Derrick Lewis got the job done.
Though it was far from aesthetically pleasing, “The Black Beast” kept pace in the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight division with a fourth-round technical knockout against Shamil Abdurakhimov in the UFC Fight Night 102 ‘Lewis vs. Abdurakhimov’ headliner on Friday at the Times Union Center in Albany, New York. Lewis drew the curtain 3:42 into Round 4, as he put a fifth consecutive victory in the books.
Abdurakhimov spent the better part of three rounds frustrating the former Legacy Fighting Championship titleholder and exposing his flaws. Time and time again, he converted ill-advised Lewis kicks into takedowns. However, Abdurakhimov’s inability to do real damage proved problematic and allowed his monstrous counterpart to stay afloat in a fight that otherwise might have been lost. Finally in Round 4, Lewis executed a takedown, trapped his prey at the base of the cage and advanced to full mount, unleashing punches until referee Dan Miragliotta had no choice but to step in.
In wake of UFC Fight Night “Lewis vs. Abdurakhimov,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
Derrick Lewis vs. Stefan Struve: Lewis improved to 8-2 under the UFC banner by disposing of Abdurakhimov, but the lackluster nature of his performance -- he called it “bulls---” afterward -- could conceivably lead to a parallel move within the division. For now, he remains on the fringes of the top 10, well outside of title contention. Struve last appeared at UFC 204 in October, when he submitted Daniel Omielanczuk with a brabo choke in Manchester, England. The Blackzilians-trained Dutchman has won seven of his past 10 bouts.
Francis Ngannou vs. Alexander Volkov: No one was more impressive at UFC Fight Night 102 than Ngannou, who submitted onetime Maximum Fighting Championship titleholder Anthony Hamilton with a first-round kimura in the co-main event. The Cameroon-born Frenchman has rattled off eight straight wins, four of them since arriving in the UFC a little less than a year ago, and appears to have the tools necessary to make noise in a division in serious need of younger blood. Volkov, the former Bellator MMA and M-1 Global champion, made his promotional debut at UFC Fight Night 99 on Nov. 19, when he earned a contentious split decision over Timothy Johnson in Northern Ireland.
Corey Anderson vs. Nikita Krylov-Misha Cirkunov winner: Anderson was merciless and efficient, as he rebounded from a UFC 198 defeat to Mauricio Rua with a second-round technical knockout against Sean O’Connell. “The Ultimate Fighter 19” winner secured multiple takedowns against O’Connell and battered the Jeremy Horn understudy with devastating ground-and-pound before forcing the stoppage 2:36 into Round 2. Anderson at age 27 still has plenty of time to grow into his considerable skills -- a frightening thought for the rest of the light heavyweight division. Krylov and Cirkunov will lock horns at UFC 206 on Saturday in Toronto.
Gerald Meerschaert vs. Anthony Smith: Touching down in the UFC as a fully formed mixed martial artist, Meerschaert did not miss his chance to make a strong first impression. The Roufusport export needed less than a round to submit Joe Gigliotti on the prelims, doing the honors with a beautifully conceived anaconda choke. Meerschaert, 28, has recorded eight straight wins, all of them finishes, since his decision loss to Sam Alvey on the regional circuit in May 2014. Smith’s career is on a similar trajectory. The 28-year-old last competed on Dec. 3 at “The Ultimate Fighter 24” Finale, where he cut down Elvis Mutapcic with a second-round elbow strike and follow-up punches.
Gian Villante vs. Gadzhimurad Antigulov: Villante withstood a firefight against Saparbek Safarov in their stirring light heavyweight showcase, as he put away the promotional newcomer with second-round punches. The former Ring of Combat champion had Safarov badly hurt inside the first five minutes, only to later be stunned himself. Villante persevered through the adversity, zeroed in on the M-1 Global veteran’s injured left knee with a series of kicks and closed the deal to improve to 5-4 in the UFC. Antigulov shined in his first Octagon appearance, as he submitted Marcos Rogerio de Lima with a guillotine choke in 67 seconds at UFC Fight Night 100 on Nov. 19.