ESPN MMA Live contributor Franklin McNeil tweeted the news that a welterweight bout between former UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes (44-7) and Ricardo Almeida (12-3) is likely to appear somewhere on the UFC 117 card, which is tentatively scheduled to go down on August 7th in Oakland, California at the Oracle Arena.
Though he was once the sport’s most dominant champion, MMA veteran Matt Hughes’ recent performances have many questioning how much gas he has left in his tank. After suffering definitive back to back losses to Georges St. Pierre and Thiago Alves, Hughes got back in the win column with a controversial unanimous decision win over Matt Serra and continued that trend with a third round TKO over Renzo Gracie. Hughes insists that he can still make waves in the UFC’s welterweight division and he will be trying to prove it against Almeida.
Setting up a perfect revenge story line is the fact that Ricardo Almeida is a third degree Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu jitsu under Renzo Gracie. Almeida was probably none-too-thrilled to see his coach and mentor defeated by Hughes and that fact could give Almeida added motivation to beat Hughes. Almeida is currently on a three fight win streak, with his most recent victory coming by way of submission over Matt Brown in his welterweight debut.
It is hard to say for sure, and counting a legend like Hughes out of a fight completely seems rash, but his recent performances against the UFC’s elite welterweights have been dismal and his recent performances in general have done nothing to lend merit to the idea that Hughes can still compete with the division’s young lions.
Almeida looked solid in his last fight and seemed to handle the weight cut without much problem. Hughes, on the other hand, has looked tentative in his recent outings and has not seemed able to implement his wrestling offense (the key to his past dominance) to much success. While neither fighter’s striking ability is world class, a standup fight would likely favor the younger man in Almeida. Hughes’ performance in this fight will determine whether or not he has any hope of regaining prominence in the welterweight division; if that has not already been determined.