The UFC heads south to where it all started this weekend, as they travel to Brazil for UFC Fight Night: Almeida vs. Lewis. The card is chocked full of fighters performing in front of a home crowd in their native land, none more notably than Jailton Almeida. Almeida has fought at both light heavyweight and heavyweight, as well as at a catchweight in between, but has found his home in the heavyweight division and takes on his toughest test in former title challenger Derrick Lewis. Lewis is a fan favorite but he will be in a hostile environment in Brazil this weekend against Almeida. “The Black Beast” will look to add to his record number of knockout victories by halting the momentum of Almeida.
The co-main event is a welterweight showdown against surging Brazilian prospect Gabriel Bonfim and Nicolas Dalby. Bonfim is an undefeated fighter who can put himself firmly on the map at 170 lbs. with a win and Dalby has a chance, like Lewis in the main event, to play spoiler against a hometown favorite.
UFC Fight Night: Almeida vs. Lewis. airs live in its entirety on ESPN+ starting at 6 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Dan Kuhl and Matt Petela preview the action in this week’s edition of Toe-to-Toe.
Jailton Almeida has been a wrecking ball in the UFC; can the Brazilian standout score the biggest win of his career by beating Derrick Lewis?
Kuhl: Jailton Almeida has been much more than just a wrecking ball in the UFC. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt may have seven knockouts in 19 victories, but it’s even more impressive that he holds 12 submission wins as a heavyweight, and has only been to decision once. With two losses, he has only been finished once, and since his Contender Series win in Sep. 2021, he has gone 5-0 in the Octagon. This extended hsi overall winning streak to 14. He now sits at No. 9 in the UFC heavyweight division after his most recent win over Jairzinho Rozenstruik last May.
Derrick Lewis sits right behind Almeida at the No. 10 spot in the rankings, and everyone knows what to expect from the longtime UFC vet. Since joining the promotion in Apr. 2014, he has gone 18-9 with only four of those going the distance, all of which he won. He has beaten everyone from Roy Nelson to current champ Francis Ngannou. He has also been stopped four times in his last six fights, but those were all to highly ranked heavyweights, while carrying a kill-or-be-killed mentality.
This one should be pretty easy to read. We have more of a technician in Almeida going against more of a brawler in Lewis. The key to beating Lewis is not to get caught. The key to beating Almeida is yet to be seen in the UFC. With that said, as long as Almeida can avoid the big knockout or going the distance, he should be able to get this one to the ground and submit Lewis before the end of Round 2.
Petela: That’s all very true and most likely this one does end with a submission win for Jailton Almeida, but, as long as this one goes, fans will be on the edge of their seats waiting to see if Derrick Lewis can land another fight-ending punch like he has done so many times before.
Lewis has some of the best escapes from his back in the heavyweight division, particularly when his opponent is on top in side control. The technique isn’t exactly perfect, but he’s so strong he can just force his way up with brute force. That’s the aspect of the fight I’m most interested in seeing – how can Almeida keep Lewis on the ground once he gets him there? Almeida will be giving up several pounds in weight, so his positioning and technique will have to be precise in order to avoid getting tossed off of Lewis and back into a slugfest. I agree with Dan that this one ends in a submission win for Almeida, and it will be a major statement about how quickly he can make a run towards the heavyweight title. A new contender emerges from this main event.
Gabriel Bonfim puts his undefeated record on the line in the co-main event; how does he fare against longtime UFC veteran Nicolas Dalby?
Petela: When this fight is over, Gabriel Bonfim will still have his perfect record intact. This is a great opportunity for him to really prove that he is to be taken seriously as a contender in the welterweight division. His last two wins came against solid competitors in Mounir Lazzez and Trevin Giles, but a win over Nicolas Dalby will cement him as a young name to watch.
Dalby might not have the biggest name, but he’s a very talented fighter who has looked very much improved in his second run with the UFC. He has won three straight fights and his only loss since rejoining the promotion is to Tim Means. He’s a versatile fighter who can quickly turn a fight into a grinding affair. After withstanding some early adversity, I expect Bonfim to get this fight to the mat by the midway point of the fight and lock up a submission victory. A ranked opponent might just be next for Bonfim as he starts to ascend to the top of the welterweight division.
