Derrick Lewis played with fire in the first round of the UFC Fight Night 174 headliner.
“The Black Beast” elected to engage on the ground with Alexey Oleynik in the opening five minutes of their heavyweight clash at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on Saturday, and it very nearly cost him. Twice Oleynik locked up Lewis in a scarf hold headlock, and though the squeeze appeared to be tight, the Houston native managed to survive until the final horn.
Lewis admitted on the ESPN+ post-fight show that the second choke was especially dire.
“I was starting to tap because I was starting to gargle and scream like a little girl,” Lewis said. “But I was like, ‘Nah, I can’t tap.’ I couldn’t go out like that. So I had to just wait out the time.
“…I’ll give him respect. That little bulldog choke, it worked pretty good. He was squeezing the mess out of me.”
The tables turned completely in Round 2, however. Lewis dropped his foe with a right hook and then earned the finish with a barrage of ferocious ground-and-pound just 21 seconds into the frame.
“He did exactly what we thought he would do,” Lewis said. “He fought exactly like we thought he would, so it worked in my favor. I just knew that I had to put pressure on him, because of the way he fights. He doesn’t really move his head, so anything that I really threw at him was going to land. Everything worked just the way we talked about.”
Lewis, who weighed in at 265 pounds prior to the bout, wants to slim down before he makes his next Octagon appearance.
“I’m not comfortable fighting at this weight,” he said. “I believe if I could get down 15 or 20 more pounds, I could really be a problem for a lot of fighters in this division.”
Lewis, who set the UFC heavyweight record for most knockout victories on Saturday, doesn’t have a specific opponent in his sights after winning his third straight bout. He does believe that a leaner “Black Beast” could be a serious title contender, and he hopes to reach his goal by the end of this year.
“Hopefully by the end of the year I’ll be 245, 250 pounds,” he said. “If I get there, I’ll be happy. And I plan to fight again maybe in December and I have to be 245, 250 pounds. If I get there and dominate whoever my next opponent is, then I believe I’ll be next for the title.”
« Previous Matches to Make After UFC Fight Night 174 Next Bryan Barberena to Face Anthony Ivy at UFC Event on Sept. 12 »