadinho’ secure a great fight on his next Octagon adventure.
And he will certainly no longer be a prospect that flies under the radar.