UFC action returns this weekend with UFC Fight Night 231 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The headline clash between Jailton Almeida and Derrick Lewis is shaping up to be a big one for the local crowd.
Almeida, ranked #9, is set to face off against #10 ranked former title challenger Derrick Lewis in a five-round heavyweight main event. Almeida’s on an impressive six-fight win streak now and looks to continue his dominance in the division this weekend.
Read on for our Almeida vs Lewis fight predictions, breakdown, betting odds, picks and more.
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Almeida vs. Lewis Betting Odds
Derrick Lewis will enter the Octagon at UFC Fight Night 231 as a heavy underdog with odds of +375 up against Jailton Almeida who can be found at -550.
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Almeida vs. Lewis Fight Predictions
Jailton Almeida is a problem for anyone in the heavyweight division, but he does have a predictable approach that is very tried and true. In almost all of his fights he comes in with a left front kick high that forces his opponent’s weight back and exposes the hips and by extension the blast double that always follows. He drives the takedown into the cage, where he elevates and finishes, forcing his opponent to expose the back with his high passing game or mounting and beating them up with ground and pound until they give up the back anyway.
Derrick Lewis and Jailton Almeida are similar in height and reach but it is notable that while Lewis is one of the larger heavyweights in the division, Almeida spent a significant time in his career as low as welterweight. Lewis has also become known for his ability to explode and power his way from bottom position back to standing against arguably truer heavyweights than Almeida, who even still shifts between heavyweight and light heavyweight at times. It is likely that Almeida will have to consistently shoot and get mat returns much more than his previous opponents, and it’s whether he gets discouraged by this or is able to maintain the cycle and break down Lewis’ gas tank that could determine the outcome.
Keeping Lewis on the fence is a strong way of keeping contact when Lewis does work his way up so that Almeida can drop from the clinch and reshoot without giving Lewis the space to circle away or land his incredible power at range. Minimizing the opportunities by taking away this space is paramount as Lewis has shown fans that every second of the fight could be a potential KO sequence, even down to the fifth round.
The predictability of the kick to takedown combo of Almeida would lead me to believe that Lewis will be sitting back for the counter throughout the fight. He does a good job of finding the chin, and as he showed against another predictable grappler in Curtis Blaydes, he will punish level changes that are not set up with that slick uppercut. One of the ways in which Almeida can work effectively would be to mix up his targets, he is not the cleanest striker but he is explosive and fast, and while he favors the front kick high, it would serve him well to go to the body. Lewis has been susceptible to the mid section in the past, and the combination of body work and chain wrestling in conjunction is another way to wear him down.
I expect Almeida to win as long as he maintains his mental composure. Lewis is going to be a more experienced and more powerful opponent than Almeida has typically faced. If he is able to work his way out of positions, especially with his mass and presence it could be very disheartening for Almeida. Likewise, feeling the power of Lewis could very well be a different feeling, but if he sticks to his game and keeps moving and forcing Lewis to deal with his takedowns I do think Almeida has the skills to win. Considering the history of these two its difficult to see the fight going the distance as backed up by the -3000 odds. The big question is whether to pick Almeida by KO/TKO via ground and pound or to sink in a submission, but the combination of ground and pound before a submission is probably the most likely.
Pick: Jailton Almeida to win via submission (-125)
Self-proclaimed “Brazilian Khabib,” Jailton “Malhadinho” Almeida is undefeated since joining the UFC in 2022. All 5 of his fights have ended in rounds 1 or 2 and all have featured his impressive wrestling and grappling skillset. Arguably undersized for the heavyweight division- Almeida has fought at 205 in the past- “Malhadinho” uses his hyper-athleticism, quick shot entries, and suffocating top game to get the fight down to the mat quickly and dominate once he does. While Almeida can strike enough to survive on the feet, the higher he climbs in the rankings, the more vulnerable he becomes in striking battles. His footwork, guard, and combinations are all visually impressive- seeing someone of his size move the way he can is always impressive- but concerningly basic. The longer he stands, the more danger he is in. Fortunately for Almeida fans, he knows what he does well and rarely wastes much time implementing his game plan. Almeida stands only as long as it takes to find an opening for a takedown attempt. The instant he sees exposed hips or an ankle, Almeida shoots with lightning fast movement and gets the fight down. The only slight concern in Almeida’s entries is that he can sometimes shoot from too far away and leave himself exposed to catch something coming in as he shoots. Beyond that, his wrestling is elite. More impressively, though, is what Almeida does once he gets the mat, and the reason he likens himself to “The Eagle.” Almeida uses a proven method of handcuffing his opponent while grape vining legs to completely control his foe. Both of these strategies take an exceptional level of skill and strength to successfully apply which is why, despite the proven success, not all fighters are able to simultaneously control the wrists and legs. Almeida can and does. Once he gets ahold of the wrist and legs it’s only a matter of time before he sets up a submission or gets to mount and starts raining down hammer fists. Most of his opponents will have to play the child’s game, the floor is lava, if they want to find a way to beat the 32-year-old phenom turned contender.
