Curtis Blaydes not impressed by Jailton Almeida’s grappling, addresses fight being placed on UFC 299 prelims

Curtis Blaydes absolutely wanted to face Jailton Almeida this past November but after struggling to heal an injury in the midst of a long training camp, he finally had to concede that fighting just wasn’t in his best interest.

It was a harsh lesson learned because Blaydes eventually realized that he would have gone into that matchup completely compromised beyond the typical bumps and bruises that fighters carry into every contest. Despite months of training, Blaydes had to call off the fight with Derrick Lewis taking his place in the main event slot against Almeida instead.

“Obviously you don’t want to ever potentially miss out on an opportunity to progress in the rankings or just to make some money,” Blaydes explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “But I knew I wasn’t 100 percent. It wasn’t even that. I was injured. There’s a difference between being hurt and injured and I was injured. It took me a while to reach that realization.

“I got injured in June and I just thought if I kept working out and rehabbing at the same time, which you can’t do that, and I messed up and that took me all the way until the beginning of October to reach that realization.”

In Blaydes’ absence, Almeida dominated Lewis over five rounds, although it wasn’t the most exciting main event fight in history. The majority of the 25 minute affair took place on the canvas with Almeida scoring takedown after takedown and then controlling Lewis on the ground but never seriously threatening a finish.

Almeida got the win but Blaydes admits he expected more out of the highly touted Brazilian prospect.

“I’m going to be honest, I told everybody I wasn’t very impressed with the jiu-jitsu,” Blaydes said. “He was able to take him down. He spent a lot of time on top. I thought he had a deeper jiu-jitsu bag. I thought he had some high level slick stuff.

“I didn’t really see anything that was extra scary. I thought he would be like a [Fabricio] Werdum. He’s not Werdum.”

Blaydes doesn’t blame Almeida for taking the path of least resistance when it comes to his strategy in the UFC, especially after he’s exposed some of those same weaknesses in the past.

“That’s just the division. That’s what heavyweight is,” Blaydes said. “I’d say 90 percent of the division can’t defend takedowns because how many guys in the division are wrestlers? So I think he’s been doing what I was doing.

“There’s a reason I have 60 something takedowns. Because it’s not hard to take down heavyweights — heavyweights that don’t know how to wrestle. He’s been taking advantage of heavyweights just like I was.”

It didn’t take long after that fight ended for the UFC to rebook the matchup between Blaydes and Almeida with the bout now scheduled at UFC 299 on Saturday.

Blaydes recognizes as one of the top wrestlers in the heavyweight division that he presents problems for Almeida that Lewis just couldn’t muster, which is why this was always the right fight to make.

“That’s the difference. I have options,” Blaydes said. “I’m not just a power puncher. I’m also not just a wrestler. I can strike and I can grapple, offensively and defensively and I believe in my jiu-jitsu. I’m a totally different matchup than Derrick Lewis was.”

“It’s the only fight that made sense. I’m in the top five. I’ve been in the top five for like five years. I feel like I only fight people in the top five now. That’s where I am. You don’t get the easy ones anymore. You get top five guys and that’s it. I think it only made sense and I’m happy with the matchup.”

Despite both fighters sitting near the top of the rankings in the heavyweight division, Blaydes will actually clash with Almeida in the featured fight on the prelims at UFC 299 rather than the main card.

Some fighters take it as a slight to get bumped further down the card but don’t count Blaydes among them.

He’s been here before and he’ll probably end up here again.

“No [I don’t care] and honestly that stuff never really mattered to me,” Blaydes said about his prelim slot at UFC 299. “I get it. It’s a prestige thing. I was on [UFC 225] with Yoel Romero and Rob Whittaker and that was in Chicago and I was going against Alistair [Overeem] and we were both top five heavyweights and we were on the prelims. I don’t care.

“The money’s the same. Prelims or main card, the money’s the same. I sure people will watch regardless because we’re heavyweights. People love heavyweights.”