When Dhiego Lima fought Belal Muhammad back in February, he felt the pressure.
It was his first time in the Octagon since October 2019, along with his first fight back since he had neck surgery, which brought on a wave of emotions for the welterweight veteran.
“The pressure was on that fight,” Lima said. “Not really the pressure, it’s just like, ‘Oh my gosh, fighting.’ I had neck surgery and it’s like you only have one neck, so until you get in there and get that out of the way, you’re going to be like ‘uh.’ There was a lot of pressure on me in that one, but it played out for the best. I fought a ranked guy, he’s in the top 10 now, he’s amazing and now I build on from that. There’s no pressure now. Now it’s pretty much starting over, and I can’t wait.”
Prior to his loss against Muhammad, Lima was on a three-fight win streak. He will look to get that rolling again against an opponent that has been in the UFC for 13 years: Matt Brown.
This will be no easy task, but Lima is feeling confident with the skills he will bring to the fight and what a win could mean for his career going forward.
“I got the youth, I got everything,” Lima said. “I’m on fire right now. I feel good, I’m clicking on every cylinder. I feel like I can beat him anywhere, on the feet, on the ground, in the wrestling, wherever it is. I have to take the center and show that it is my time now and good stuff is going to happen.”
Just like Lima, Brown is eager to get back in the win column after suffering back-to-back losses against Carlos Condit and Miguel Baeza. Brown, who is dubbed “The Immortal”, doesn’t shy away from knockouts and submissions, winning all but two of his fights that way.
Lima isn’t unfamiliar with those either, recording five wins by submission and five first-round finishes.
“You have to be careful with everything with a guy like that,” Lima said about Brown. “The guy is so dangerous with his elbows and knees. He’s there to hurt you, so if you defocus for a little bit, he’ll hurt you, so you have to be careful with everything.”
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The two competitors do share something in common, as they are both alums of The Ultimate Fighter. Brown was featured on season seven, while Lima appeared on seasons 19 and 25.
Season 25 is familiar territory for both competitors, with Lima coming on as a fighter and Brown helping Team Dillashaw as a coach.
Is there even more of a reason for Lima to want to win? Brown helped train Jesse Taylor, who defeated Lima in the TUF 25 finale.
Being able to face off against his former TUF coach is a challenge that Lima is embracing.
“It’s just that dream that every fighter has to fight a legend in the sport,” Lima said. “For me, that’s the same thing. I’m fighting a legend in the sport. He’s been around for so long. He’s fought everybody in the sport before, so I’m really excited. It’s an honor to fight him.”
Being able to fight someone like Brown comes with a chance for a big moment in the future. A moment that could put Lima right where he wants to be. Lima acknowledged that having to take such a long period of time off affected him and his performance against Muhammad.
He believes the timing for great opportunities is now.
“A big win like Matt Brown puts me back right there,” Lima said. “I wanted to beat Belal to be ranked right there because I was going to be top 15 for sure, but beating a guy like Matt Brown, a name like him, puts me right there. With Belal winning that fight, there’s a lot of welterweight fights happening right now, there’s a lot of changes going on, it’s a great opportunity and great timing. I’m excited for that.”
When Baeza defeated Brown, things started moving up for the Floridian. Soon after his win he fought Takashi Soto and just a few weeks ago Baeza faced Santiago Ponzinibbio, who is now ranked No. 13 in the division. Muhammad moved up to No. 9 in the rankings after his victory over Brazilian star Demian Maia this past weekend at UFC 263.
With all of the changes going on the welterweight division, Lima knows the weight that this fight carries. Securing a win would allow him to make a statement and after that, it is a matter of how he can keep things going.
“I want to keep that rhythm every three to four months,” Lima said. “I have to keep that; anything longer than that you get your rhythm off and it just sucks. I want to make sure I get another one this year and another one at the beginning of the year and just keep it going. Get these wins going.”