Jailton Almeida is the UFC 299 fighter to watch

  • UFC 299 is absolutely stacked
  • Every fight from top to bottom is a must-watch match-up
  • But here's 1 fighter we think deserves some extra love and attention
May 13, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Jailton Almeida (blue gloves) reacts after defeating
May 13, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Jailton Almeida (blue gloves) reacts after defeating / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

On a card stacked from early prelims to the main event, there is no shortage of fighters to be excited about. However, Jailton Almeida stands out amongst his peers.

Having started his career at welterweight (yes, you read that correctly), Almeida is on the precipice of a shot at the UFC heavyweight title. Long considered a dark horse in the division, the dominant grappler likely has just one test left to pass before he steps into the Octagon with a belt on the line.

Most fans' introduction to Almeida came during season 5 of Dana White's Contender Series. Competing at light heavyweight, Almeida thoroughly dismantled betting favorite Nasrudin Nasrudinov to earn his UFC contract. Ironically, fellow UFC 299 fighter Jack Della Maddalena appeared on the same episode, also winning his way into the UFC.

After making his UFC debut at light heavyweight and making quick work of Danilo Marques, Almeida decided that a lack of elite grappling talent in the heavyweight division made for his quickest path to title contention. On a run that would make Khamzat Chimaev blush, Almeida finished his first five opponents, amassing more Performance of the Night bonuses than significant strikes absorbed.

In a division where one punch can end the fight, Almeida has thrived as a grappling specialist. Relentlessly pursuing takedowns and displaying a smothering and patient top game has allowed him to drag his much larger foes to deep waters and drown them while putting himself in very little danger.

The difference in grappling skill has been startling as Almeida has been able to emerge unscathed from fights with veteran top 10 heavyweights Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Derrick Lewis. Though his performance against Lewis has been criticized for an inability to get the stoppage, not many people can control Lewis for upwards of 20 minutes while landing almost 100 more strikes and taking virtually no damage.

Jailton Almeida faces Curtis Blaydes in the UFC 299 featured prelim

When Almeida steps into the Octagon for the featured prelim of UFC 299, it will be the first time where a grappler of similar ability is standing across from him. Often cited as one of the best wrestlers in the heavyweight division, Curtis Blaydes will provide answers to some of the questions that fans have had during Almeida's meteoric rise.

Can Almeida secure the takedown against a true heavyweight with a collegiate wrestling pedigree? Will expending the energy needed to take a 260 pound grappler down and hold him there leave Almeida exhausted and vulnerable? If unable to secure a takedown, how will Almeida fare on the feet against a man that has one punch knockout power?

One of the most enjoyable things about being a fan of mixed martial arts is watching the rise of a prospect as they take on and pass the litany of tests that stand between them and a championship belt.

In order for Almeida to take the next step in his career and firmly establish himself as a contender for UFC heavyweight supremacy, he will have to do something that has never been done before ... out-grapple Blaydes.


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