On Saturday night, the mixed martial arts leader returned for its latest event, UFC Fight Night: Jailton Almeida vs. Derrick Lewis.
Before making its return to the prestigious Madison Square Garden for what’s set to be a blockbuster UFC 295 pay-per-view event, the sport’s premier promotion made a final stop-off in Brazil, where São Paulo’s Ginásio do Ibirapuera played host to a collision between elite heavyweights.
In the main event, the surging Jailton Almeida looked to make it six wins from six fights in the UFC. In his way of a rise further towards contention was Derrick Lewis. The UFC’s all-time leader in knockouts replaced Curtis Blaydes on short notice, hoping to continue the momentum he gained from a memorable stoppage against Almeida’s fellow countryman, Marcos Rogério de Lima, this past July at UFC 291.
Elsewhere, ranked welterweight Rinat Fakhretdinov attempted to add another victory to his 20-fight winning run, the highly touted Caio Borralho met one-time UFC headliner Abusupiyan Magomedov, and Gabriel Bonfim targeted his second triumph of this year in front of his home fans.
But did those names come together to deliver an entertaining night of fights? Let’s find out with all the positives and negatives from UFC Fight Night: Almeida vs. Lewis.
São Paulo, it’s going down today! 🎉
All the #UFCSP action begins today at 6pmET / 3pmPT LIVE on ESPN+
— UFC (@ufc) November 4, 2023
Positive – Left Hook From Hell
In terms of the light heavyweight division, all eyes are on next weekend’s event and the championship co-headliner between knockout artists Jiří Procházka and Alex Pereira. But when the two hard-hitting 205lbers take to the cage inside MSG, they’ll do well to outdo the work of Vitor Petrino in São Paulo.
Aside from Pereira’s arrival in the division soon after title glory at middleweight, the top steps of the light heavyweight ladder have long had the same contenders stood on them. But when it comes to shaking up the order, not many boast as much promise as “Icão.”
In front of his home fans, the Brazilian 26-year-old extended his undefeated record to 10-0 at the expense of former Cage Warriors champion Modestas Bukauskas, whose career resurgence came to a frighteningly violent halt.
After a strong first round, Petrino turned the heat up in the second with a vicious one hitter quitter, sending his Lithuanian-British opponent to the canvas with a perfectly timed check left hook.
While he likely won’t find a number next to his name next week, it won’t be long until the undefeated “Icão” is knocking on the door of contention — a scary prospect for those inside the light heavyweight top 15.
— MMANews (@mmanews_com) November 5, 2023
Positive – Welterweights Share The Spoils
Some fighters are simply just fun to watch. Rinat Fakhretdinov is “some fighters.”
On Saturday, the rising Russian returned for his second outing of the year and fourth since joining the UFC on the back of a brutal knockout under the UAE Warriors banner.
Prior to his appearance in Brazil, Fakhretdinov had stormed up the welterweight ladder, most notably spoiling Kevin Lee’s comeback with a violent submission finish in under a minute.
Four months later, “Gladiator” faced his toughest test to date in the form of always game veteran Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos. The pair’s toughness and entertaining styles resulted in an enthralling three rounds of action, during which both men traded knockdowns.
In the end, the scorecards of two judges resulted in a majority draw. Normally, an inconclusive result would be frustrating. On this occasion? I’m not mad at it.
Given the Russian’s early success and his Brazilian opponent’s late rally, combined with the intense back and forth in-between, shared spoils seems like a fair ending for two figures standing on the peripheral of the rankings.
While he’d obviously have preferred a triumph, the result in São Paulo extended Fakhretdinov’s unbeaten streak to 21 straight fights. Despite that, some have claimed he was “exposed” on Saturday night.
If knocking down and fighting Zaleski dos Santos — who was coming off consecutive wins over Benoît Saint-Denis and Abubakar Nurmagomedov and boasts a victory over UFC Middleweight Champion Sean Strickland — is getting “exposed,” then perhaps that goes to show how highly touted Fakhretdinov is.
For me, at least, his stock did not drop.
Negative – Cursed
If you’re open to the idea of curses, the latest UFC Fight Night card is one to add to the list of afflicted events.
Friday was already a difficult day for the promotion in São Paulo, with two intriguing matchups falling through following sizable weight misses. Unfortunately, the pain did not end once proceedings got underway at the Ginásio do Ibirapuera.
Towards the end of the prelims, the broadcast team brought us the unfortunate news that the planned main card opener between Rodolfo Vieira and Armen Petrosyan had fallen through on super late notice.
After an illness to Petrosyan was confirmed as the reason behind the cancellation, the Armenian’s manager posted an update on X (are we doing that now? Or are we still saying Twitter? Twix?), writing that his client “caught a virus or something.”
Thank goodness he pays a manager to put out such clear and solid statements…
Unfortunately our client Armen Petrosyan caught a virus or something back stage and has to pull out of his fight tonight in UFC São Paulo. UFC said they will look to get him back in right away as soon as he is cleared.
