Preview: UFC 299 Prelims

Blaydes vs. Almeida

The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s nine-bout undercard for UFC 299 looks absolutely stacked on Saturday at the Kaseya Center in Miami—to the point that it rivals or surpasses many of the UFC Fight Night shows the promotion has staged in recent memory. In fact, the featured prelim between Jailton Almeida and Curtis Blaydes was initially slated to headline a November card in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Fresh off beating late replacement Derrick Lewis, Almeida turns around to take on Blaydes in a rare battle of standout heavyweight wrestlers. Beyond that, Katlyn Cerminara tries to defend her flyweight ranking against surging prospect Maycee Barber, former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos returns to 155 pounds to face Mateusz Gamrot and Kyler Phillips attempts to break into the bantamweight Top 15 at the expense of Pedro Munhoz. More intrigue can be found further down the bill. Michel Pereira is always a fascinating fighter, Robelis Despaigne is shaping up to be a must-watch heavyweight prospect regardless of his success and even the opener comes with a built-in storyline, as Joanne Wood seeks to avenge an upset loss to Maryna Moroz nearly nine years after their initial encounter.

Now to the preview for the UFC 299 “O’Malley vs. Vera 2” prelims:



#5 HW | Curtis Blaydes (17-4, 12-4 UFC) vs. # 7 HW | Jailton Almeida (20-2, 6-0 UFC)

ODDS: Blaydes (-115), Almeida (-108)

It is finally time for Almeida’s big test. Almeida has a case as the heavyweight division’s hottest prospect, and it is fairly amusing that all of this is essentially one big lark. “Malhadinho” came to the UFC as a rising light heavyweight, only moving up to heavyweight when Parker Porter was the only man willing to step up and face him on short notice. The Brazilian’s game is fairly simple, hunting for takedowns and quick submissions, but nobody has been able to stop it yet; and once Almeida was able to prove he could push around a natural heavyweight like Porter, there was every reason for him to keep racking up wins while avoiding a weight cut. Shamil Abdurakhimov and Jairzinho Rozenstruik were each easy work, but a November main event against Derrick Lewis was the first time the Almeida hype train even slowed. It was still a clear one-sided victory for the Brazilian, but Lewis’ combination of size and strength forced Almeida to work 25 hard minutes to grind out a decision win. That makes for an interesting backdrop heading into this fight against Blaydes, the other clear standout wrestler in the UFC's heavyweight ranks.

Blaydes falls into a group of fighters that has been both highly successful and highly frustrating, as he has yet to put together the one strong performance that will get him into a title fight. Blaydes looked like a future champion going back to his UFC debut in 2016, when he was a betting favorite against Francis Ngannou. An absolutely massive human, Blaydes had—and still has—the ability to throw around almost every other heavyweight under the sun. However, after losing to Ngannou via doctor stoppage, Blaydes saw the need to improve his striking, which has gone both shockingly well and absolutely disastrous at times. In some of Blaydes’ outings, like his victories over Junior dos Santos and Chris Daukaus, those improvements are legitimately impressive. Blaydes is a well-schooled boxer who can piece up an opponent and score a knockout when he is not provided with much resistance, as he did not even need to pivot to his wrestling in either fight. Yet there are also performances where Blaydes seems to suffer for having all his newfound options, most notably in his losses to Lewis and Sergei Pavlovich. Blaydes was effectively mixing things together up until the point that Lewis timed a takedown attempt and knocked him out, while he simply took too long to feel things out on the feet against Pavlovich and got finished as a result. Even if Blaydes is still sometimes less than the sum of his parts—while still being a clear Top 5 heavyweight—this does look like his fight to lose, particularly after Almeida’s performance against Lewis. Blaydes figures to stay ahead of Almeida in the Brazilian’s preferred wrestling phase, and Almeida certainly does not appear to be the type of knockout threat that can catch the Elevation Fight Team rep off-guard, unless something goes terribly wrong. The pick is Blaydes via decision.

Jump To »
Blaydes vs. Almeida
Barber vs. Cerminara
Gamrot vs. dos Anjos
Phillips vs. Munhoz
Cutelaba vs. Lins
Pereira vs. Oleksiejczuk
Despaigne vs. Parisian
Almabaev vs. Vergara
Moroz vs. Wood


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Johan Ghazali