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 Jailton Almeida of Brazil reacts after his victory over Shamil Abdurakhimov of Russia in a heavyweight fight during the UFC 283 event at Jeunesse Arena on January 21, 2023 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
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Jailton Almeida: ‘If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It’

It’s Business As Usual For Brazil’s Jailton Almeida As He Takes On Heavyweight Knockout Artist Derrick Lewis At UFC Fight Night: Almeida vs Lewis in São Paulo

To kick off his 2023 campaign, UFC heavyweight Jailton Almeida closed out the prelims at UFC 283 in January against Shamil Abdurakhimov. When he made his walk to the Octagon that night, Almeida noticed vacant seats throughout Jeunesse Arena, as fans were still making their way through the concession stands before the start of the main card.

While the arena wasn’t packed to the rafters, as he might have hoped, Almeida still felt the energy of the Rio de Janeiro crowd behind him. Almeida, as he’s now done for 14 consecutive fights, finished his opponent with relative ease.

After a quick pit stop in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Almeida went nearly untouched in a one-round starching of Jairzinho Rozenstruik, the Brazilian returns to his home country as the headliner, this time about 275 miles west in São Paulo. While still a two-hour flight away from the venue, not having to travel all the way to the United States is a welcome change.

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“[It] helps a lot,” Almeida said of fighting close to home. “When you fly and only get there the next day, you have to acclimate; it’s a different environment. Not to mention the stress you put your body through to be able to fight well. So, it's much easier to fly for only two hours than spending 25, 30 hours waiting to get to another country. That’s hard.”

Jailton Almeida | Best Finishes
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Jailton Almeida | Best Finishes
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Fighting close to home couldn’t have happened at a better time for Almeida, whose second UFC main event was in disarray just a few short weeks ago after his originally scheduled opponent, Curtis Blaydes, pulled out of the fight. Stepping in on three weeks’ notice is UFC knockout king Derrick Lewis.

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With not a lot of time to construct an entirely new game plan, Almeida decided to stick with the same approach for Lewis as he had with Blaydes. While Lewis, a devastating puncher, and Blaydes, a very offensive wrestler, offer very different threats, Almeida believes neither can defend his elite grappling.

“If you look at Khabib's journey in the UFC, he always kept his style,” Almeida said of the UFC Hall of Famer. “He became champion and ended his career fighting the same way. So, as I always say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. So, we have to keep the same game, always looking to improve. We are never perfect. We’re always trying to practice a new position, something a bit different, adjust a few things on the ground. We have to be constantly studying, but the game is the same.”

Jailton Almeida of Brazil celebrates his submission victory over Jairzinho Rozenstruik of Suriname in their heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Spectrum Center on May 13, 2023 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Jailton Almeida of Brazil celebrates his submission victory over Jairzinho Rozenstruik of Suriname in their heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Spectrum Center on May 13, 2023 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LL

As we’ve seen so far in his five-fight UFC career, Almeida’s consistent gameplan has worked flawlessly. Against all of his opponents, Almeida patiently waits for the perfect moment to explode and land a takedown. Once on the mat, Almeida’s elite grappling takes complete control, and it’s only a matter of time before he sinks in a submission or ground-and-pounds his way to victory.

Almeida has finished all 19 of his professional mixed martial arts victories, and is currently riding a 14 fight win streak that’s featured 11 first round finishes.

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“We’ve kept the same style, especially because my former opponent doesn’t fully defend takedowns,” Almeida said. “You can see that several strikers managed to take him down. But they didn't know how to control him on the ground. I’m very good at it. I can control people on the ground. Derrick Lewis doesn't really have a great takedown defense. However, he’s got heavy hands, and the good thing is that he doesn't move around so much. He waits for the right moment. He’s kind of unpredictable. You can see that in his last fight with [Marcos Rogério de Lima]. They barely touched gloves and he went straight to a flying knee. [Rogério de Lima] wasn’t expecting it, so the knee landed.”

Lewis has some of the most devastating power, statistically, the UFC has seen in the last 30 years. “The Black Beast” has the most knockouts in UFC history with 14, which makes him tied with Anderson Silva and Dustin Poirier for fifth all-time in total finishes.

Jailton Almeida of Brazil prepares to fight Anton Turkalj of Sweden in a 220-pound catchweight fight during the UFC 279 event at T-Mobile Arena on September 10, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Jailton Almeida of Brazil prepares to fight Anton Turkalj of Sweden in a 220-pound catchweight fight during the UFC 279 event at T-Mobile Arena on September 10, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Lewis has shown throughout his entire career that he’s as dangerous in the opening minute of the fight as he is the last. In 2018, Lewis was on his way to losing a decision, decisively, against Alexander Volkov. Having been outlanded by 82 strikes, Lewis threw one final haymaker in the dying seconds of the third round to put Volkov away and earn Lewis the latest comeback finish by striking deficit in a fight that ends by finish.

Most recently, as Almeida previously mentioned, Lewis wasted no time in the Octagon. As soon as the fight started, Lewis sprung at Rogério de Lima and landed a flying knee which was the beginning of the end for his opponent.

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“I think that’s the only thing I have to watch out for [against Lewis], his heavy hands,” Almeida said.” So, I need to be careful because he can be unpredictable. He's a very dangerous guy, everyone knows that. He has the most knockouts in UFC history. That deserves respect. His strength is his heavy hands, everyone knows that. His weakness is that I’m actually different.  I have very good ground control and he’s like a turtle on the ground. I mean, that’s what people say, but all UFC fighters are good. As I always say, only the best are in the UFC. So, we have to be ready for everything.

“[This fight is] going to be special, great energy,” Almeida said. “That fuels me to go there and put on a show [for] everybody, and I’m sure I’m getting this win, God willing. I’ll beat him in a way that will surprise everybody.”

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UFC Fight Night: Almeida vs Lewis took place live from Ibirapuera Arena in São Paulo, Brazil on November 4, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass