Jailton Almeida vs. Derrick Lewis might just be the highest level of grappler vs. striker that UFC’s heavyweight division can produce. Almeida vs. Lewis headlines UFC Fight Night in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Saturday night.
Almeida (19-2) is trailing behind Sergei Pavlovich, Tom Aspinall and Ciryl Gane in the UFC’s official rankings, but he completes the quartet of new-age heavyweights terrorizing the old guard. The monstrous athlete has finished all five UFC opponents and averages nearly six-and-a-half takedowns per 15 minutes. Almeida, 32, knows that he and his contemporaries are disrupting the status quo.
“We’re a new generation that’s maybe leaner and more in shape. No bellies or anything,” Almeida told CBS Sports via a translator ahead of headlining in his native Brazil. “You even see Derrick Lewis in his last fight came in much leaner. I think they’re realizing there’s a new generation coming in and they need to change it up.”
Almeida was originally scheduled to fight No. 5 ranked heavyweight Curtis Blaydes, the longtime grappling ace of the division. It was the perfect test to determine just how potent Almeida’s grappling is. Almeida now fights backward in the rankings following an injury to Blaydes, but there is a silver lining.
“I was going to fight Curtis, who honestly if I beat him it would do better for me in the rankings,” Almeida said. “But unfortunately, he had an injury a couple of weeks ago and they brought me in Derrick Lewis. He’s a guy who’s very popular and very known.”
Check out the full interview with Jailton Almeida.
Nobody finds the off-switch quite like Lewis (27-11, 1 NC). The heavyweight slugger holds the all-time UFC KO record with 14 finishes. Lewis’ takedown defense isn’t stellar, but his power is so immense that shooting on him can be a fool’s errand. Just ask Blaydes. Lewis also has the mythical, tongue-in-cheek ability to simply stand up from underneath his heavyweight foes. Lewis claims he took the fight because nothing else was available and he knows very little about Almeida.
“I didn’t know anything about him and I still don’t know anything about him, but my coaches say he’s just some grappling guy. I never watched any of his fights. I still haven’t watched any of his videos. We’re supposed to get together as a team tomorrow and all of his fights and study him. My coach has already been going stuff in the gym and letting me know what things to watch out for.
Lewis has a dry humor so it’s hard to gauge how honest he’s being with his laissez-faire attitude. What’s more assured is Lewis’ renewed commitment to the fight game. Lewis once contemplated retirement but is renewed after snapping his first losing streak with an elephant-sized flying knee against Marcos Rogerio de Lima that you need to see to believe. Lewis, 38, recently signed a “lucrative” new eight-fight deal with the UFC and plans to stick around for the long haul.
“I’m more motivated than ever. The UFC put their faith in me and gave me another contract…” Lewis said. “It’s given me more confidence to put all my work in the gym and in the Octagon to not make them regret their decision.
“I’m here for the long haul. It’s crazy that in 2017 I wanted to give all this up.”
Check out the full interview with Derrick Lewis below.
The undercard is loaded up with Brazilian talents looking to make a splash in front of their countrymen and women. One of the most notable prospects fights in the co-main event when Gabriel Bonfim takes on Nicolas Dalby at welterweight. Bonfim has dazzled in three appearances with all three fights ending in submission wins. Plus, Rodrigo Nascimento is set to take on Don’Tale Mayes at heavyweight, rising middleweight contender Caio Borralho battles Abus Magomedov and Rodolfo Vieira takes on Armen Petrosyan at middleweight.
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Below is the rest of the fight card for Saturday with the latest odds before we get to a prediction and pick on the main event.
UFC Fight Night card, odds
|Jailton Almeida -500||Derrick Lewis +380||Heavyweight|
|Gabriel Bonfim -650||Nicolas Dalby +460||Welterweight|
|Rodrigo Nascimento -195||Don’Tale Mayes +165||Heavyweight|
|Caio Borralho -320||Abus Magomedov +250||Middleweight|
|Rodolfo Vieira -115||Armen Petrosyan -105||Middleweight|
UFC Fight Night viewing information
Date: Nov. 4 | Start time: 9 p.m. ET (main card)
Location: Ibirapuera Arena — Sao Paulo
TV channel: ESPN+
Jailton Almeida vs. Derrick Lewis: There is one reason to be hesitant about Almeida despite the steep odds: he doesn’t get hit often. But that isn’t because of his phenomenal striking defense. It’s because he grounds opponents so quickly. The UFC sample size for Almeida’s striking defense is paltry. He’s only absorbed nine strikes across six recorded fights. Seven of those came in his “Contender Series” debut against Nasrudin Nasrudinov. Technically, he’s only defending 25% of the strikes coming his way. That is likely an aberration, but Lewis is the last person you want to test it against. Almeida must choose his entries wisely without being complacent. Lewis’ power can force trepidation and poor shot selection from foes. It’s imperative that Almeida masks his entries and chain takedowns without starting slow. Lewis also loses most of his fight on the feet despite his scary reputation. Almeida can crack — probably not like Pavlovich or Tai Tuivasa — and put out a less durable Lewis. I truly believe Almeida is a future Big Four UFC heavyweight, so I’ll side with him cleanly. Almeida via SUB1
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