Junior dos Santos took the UFC heavyweight championship to Salvador, Brazil in 2011, and now sees potential in Salvador native Jailton Almeida to replicate that in the near future.
“Malhadinho”, born in Salvador in 1991, is on a roll with five one-sided victories since joining the UFC, steamrolling Jairzinho Rozenstruik in his most recent appearance in Charlotte. “Cigano” said on a recent episode of MMA Fighting podcast Trocação Franca that Almeida has what it takes to reign in the division.
“I think he has a lot of potential and this is just the beginning,” dos Santos said. “He’s fast as hell and works really well with his body. The thing about heavyweights is that they usually are slow. They hit hard, they are strong and dangerous, but they are slow, so you can anticipate some of the movements of the heavier ones. I see great potential in him. He has everything it takes to get there, and we’ll be cheering for him.”
Almeida moved to No. 6 in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings following his dominating victory in Charllote, sitting behind Francis Ngannou, Jon Jones, Sergei Pavlovich, Ciryl Gane and Curtis Blaydes.
Ngannou recently joined the PFL but is only expected to compete in MMA in 2024, and Jones currently holds the UFC title. “Bones” is expected to defend it next against Stipe Miocic, who isn’t ranked at the moment since he hasn’t fought in more than 18 months.
“New stars will rise, prospects, like Jailton ‘Malhadinho,’” dos Santos said. “‘Malhadinho’ is on a roll, he’s doing great. UFC president Dana White himself said he has his hopes high for him. I remember it was similar back in my days and I felt a huge incentive, I’ve felt the prestige, I felt pushed. People see how hard you work and the results come. The future of the heavyweight division is being made now. Some are stopping, others are rising.”
Jones hinted at a possible retirement if he beats Miocic in his first title defense later in 2023, and “Cigano”, who went 1-1 in the UFC against Miocic, said it would be a shame.
“We don’t want to see guys we admire stopping, like Jon Jones, but it’s something personal,” dos Santos said. “Jon Jones is still young, so if he really retires soon, I think it’s a waste, even. But he should do what’s best for him.”
Almeida called for a fight with Tai Tuivasa next after his main event victory live on ABC, a man that has has lost to “Cigano” in the past but later rebounded with knockouts over Stefan Struve, Harry Hunsucker, Greg Hardy, Augusto Sakai and Derrick Lewis before dropping two in a row to Gane and Pavlovich.
Dos Santos is impressed by how Almeida outclasses his opponents on the ground and the fact he’s not scared to simply do his thing regardless of how the opponent fights. If he does face Tuivasa next, “Cigano” has his prediction ready.
“He’s 100 percent the favorite against Tuivasa,” dos Santos said. “Not taking anything away from Tuivasa, he’s super tough, but…”