Matt Hughes has over a decade of fight experience coming into his match with Ricardo Almeida Saturday night at UFC 117: Silva vs. Sonnen. In his last match with Almeida’s mentor, Renzo Gracie, Hughes said he felt something that he has never felt in the middle of a fight before.
“I don’t know if the pressure was off, or maybe it was just that a lot of things were going my way, but it was just one of those fights where some of the time I really wanted to hurt my opponent and some of the time out there it seemed like I had a smile on my face,” said Hughes.
Hughes emerged victorious over Gracie with 20 seconds left in the match, scoring a TKO to punches. The best online sportsbooks have set Hughes as the favorite in many of his matches over the year due to his striking ability.
“I was really just able to enjoy that fight for some reason and quite possibly it could be that halfway through the second round, I knew that I was dominating the fight,” Hughes added.
The Illinois native has one of the longest tenures in the UFC, and continues to add new weapons to his offense, while his experience keeps him from taking too many shots.
During the fight with Gracie, Hughes displayed his ability to hurt his opponents with leg kicks. He followed those painful kicks with devastating punches to ruin the long-anticipated debut of Gracie. The most trusted sportsbooks take notice of past wins over impressive opponents.
“I do work a lot with my striking coach, Matt Pena, and he talked about that last sequence of punches and he really enjoyed it because he said I did well,” the welterweight said. “I am that old dog, but I’m still able to learn and that’s one of the fun things about this sport. I enjoy learning and picking up new stuff, and that’s why I’m doing it.”
Ricardo Almeida has just over a quarter of the victories Hughes does, but he is no stranger to the UFC. He made his debut in a 2001 loss to Matt Lindland due to repeated fouls. He immediately followed that loss with a submission victory over Eugene Jackson.
Another loss to Andrei Semenov saw Almeida take a hiatus from the UFC to fight in Japan. After wining six fights in a row, Almedia took three years off to participate in Jiu-Jitsu school. He earned a third-degree black belt under the tutelage of Gracie.
Thanks to his training, and three-fight win streak Almeida is considered the favorite to win the match by MMA sportsbooks at -175 odds. Hughes’ underdog line is set at +145.