It may not have been a vintage Derrick Lewis type of fight in terms of the outcome, but “The Black Beast” walked out of his hometown with a victory nonetheless.
Lewis (23-7, 1 NC) fought in a largely uneventful bout to open the UFC 247 main card against Ilir Latifi Saturday night, and until the final minute of the fight, it seemed as though the Houston native would lose. Latifi scored multiple takedowns in the fight and appeared to be on his way to sending the fan favorite back to the drawing board, but in typical Lewis fashion, the wildly popular heavyweight rallied late to pull out the win.
Lewis was taken down multiple times in the contest, but when the Swede had his foe on his back, he did nothing with the position. Lewis either stood back up or the fight was reset by the referee. Either way, Latifi’s lack of dominance on the canvas cost him almost as much as Lewis’ wild rally of knees and punches during the final 60 seconds of the final round. Lewis said he was assisted by his loyal fanbase.
“Fighting in Houston was almost nerve-racking, all the adrenaline,” he said after his triumph. “The crowd helped me push at the end, that was a good job from them, it really helped me out.
“I knew it would be a close call, especially with the takedowns,” he added. “But most of his shots I was blocking and I was controlling him. All he got were the takedowns.”
Aside from a few head kicks that were mostly blocked, Lewis mixed in his murderous punches with several flying knees, something relatively new to his repertoire. Though none of them landed flush on Latifi’s face, he threw enough of them to keep “The Sledgehammer” guessing.
“The flying knees just came from being in better shape. I still have a lot to improve and there is a lot more in my arsenal that people haven’t seen yet.”
Lewis remains one of the most beloved fighters on the UFC’s roster and his rabid fans are constantly clamoring for him to land a crack at the heavyweight title. While that particular fight likely won’t happen anytime soon, Lewis does have his sights on a quick return to action and who he’d like to scrap with next.
“I’m healthy right now,” he said. “There is nothing wrong with me, so I can come back in for a quick replacement for [Jairzinho] Rozenstruik vs. [Francis] Ngannou if needed. I’m ready whenever.”