Kuhl: Nicolas Dalby is a great fighter, and he has beaten some top talent. And, he has taken some amazing grapplers the distance to earn victories in his last three fights. But, hile Muslim Salikhov, Warlley Alves and Claudio Silva all have high-level ground games, Gabriel Bonfim is a new generation of jiu-jitsu player, who is fast, effective on his feet, and always finds a way to win. Dalby, indeed, wil be a big step-up in competition for the Brazilian’s third UFC appearance, but, like my colleague, I see him keeping his undefeated record intact. Bonfim by submission before the end of Round 2.
What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?
Kuhl: Marc Diakiese, who once seemed to be one of the hottest prospects, is 2-4 in his last six fights, and his overall UFC record is 7-7 after back-to-back losses to Joel Alvarez and Michael Johnson. If he can’t get past promotional newcomer Kauê Fernandes, his time in the UFC could be over.
Petela: Montserrat Ruiz. She’s on the verge of a three-fight losing streak if she drops this bout to Eduarda Moura. For a fighter with only two wins in the promotion, a sub .500 record could be the end of the line for her and she could find herself back fighting under the Invicta FC banner as she did before she joined the UFC.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Petela: Maybe it’s because we share the same home state, but I always get amped up for an Angela Hill fight. She’s always in entertaining fights, no matter the outcome. Her time of chasing a belt has certainly passed, but she’s still got fun fights left before she calls it a career. Her fight against Denise Gomes is going to be fought at an incredibly high pace with a ton of volume striking so tune in early to catch that clash.
Kuhl: Daniel Marcos vs. Victor Hugo should be a banger. Peru’s Marcos, a 2022 Contender Series alum, is currently 15-0 with over half of those fights ending in a finish. Brazil’s Hugo, a 2023 Contender Series alum, is making his promotional debut on a 13-fight winning streak with only three of those fights going to decision. These South American fighters are both 30-year-old hungry brawlers looking to stake a claim in the bantamweight division, and this one has all the makings of an exciting clash.
Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?
Kuhl: Jailton Almeida already has three performance bonuses in five UFC appearances, so why not square it up at four? A submission of Derrick Lewis, who has only been submitted twice in his career, would certainly send him home with the extra dough.
Petela: Rodolfo Vieira. He’s got a stiff test ahead of him in Armen Petrosyan, but, as a world champion jiu-jitsu player, he’s always got that ace in the hole to turn to in case of emergency. Vieira will definitely get beat up early on in this one, but a sneaky come-from-behind submission win will earn the Brazilian a standing ovation from the home crowd and an extra $50K in his pocket.
Pair this card with…
Petela: A heavyweight main event calls for a hefty meal to go along with this card. Fire up the grill and offer your guests a choice of a filet if they’re picking Almeida or a ribeye if they’re riding with Lewis. Add a nice bottle of scotch and you’ll be all set to enjoy the action.
Kuhl: I, too, believe this card calls for steak, but I will recommend a good Brazilian picanha. This cut is a top round cap, seasoned with salt and grilled to perfection. Jailton Almeida will make his home country proud, so let’s celebrate with a nice Brazilian-style steak.
Main Card (ESPN+, 9 p.m. ET)
HW: Jailton Almeida vs. Derrick Lewis
WW: Gabriel Bonfim vs. Nicolas Dalby
HW: Rodrigo Nascimento vs. Don’Tale Mayes
MW: Caio Borralho vs. Abus Magomedov
MW: Rodolfo Vieira vs. Armen Petrosyan
LW: Israel Bonfim vs. Vinc Pachel
Preliminary Card (ESPN+, 6 p.m. ET)
LW: Elves Brener vs. Esteban Ribovics
BW: Daniel Marcos vs. Victor Hugo
WW: Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Rinat Fakhretdinov
LHW: Vitor Petrino vs. Modestas Bukauskas
Women’s StrawW: Angela Hill vs. Denise Gomes
Women’s StrawW: Montserrat Ruiz vs. Eduarda Moura
LW: Kaue Fernandes vs. Marc Diakese
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