Jailton Almeida continued to run over the top of the UFC’s heavyweight division Saturday, albeit in a different manner than fans have become accustomed to.
Almeida (20-2 MMA, 6-0 UFC) used a takedown-heavy game plan that led to a UFC heavyweight record for ground control time at more than 21 minutes in a five-round domination of two-time title challenger Derrick Lewis (27-12 MMA, 18-10 UFC) in the UFC fight Night 231 main event in Sao Paulo. The Brazilian moved to 6-0 in the UFC, and did so in front of his home fans.
Going into the fight, the 32-year-old had been to a decision just one time – which happened to be his most recent loss nearly six years ago, more than four years before he arrived in the UFC after a win on Dana White’s Contender Series. While there were moments when Almeida and Lewis swung for the fences, it clearly wasn’t in Almeida’s plans to get into a slugfest with Lewis.
The result was a sweep of the scorecards and the aforementioned new UFC record, but Almeida’s streak of finishes (14) and post-fight bonuses (three) came to an end. Almeida had to change his focus from Curtis Blaydes to Lewis on about three weeks’ notice when Blaydes pulled out. That led to the wrestle-centric attack.
“Remember that (Friday) I said he wanted a brawl, and I said it was going to be a show? Did I give you guys a show, or what?” Almeida said through a translator in his in-cage interview after the win. “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 heavyweight title picture in the UFC is a bit of a mess, which historically might be par for the course for the division. But champion Jon Jones, who was supposed to headline UFC 295 on Saturday against ex-champ Stipe Miocic, is out for at least eight months with an injury. Miocic wasn’t offered an interim title shot, and he’ll wait for a fight with Jones.
At UFC 295, instead, an interim heavyweight belt will go to the winner between Sergei Pavlovich and Tom Aspinall, and that big man then apparently will wait for the Jones-Miocic winner.
All the commotion up top means other contenders like Almeida have to just keep fighting while the clock ticks for the fighters around the belts. So Almeida called out former interim champ Ciryl Gane (12-2 MMAA, 9-2 UFC).
“I want Ciryl Gane,” Almeida said of the Frenchman. “We can do it in Paris. We can do it in Salvador. We can do it wherever. I’m ready. Let’s do it, Ciryl Gane.”
Gane fought Jones for the vacant heavyweight title in March and was submitted in the first round. But he bounced back two months ago with a bonus-winning TKO of Serghei Spivac in the UFC Paris headliner in front of his home fans. After a 10-0 start to his career, he has alternated losses and wins his past four fights. Both setbacks, to Jones and Francis Ngannou, came in title bouts.
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC Fight Night 231.
This story originally appeared on MMA Junkie