— Brian Butler-Au (@BrianButler_Au) November 5, 2023
A mid-event cancellation is always a negative, especially when it’s a promising main card matchup falling through. It’s no doubt particularly difficult for Vieira, with the Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist missing out on the chance to make the walk on home turf.
Positive – Brutal Brener
Well, there’s your “Rookie of the Year” for 2023.
In signing with the UFC at the start of the year, Brener became the latest standout from the renowned Chute Box Academy to compete on mixed martial arts’ biggest stage. To say that it hasn’t taken the Brazilian long to make an impression would be an understatement.
After narrowly outpointing a teammate of Islam Makhachev in Zubaira Tukhugov at UFC 284, the 26-year-old further boosted his stock five months later with a comeback knockout of the highly regarded Guram Kutateladze.
Brener made it a hat-trick of wins in 2023 on home soil, and he couldn’t have done so any more emphatically.
In the first round of a late-notice clash with debutant Kaynan Kruschewsky, Brener brutally slept “Bahia” with a looping left hand. No follow-up shots were required, with the UFC newcomer getting a close look at the Octagon canvas thanks to a vicious faceplant.
Mark Brener down as a prospect to keep an eye on in 2024.
Wow, Elves! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/gp0D3EBVCT
— MS (@UFC_Obsessed) November 5, 2023
Negative – Heavyweights…
Welcome to today’s edition of 10 things I’d rather do than watch low-level heavyweight MMA.
- Attend an opera performance.
- Take a gardening course.
- Boil a bag of rice one grain at a time.
- Paint a wall.
- Watch the paint on my wall dry.
- Visit a museum on the history of lawnmowers.
- Watch a 10-hour compilation of Chatri Sityodtong branding himself a “lifelong martial artist.”
- Build every piece of flatpack furniture at an IKEA store.
- Rewatch Rose Namajunas vs. Carla Esparza .
- Rewatch Israel Adesanya vs. Yoel Romero.
At Saturday’s event, the rematch everyone had been waiting for finally went down. By “everyone,” I of course mean, no one.
We’ve had some puzzling second dances in recent times, but not many were as baffling as Rodrigo Nascimento vs. Don’Tale Mayes. After all, seeing two unranked heavyweights slog it out in a low-paced affair is painful enough just once.
On a serious note, I’ll always have respect for two fighters who put their bodies on the line for our entertainment (used loosely), and such heavyweight contests will always exist. But why can’t we bury them on the prelims?
Whoever saw Nascimento and Mayes’ fight, which was always going to be a difficult watch, as deserving of a main card placement over Fakhretdinov vs. Zaleski dos Santos, Angela Hill vs. Denise Gomes, and Petrino vs. Bukauskas must have it out for us all.
But hey, at least I’d choose heavyweight MMA over Power Slap 10 times out of 10.
It’s amazing how a mid card heavyweight mma fight makes 15 minutes feel like an hour. It’s impressive.
— E. Casey Leydon (@ekc) November 5, 2023
Positive – Cardio Is King
Many often debate what the best base is for MMA. Is it wrestling? Boxing? Kickboxing? At UFC Fight Night: Almeida vs. Lewis, veteran welterweight Nicolas Dalby proved that it might just be cardio, durability, and toughness.
The 38-year-old Danish fighter co-headlined Saturday’s event, making the walk as a sizable underdog against the previously undefeated Gabriel Bonfim. “Marretinha” marked perhaps the most promoting and highly touted Brazilian taking to the cage on home soil aside from Jailton Almeida.
The script, however, was well and truly turned on its head. While Bonfim started strong, notably showcasing his grappling abilities, he visibly began to fade late in the second round.
Dalby, meanwhile, had plenty left in the tank. So much so, he was able to continue an onslaught of punches, elbows, and knees to floor his opponent en route to a monumental TKO victory.
If “age is just a number” was a man, it would be the “Danish Dynamite.”
— UFC (@ufc) November 5, 2023
Negative – A Tedious Headliner
Jailton Almeida continued his dominance inside the Octagon in Saturday’s headliner, but it was far from an enjoyable watch.
Much like Cory Sandhagen’s main event display against Rob Font this past August in Nashville, Almeida utilized a combination of relentless takedowns and unwavering control to secure a lopsided unanimous decision victory over Derrick Lewis.
Despite the heading, there was a positive here. Of the two, Almeida is much more likely to pose a threat to those within the title picture, and his continued charge towards the top can only be a good thing for the division.
But, this particular step on his journey was not a memorable one. From Lewis’ inability to withstand Almeida’s grappling to the Brazilian’s lack of offense from top position, the UFC Fight Night in São Paulo ended in anticlimactic fashion.
Name-wise, this was undoubtedly Almeida’s biggest win to date. But did his stock rise as a result? I’m not so sure.
#UFCSP Official Scorecard: Jailton Almeida vs Derrick Lewis 👇
— UFC News (@UFCNews) November 5, 2023