Derick “The Black Beast” Lewis, now 38, showed he still has some tricks up his sleeve with a flying knee into punches knockout to end his last fight in :33. Lewis has historically, and accurately, been touted for his insane power, but the MMA community seems to be coming around on his speed and intelligence in the cage as well. Lewis has always carried bricks in his gloves and can end the fight in an instant. But, the way in which he finds his power shots is uniquely his own. Lewis is willing to “swang and bang” has he’s famously said, trading shots in the pocket until someone drops. He’s been willing to play opossum, baiting his opponent into over-extending so Lewis can counter with his own fight ending shot. He’s been willing to look for that one perfect shot, sacrificing rounds due to inactivity, to finally land his own uppercut from hell. And, most recently, Lewis was willing to sprint into a flying knee to start a fight. These choices should be seen less as antics and more as bold strategies. In each case, Lewis identified a path to victory and successfully implemented a winning game plan. However, the “bold” aspect of those strategies also needs to be analyzed. Because, when his plan fails, it tends to fail just as emphatically as it wows when it succeeds. His chin is starting to waiver after nearly a decade of UFC heavyweight fights and he seems to have hit his ceiling in the division. Additionally, the UFC heavyweight division seems to have passed him by in style and physique. Fighters are coming in lighter than ever before and relying on speed, an advantage Lewis often has over “old school fighters, and a full arsenal of weapons. In fights where Lewis knows the fight will likely be power vs power, he often has the edge in speed, athleticism, and game plan. But, against fighters who are more dynamic and varied, Lewis has struggled to win consistently.
This fight boils down to speed and fight IQ. Lewis, especially recently, has won fights on the back of his quick-twitch power. The power of the most decorated knockout artist is evident; but, the way he implements his power, through a deceptively fast strike, is what separates Lewis from other plodding power punchers. All 4 of his most recent wins, dating back to 2020, have come from an exciting and unexpected power shot that caught his opponent off guard and dropped him. Also, in all 4 of those fights, Lewis was the faster striker. Outside of one, in recent fights where Lewis did not have the speed advantage, he’s lost. Almeida will be the faster and far more athletic fighter in this fight, taking away Lewis’ relatively unrecognized x-factor. However, Lewis still has his craftiness. His crafty game plan was on full display in his last fight where Lewis went full Masvidal and landed a flying knee to start the fight. While he has a dry, understated, and often mimicked personality that sometimes leads people to overlook Lewis’ fight IQ, the success of his crafty and strategic antics speak for themselves. So, if Almeida doesn’t mind his P’s and Q’s, Lewis may be able to land something shocking. With all the credit given to Lewis’s power, speed, and fight IQ, I still confidently expect Almeida to win. Almeida’s athleticism, relentless wrestling, suffocating top game, and submission prowess all spell problems for “The Black Beast.” I expect Almeida to land a takedown after a few minutes of careful sparring; and, even if Lewis can get back to his feet using his patented “just get up” technique, I expect Almeida to be able to mat return the veteran. Look for Almeida to find the finish late in round 1 or early in round 2. I wouldn’t mind a play on both to cover my bases, but my best bet is Almeida to win in round 1.
Best Bet: Almeida to win in round 1 (-120)
Jailton Almeida, coined as the “Brazilian Khabib”, is a highly touted prospect with championship aspirations in the near future. Perhaps all that is needed to be known is he lives up to the “Brazilian Khabib” moniker when understanding the degree of talent Almeida coupled with how he fights, as he has high-end attributes with an unrelenting elite grappling attack, quite unique for the heavyweight division.
Heavyweight grapplers have had up-and-down moments as the style, as with any style, is more dangerous at the most powerful division of heavyweight compared to lower weight classes. A noteworthy case study is Sergey Spivak, as he looked sensational against Derrick Lewis, but in his last fight, failed to implement his bread and butter of wrestling and looked a tier below Ciryl Gane. The lesson of Spivak is twofold: one, wrestling can take you very far in the heavyweight division; and two, a more well-rounded attack and/or twitchier elite traits are needed to propel you into title contention.
When looking at Jailton Almeida, the wrestling game advancing him to top 10 status is apparent. The question then looms is if he has the striking game and/or special traits to advance him even further. For both, I say yes. In the striking department, Almeida moves with quickness as he comes in far lighter than his opponent come fight night. This quickness allows him to enter range, throw nice down-the-barrel punches, and either exit or chain his striking into wrestling. While the benefit of being a lighter heavyweight is quickness, the often inherent detriment, particularly for a grappler, is failure to physically dominate once a grappling opportunity surfaces against high-end competition; but for Almeida, his “special” is that he has an unnatural amount of strength combined with elite technique to successfully grapple bigger opponents. Because of this, I do believe he has title contention destined for his future.
Playing spoiler to perceived destiny is something Derrick Lewis is built for. His natural strength, large amount of experience, and insane power makes him a dangerous test for any up-and-coming fighter to pass. Moreover, the demonstrated ability to land perfectly timed shots, particularly against grapplers, makes him a very dangerous test for Almeida here.
Landing a perfect power shot is often the gameplan of Derrick Lewis, and to best do so he needs to keep the fight on the feet. The problem is that he looked lost last time fighting a sound grappler of Spivak, and Jailton Almedia is a faster, more explosive version of him. At this stage of his career, having quicker reactions to defend takedown attempts and/or develop additional skills to get up off the back if taken to the mat has likely passed Lewis by, so he will need to find a finish early here to negate any concern of getting taken to the mat.
Derrick Lewis is certainly an enigma come fight night. At times, he will come in heavy, and other times will try to shed weight to be a faster version of himself. Moreover, there have been instances of recent note where he looks to be perhaps over the hill, but then he will go out, as he did in his last fight, and showcase he still has plenty left in the tank. Regardless of the Lewis we get here, I am comfortable backing Almeida as his speed and technique, particularly with timing powerful takedown attempts, will be too much for Lewis to handle, and once on the mat, the discrepancy of Almeida’s top game versus Lewis’s bottom defense is far too wide for Almeida not to find a finish.
Betting Almeida by a finish is priced too high to play, because of this, I will choose him by round 1/2 submission because Almeida may be cautious early given Lewis has shown to time power shots quite well, but once the inevitable takedown occurs, the submission game of Almeida will be too much for Lewis to defend.
Bet: Almeida by Round 1/2 Submission