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UFC Fight Night: Almeida v Lewis Predictions

The judges won’t be needed when heavyweight finishers Jailton Almeida and Derrick Lewis square off in a titanic headliner at UFC Sao Paulo on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

Jailton Almeida UFC

The judges won’t be needed when heavyweight finishers Jailton Almeida and Derrick Lewis square off in a titanic headliner at UFC Sao Paulo on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

Emanating from the Ibirapuera Arena, the event is stacked with Brazilian fighters, including headliner Almeida, Gabriel Bonfim, who takes on Nicolas Dalby in a welterweight co-headliner, Rodrigo Nascimento, who meets Don’Tale Mayes at heavyweight, middleweights Caio Borralho and Rodolfo Vieira, who face off against Abus Magomedov and Armen Petrosyan, and Ismael Bonfim, who battles Vinc Pichel at lightweight.

MAIN CARD (from 3 AM Sunday SA time):

Jailton Almeida (1.20) v Derrick Lewis (4.80) (Heavyweight)

Something has to give when two apex predators sink their claws into one another in a supersized striker versus grappler battle.

The card is built around Brazilian behemoth Almeida (19-2). One of the biggest rising stars in the UFC, he’s been the personification of domination since arriving in the world’s leading mixed martial arts promotion last May, wasting little time in rattling off five consecutive wins to climb up to ninth place in the rankings.

Aside from packing the type of devastating power you’d expect from a heavyweight, “Malhadinho” is a rare breed of beastly grappler that sets him apart from the rest of the field in the land of the giants. A natural-born killer, he boasts a 100% finish rate with seven knockouts and 12 submissions.

Four of his five wins inside the Octagon came in the first round, including his ultra-impressive tap-out win over Jairzinho Rozenstruik in his first main event in May, with only Shamil Abdurakhimov making it into the second round before being knocked out. Overall, he’s on a 14-fight win streak.

When it comes to knockouts, no one does it quite like Lewis (27-11). The popular American brawler is the UFC’s all-time knockout king, having slept 14 foes inside the Octagon, and boasts 22 knockouts in all.

“The Black Beast” is all about walking his opponent down and obliterating him with his downright scary power. There’s little sophistication, not a lot of cleverly thought-out traps being set.

Instead, he marches forward with evil intentions, swings for the fences and periodically surprises foes with a jumping attack as he did in his last fight when he stopped Marcos Rogerio de Lima in just 33 seconds.

That victory in July got him out of a career-worst slump of three successive losses, to top contenders Tai Tuivasa, Sergey Pavlovich – who’ll face Tom Aspinall for the interim title next weekend – and Sergey Spivac.

Looking to build momentum and play spoiler in Almeida’s homecoming, the former two-time title challenger steps in for an injured Curtis Blaydes on short notice.

Tenth-ranked Lewis, by his own admission, isn’t the most dedicated athlete, so one has to wonder what condition he’ll be in having not had a full camp.  

As mentioned, while the fight isn’t expected to go long, Lewis needs all the speed and mobility he can muster and if he comes in heavier than usual, he might be a sitting duck.

Lewis, with his track record of overcoming the odds with his one-punch knockout power, always has a chance. However, his best days are behind him, and he’s always struggled once a grappler gets hold of him, the Spivac fight being the most recent example of this.

With Almeida being an even better grappler than “The Polar Bear”, he’s poised to take Lewis down and drown him on the mat.

Prediction: Almeida by submission.

Best Bet: Almeida by submission at 1.80.

Alternative Bet: Almeida by submission in round one at 2.00.

Gabriel Bonfim (1.16) v Nicolas Dalby (5.40) (Welterweight)

The co-main event pits an undefeated prospect in Bonfim against a battle-tested veteran in Dalby.

The younger of the Bonfim brothers is an absolute beast. A perfect 15-0 with a 100% finish rate, he’s a promising predator pursuing yet another quick stoppage and is heavily favoured to do just that.

A nasty jiu-jitsu ace, he boasts 12 submission victories including over Mounir Lazzez and Trevin Giles in his two Octagon outings to date. He’s fast, athletic and at 26, he’s 12 years younger than his veteran opponent. 

Dalby still has a lot of fight left in him, though. Sporting a record of 22-4-1-2NC with six knockouts and four submissions, he’s on a three-fight win streak and has gone 5-1 with one no-contest in his last seven fights.

Crafty and well-conditioned, “Danish Dynamite” isn’t as ferocious as his younger foe, but his veteran smarts and accurate striking make him a good test to gauge how Bonfim fares against a division stalwart.

