Derrick Lewis beat top-ranked heavyweight Francis Ngannou in the UFC 226 co-main event on Saturday in Las Vegas, but people are not talking about the result. Instead, talk centers on the inaction taken by both men during a fight that saw referee Herb Dean issue a warning for timidity and urge the two behemoths to do something other than circle one another.
While Lewis and Ngannou pack enough power to finish anyone in the division, neither contender seemed willing to put himself at risk by being too aggressive. To be fair, Lewis was the more active of the two participants. However, even he concedes that his effort was not enough to warrant praise.
During the post-fight press conference, Lewis admitted he was disappointed with himself and shouldered the blame for what took place since he was the one who requested a fight with Ngannou in the first place. He called the performance “terrible.” “The Black Beast” believes he put himself further away from a heavyweight title shot and addressed the reality that it might have put him “two fights back” rather than propelling him up the ladder. However, it does take two to tango, and Lewis was not alone in the cage. He offered more than Ngannou, who, according to UFC President Dana White, seems to have bought into the hype that was sold to the public following his string of finishes. White called the fight an “abomination.”
Regardless of how Lewis -- or anyone else -- feels about the fight, his ranking in the division matters little in terms of his proximity to a title shot. Former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight titleholder and current World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Brock Lesnar made his presence known following Daniel Cormier’s historic knockout of Stipe Miocic in the UFC 226 headliner. Cormier, who turns 40 in March, indicated that as heavyweight champion he would only take the fights that make the most sense. He pointed to Lesnar, a rematch with Miocic or a rematch with Alexander Gustafsson, provided the Swede “does something spectacular” when he faces Volkan Oezdemir at UFC 227 in August.
Lewis acknowledged he had work left to do, and it appears as though he will be given time to do it as the MMA world awaits word of Cormier’s next move.
Edward Carbajal serves as the lead MMA analyst for Frontproof Media and holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a brown belt in Ishin Ryu Karate. He has covered combat sports since 2014 and has been a fan of MMA since UFC 1. You can follow him on Twitter @Carbazel or at his website TheBlogBoardJungle.com.