Jailton Almeida continued to assert his dominance over the UFC’s heavyweight division on Saturday, although he adopted a different approach than what fans are accustomed to witnessing.
In the main event of UFC Fight Night 231 in Sao Paulo, Almeida (20-2 MMA, 6-0 UFC) employed a takedown-centric strategy, resulting in a UFC heavyweight record for ground control time, surpassing 21 minutes. He thoroughly dominated two-time title challenger Derrick Lewis (27-12 MMA, 18-10 UFC) throughout five rounds, achieving this remarkable feat in front of his enthusiastic home crowd.
Heading into the bout, the 32-year-old fighter had only gone to a decision once before, and that was nearly six years ago, well before his UFC debut following a win on Dana White’s Contender Series. Despite some moments where Almeida and Lewis exchanged heavy blows, it was evident that Almeida had no intention of engaging in a slugfest with Lewis.
The outcome was a unanimous decision victory for Almeida and the achievement, as mentioned above, of a new UFC record. However, Almeida’s impressive streak of 14 consecutive finishes and three post-fight bonuses came to an end. Almeida had to shift his focus from Curtis Blaydes to Lewis on short notice, approximately three weeks before the fight, leading to a more wrestling-oriented strategy.
“Remember that (Friday) I said he wanted a brawl, and I said it was going to be a show?” Almeida expressed through a translator during his in-cage interview after the win. “Did I give you guys a show, or what? We knew he had a heavy hand, and we had 15 or 20 days to come up with a strategy for this fight. We were able to do that and keep him down and avoid his right hand. I was touched, and I didn’t really feel it.”
The UFC’s heavyweight title picture is currently in disarray, which is not uncommon for this division. However, the reigning champion, Jon Jones, who was scheduled to fight former champion Stipe Miocic at UFC 295, has been sidelined for at least eight months due to an injury. Despite this, Miocic was not offered an interim title shot, and he will wait for a chance to fight Jones.
Instead, at UFC 295, the winner of the interim heavyweight belt fight between Sergei Pavlovich and Tom Aspinall will be crowned the interim champion. The winner will then await the outcome of the Jones-Miocic fight.
Amidst all the commotion at the top, Almeida and other contenders like him find themselves continually fighting while the clock ticks for the fighters in championship contention. Almeida wasted no time and called out former interim champ Ciryl Gane (12-2 MMAA, 9-2 UFC).
“I want Ciryl Gane,” declared Almeida, referring to the Frenchman. “We can do it in Paris. We can do it in Salvador. We can do it wherever. I’m ready. Let’s make it happen, Ciryl Gane.”
Gane’s most recent bout was against Jones for the vacant heavyweight title in March, resulting in a first-round submission loss. However, he bounced back two months ago with a bonus-winning TKO victory over Serghei Spivac in the UFC Paris headliner, delighting his hometown fans. Over the course of his career, Gane has seen a pattern of alternating wins and losses in his past four fights. Notably, he suffered setbacks in title bouts against Jones and Francis Ngannou.