Bonfim’s grappling will win him the day, but Dalby’s never been finished, so I feel the veteran will be the first to take “Marretinha” to a decision.

Prediction: Bonfim by decision.

Best Bet: Bonfim by decision at 5.00.

Alternative Bet: Over 1.5 rounds at 2.10.

Rodrigo Nascimento (1.54) v Don’Tale Mayes (2.54) (Heavyweight)

The featured bout is a rematch in the heavyweight division. These two aren’t near the level of the headliners but with Nascimento fighting in front of his home fans and Mayes seeking revenge, we should avoid a plodding affair.

Entering with a record of 10-1, Nascimento is on a three-fight win streak and has eight finishes. Six of those are by submission, including forcing Mayes to tap in their first meeting in 2020.

“Lord Kong”, who’s 10-5, is coming off the biggest win of his career – a stoppage victory over former two-time champion Andrei Arlovski in June. Arlovski is well past his prime, so while the hard-hitting Mayes is no title contender, it was still a signature win and took his knockout tally to six.

At the end of the day, Nascimento still holds the same wrestling and grappling advantages that saw him win the first fight and he’ll repeat the feat in front of his countrymen.

Prediction: Nascimento by submission.  

Best Bet: Nascimento at 1.54.

Alternative Bet: Nascimento by submission at 3.00.

Caio Borralho (1.34) v Abus Magomedov (3.35) (Middleweight)

A Brazilian barnstormer who’ll have the crowd rocking, Borralho (14-1 with four knockouts and four submissions) is on an absolute tear. Despite being rather undersized for a middleweight at 5’10”, he’s a flawless 4-0 in the UFC and is on a 12-fight win streak overall.

What makes him so successful is his extraordinary explosiveness, which enables him to get the jump on his opponent, both in terms of land strikes from a wide range of angles and – more importantly – bum-rush his way to completing takedowns and working his high-level jiu-jitsu from there.

Magomedov (25-5-1) is unlike other Dagestani fighters in that he does his best work on the feet. He has 14 knockouts to his name, including the fourth-fastest KO ever by a debutant when he starched Dustin Stoltzfus in just 19 seconds last September.

Gifted a main event in July, he gassed early and was stopped by Sean Strickland, who went on to shock the world by dethroning Israel Adesanya. Magomedov looks a dangerous switch-hitter and his record backs that up, but his two contrasting performances inside the Octagon make him unproven at this level.

Borralho has proven his worth and has his game dialled in. Undefeated since 2016, “Nascimento” will continue his impressive run-on home soil.

Prediction: Borralho by submission.

Best Bet: Borralho by submission at 2.75.

Alternative Bet: Borralho by decision at 3.00.

Rodolfo Vieira (1.90) v Armen Petrosyan (1.90) (Middleweight)

Like the main event, this is a clash of styles but unlike the main event, it’s a pick ‘em. Simply put, the fight boils down to whether Petrosyan will be able to stop Vieira’s takedowns.

Vieira, who’s 9-2, is the most decorated submission artist in the UFC and has a 100% finish rate. A multi-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion, the man known as “The Black Belt Hunter” is like an octopus on the mat. 

Petrosyan, who’s 8-2, is a Muay Thai specialist. A sophisticated striker with six wins by knockout, he’ll look to chip away on the outside and use footwork to stay out of his foe’s grasp.

“Superman” has a clear kryptonite, and it happens to be Vieira’s specialty. He has a meagre 36% takedown defence, which saw him being dominated by Borralho, and Vieira’s on another level to Borralho altogether, so I’m banking on the Brazilian.

Prediction: Vieira by submission.

Best Bet: Vieira by submission at 2.75.

Alternative Bet: Vieira at 1.90.

Ismael Bonfim (1.19) v Vinc Pichel (4.90) (Lightweight)

The older Bonfim (19-4) brother has the party starting duties in the main card opener and he’s poised to do it well. 

“Marreta” doesn’t quite have the 100% stoppage streak his sibling has, but he has 13 finishes, nonetheless, including nine knockouts, and all signs point to him adding another one.

That’s not a knock on the skills of Pichel (14-3), who’s a crafty, grizzled veteran, but rather due to where he is at this stage of his career.

He’s turning 41 this month and has had several health issues, the latest of which has kept him out of the Octagon since his decision loss to Mark O. Madsen last April. His last win dates back to 2021 and came against Austin Hubbard.

At 27, Bonfim will be far too fast and dynamic for “From Hell” to handle.

Prediction: Bonfim by knockout.

Best Bet: Bonfim by KO/TKO/DQ at 2.30.

Alternative Bet: Under 2.5 rounds at 1.83.

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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