Rivalries: Derrick Lewis

By Brian Knapp Jul 1, 2020

A magnetic personality and brain-rattling power cleared Derrick Lewis’ path to stardom in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s heavyweight division.

Lewis jackknifed into the MMA pool in 2010, posted a 9-2 record against regional competition and joined the UFC roster four years later. He has since emerged as one of the promotion’s most successful heavyweights, with victories over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 winner Roy Nelson, former M-1 Global champion Marcin Tybura and onetime World Series of Fighting titleholder Blagoy Ivanov. Lewis will carry a two-fight winning streak into his battle with Russian submission specialist Alexey Oleynik at a UFC Fight Night event on Aug. 8 in Las Vegas.

As “The Black Beast” awaits his date with Oleynik, a look at a few of the rivalries that raised his profile:

Daniel Cormier

“DC” made certain it played out as most expected, as the American Kickboxing Academy captain retained his heavyweight title and looked dominant in doing so by submitting Lewis with a rear-naked choke in the second round of their UFC 230 headliner on Nov. 3, 2018 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Lewis, who had never before been submitted, checked out 2:14 into Round 2. Cormier executed multiple takedowns, buried “The Black Beast” with suffocating top control and tore into him with short bursts of punishing ground-and-pound. In the second round, the Lafayette, Louisiana, native tripped Lewis to the mat, attached himself to the monstrous 6-foot-3, 264-pound Texan’s back and cinched the choke, cutting of all possible means of escape. The tapout followed soon after.

Alexander Volkov

Lewis played a game of survive and recover for more than 14 minutes before he authored an unforgettable Hail Mary knockout against the former Bellator MMA champion in their UFC 229 heavyweight showcase on Oct. 6, 2018 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Volkov melted on the end of a devastating right cross and was beating unconscious by an avalanche of ground-and-pound 4:49 into Round 3. The out-of-nowhere result voided the 6-foot-7 Russian’s efforts in an instant, with “Drago” having built what felt like an unsurmountable lead—he outlanded his counterpart by a 121-39 margin in significant strikes—on the scorecards. Body kicks doubled over Lewis on more than one occasion, and surgical punches left him with visible damage to both eyes. Afterward, the onetime Legacy Fighting Championship titleholder stripped off his shorts and informed the world that his “balls was hot,” assuring he would not get lost in the Khabib Nurmagomedov-Conor McGregor shadow to come.

Francis Ngannou

“The Black Beast” leapfrogged a woefully inactive Ngannou on the heavyweight ladder, as he was awarded a unanimous decision in their UFC 226 co-main event on July 7, 2018 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Lewis swept the scorecards with 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 marks from the judges, his opponent evidently still hungover from his nightmarish encounter with Stipe Miocic six months earlier. Ngannou refused to exchange, as the scene turned more bizarre and the fans grew more restless by the second. Referee Herb Dean warned both men for timidity in the second round, to no avail. Lewis did just enough with his kicks and offered a few punching flurries in all three rounds, the crowd booing lustily as the utterly forgettable fight neared its conclusion. By the time their 15 minutes was complete, they had combined to land just 31 strikes.


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