UFC Charlotte: Zelton Almeida says things started clicking after watching Dagestani wrestlers fight

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Zelton Almeida had a winning record and was expected to fall in 2018. He posted a 7-2 record, was only 27 years old and seemed to be on the upswing. However, in his mind, things were not going the way he wanted.

He believed in his skill, but it just wasn't translating in the cage the way he wanted to.

“There was a point where I was asking myself, ‘When will it all come down to me?' And I wasn't sure,” Almeida told Yahoo Sports ahead of Charlotte on Saturday, in which he will take on power-punching Georginho Rosenstruik in a five-round heavyweight main event.

Almeida, however, never gave and did not lose faith in his skills. And suddenly one day everything was happening the way he wanted. He went from a talented but perhaps underperforming fighter to an absolute threat.

His record speaks for itself. As the level of competition increased and Almeida made the permanent move from heavyweight to heavyweight, he went 11–0 with eight finishes in the first round and three finishes in the second round. The only time he heard the bell to start the third round in his 20-bout career was a loss to Bruno Assis on January 20, 2018, when he dropped a unanimous decision.

“In 2018, after my last loss, it kind of clicked,” Almeida said. “I realized there were changes to be made in my game, and I think we have been able to accomplish that. Wrestling was always about control with some ground-and-pound and looking for submissions. Have you seen few Dagestani wrestlers like Khabib [Nurmagomedov], [Islam] Makhachev and [Khamzat] Chimaev. He has a style that appeals to me a lot.

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“I'm always watching them and trying to learn from them. I've been able to incorporate some of the things they do, which we don't normally do in Brazil, into my game. As I got comfortable Hoon em, we have started seeing the results.”

Zelton Almeida is ranked 12th in the heavyweight division of the UFC. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Almeida has already moved up to No. 12 in the UFC's heavyweight rankings, three spots behind Rosenstruik. A win on Saturday could propel the 31-year-old Almeida into the top 10 of the heavyweight rankings and see him as a legitimate contender.

Almeida is a big guy — he's 6-foot-3, heavily muscled and says a good weight for him now is about 240 plus or minus a pound or two — but he'll give Rosenstruik 25 pounds or more.

Heavyweight champion Jon Jones is in the 240-range, but plenty of the division's elite fighters weigh in closer to the upper end of the division's 265-pound range. Almeida, however, doesn't see this as an issue.

He is obviously powerful and has good speed and agility and will not need to lower his body down to 265. He's comfortable losing weight in exchange for what he feels is a lighter number.

Almeida said, “The main concern with fighting at heavyweight is punching power, which is why some people's extra weight adds to their strength.” “Overall, though, I'm comfortable with where I am. If you look at most of them, they carry a little extra weight. They may weigh in at 265, but they look like 10, 15, maybe 20 pounds. I could have lost. I'm 230, 240, but I'm lean. If I wanted to, I could put on more weight, but I don't think I'll gain anything by doing that.”

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LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 10: (RL) Jairzinho Rozenstruik punches Chris Doukas during their heavyweight fight during the UFC 282 event at T-Mobile Arena on December 10, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States.  (Photo by Louis Gras / PxImages / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Zelton Almeida will battle the sheer punching power of Jairzinho Rosenstruik (shown here stopping Chris Doukas in December) in the main event of UFC Charlotte on Saturday. (Louis Gras / Getty Images)

in betmgm, Almeida is a -525 favorite to win and an unbelievable -110 to win by submission, Plus, the over-under is 1.5 rounds and the under-205 favorite, so there's a thought that Almeida will take Rosenstruik down and eliminate it quickly.

Almeida, who said he was inspired by the many achievements of former UFC champion Anderson Silva, will be in no rush. He is eager to show off his skills and doesn't want to make any mistakes just because he is in the limelight. The main card is on ABC, as well as on ESPN, and the fact that the UFC moved Almeida-Rosenstruik to the main event instead of the light heavyweight bout between Anthony Smith and Johnny Walker seems to have helped the promotion Almeida. Wants to appear on a big stage.

He oozes confidence, but has the humility to not let his arrogance become the cause of a battle-deciding mistake.

He said, “It's great to get out of the fight and get the spotlight on it with such a big audience, but I still have to perform.” “They put you in position but it's up to the fighter to take advantage. I have my plan and I know my job and I'm going to go out and execute it.”