Fast-rising Heavyweight prospect, Jailton Almeida, faces arguably the toughest test of his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) career this Saturday (Nov. 4, 2023) when he takes on late replacement, Derrick Lewis, inside Ibirapuera Gymnasium in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Fellow Brazilian, Gabriel Bonfim, meets double-tough veteran, Nicolas Dalby, in the co-feature, while Rodrigo Nascimento rematches Don’Tale Mayes and Caio Borralho battles recent main eventer, Abus Magomedov.
UFC Sao Paulo features seven “Prelims” undercard bouts on the schedule at time of writing, all on ESPN+. Let’s check out the first batch ...
205 lbs.: Vitor Petrino vs. Modestas Bukauskas
Vitor Petrino (9-0) followed his beatdown of Gadzhimurad Antigulov with a contract-winning knockout of Rodolfo Bellato on Contender Series. Two Octagon appearances have seen “Icao” win a “Fight of the Night” decision over fellow Contender Series alum, Anton Turkalj, and subsequently choke out Marcin Prachnio at UFC 290.
That win marked his seventh professional finish and first via submission.
After washing out of UFC at 1-3, Modestas Bukauskas (15-5) returned to Cage Warriors and once again claimed its Light Heavyweight title. This success soon prompted a second chance in the Octagon, which he’s made the most of with back-to-back wins over Tyson Pedro and Zac Pauga.
He’ll enjoy one inch of height and reach on Petrino.
Bukauskas is an easy man to underestimate. Skilled and credentialed as he is, it’s hard to forget the sight of Jimmy Crute carpet-bombing him or Khalil Rountree Jr. folding his leg in half. It doesn’t help that Petrino is a physical specimen with gnarly power and a stout wrestling game; even if he did look shaky at times against two of the division’s weaker members, there’s a sense that he can just blast Bukauskas out or ragdoll him as needed. You have to avoid relying on outdated views of Bukauskas’ skills and not get so blinded by Petrino’s potential that you forget where he’s actually at in his career.
All that said, I do still favor Petrino, largely because of his cardio. Bukauskas often makes up for a lack of one-shot power or elite athleticism by out-hustling his opponents, something I’m not convinced he can do here. Even if he’s elusive enough to avoid Petrino’s bigger shots, there’s not a ton stopping Petrino from just taking him down whenever things get hairy on the feet. In the end, heavier blows and strong top control seal the deal for “Icao.”
Prediction: Petrino via unanimous decision
115 lbs.: Angela Hill vs. Denise Gomes
Angela Hill (15-13) — reeling from a 1-5 skid that featured multiple controversial decisions — clawed her way back to prominence by beating Lupita Godinez and Emily Ducote. Her success earned her another main event against Mackenzie Dern, who battered “Overkill” over the course of five rounds.
She stands one inch taller than Denise Gomes (8-2) and sports a 1.5-inch reach advantage.
Despite dominating Rayanna dos Santos on Contender Series, Gomes fell short in her UFC debut opposite Loma Lookboonmee. That defeat appears to have sparked a fire in her, as she went on to violently stop Bruna Brasil and Yazmin Jauregui in back-to-back fights.
All six of her professional finishes have come by knockout.
For my money, this comes down to whether Hill can withstand Gomes’ power. Godinez and Ducote are both very capable boxers, but neither could keep up with Hill once she found her groove. What worries me is the damage Hill took in the first round against both Godinez and Dern; considering the sort of explosive starts we’ve seen from Gomes, there’s every chance Gomes floors Hill before “Overkill” can get out of first gear.
Before the Dern fight, I’d have tabbed Hill to out-class Gomes’ with long-range offense. Now, I don’t trust her to stand up to this sort of punishment. She’s probably still tough enough to last the distance, but expect Gomes to find a lot of early success through sheer aggression and subsequently out-work a compromised Hill.
Prediction: Gomes via unanimous decision
115 lbs.: Eduarda Moura vs. Montserrat Ruiz
Eduarda Moura (9-0) capped off her run on the Brazilian circuit by knocking out Claudia Alves for the Demo Fight Strawweight title. She entered Contender Series five months later, choking out Janaina Silva in the first round to win a UFC contract.
She’s submitted five professional opponents and knocked out three others.
Montserrat Ruiz (10-3) wrestled her way to an upset decision over Cheyanne Vlismas in her UFC debut, only to get violently stopped by Amanda Lemos four months later. Then came a two-year layoff, followed by a technical kncokout loss to grappling ace Jaqueline Amorim.
“Conejo” replaces So Yul Kim on less than two months’ notice.
We just watched “Conejo” get tossed around by an up-and-coming Brazilian grappler three months ago. That’s a reductive way of looking at things, sure, but there’s no reason to expect her to fare any better this time around. Though Moura lacks Amorim’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu pedigree, she’s a strong wrestler with a quality top game, an archetype Ruiz seemingly doesn’t have an answer to.
As far as I can tell, Ruiz fights still boil down to whether her opponent is limited enough to fall for the one throw Ruiz knows. Moura is way too sharp for that, so expect her to rack up takedowns and cruise to victory from the top.
Prediction: Moura via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Kaue Fernandes vs. Marc Diakiese
Nova Uniao’s Kaue Fernandes (8-1) started his career perfect (6-0) before running afoul of Luann Sardinha in his Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) debut. He spent the next year on the sidelines, then came roaring back with two knockouts in a combined 2:13.
His professional finishes are split 4:2 between knockouts and submissions.
The perfect (3-0) UFC start for Marc Diakiese (16-7) gave way to three consecutive losses, capped off by a decision defeat to Nasrat Haqparast. Though he got back on track with a pair of wins, he now finds himself in a 2-4 hole, most recently suffering a submission loss to Joel Alvarez thanks in no small part to a clash of heads beforehand (watch highlights).
He is the taller man by one inch.
The big question here is Fernandes’ gas tank. He’s a dangerous kicker and strong grappler when he’s fresh, but he fell apart after five minutes in that 2021 loss to Sardinha. His two fights since have been too short to determine whether he’s fixed that issue, and if he hasn’t, Diakiese will rule the day with his smothering wrestling
Honestly, Diakiese might do so anyway. Fernandes’ boxing is weak outside of his jab, so he doesn’t have a great way to keep Diakiese honest if “Bonecrusher” can get past his kicks. Plus, while Fernandes’ top game is excellent, I wouldn’t call his bottom game dangerous enough to be a deterrent. If Diakiese can keep his head on straight and not get cowed like he did against Michael Johnson, he’ll grind his way to an ugly win.
Prediction: Diakiese via unanimous decision
Three more UFC Sao Paulo undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including what looks like an absolute banger between Elves Brener vs. Estevan Ribovics. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Sao Paulo fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 9 p.m. ET.
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