Sometimes “can’t miss fights” do.
The UFC 226 heavyweight co-main event between Francis Ngannou and Derrick Lewis seemed to promise an orgy of violence, as two of the heaviest hitters in the history of the sport got set to throw down, with perhaps a title shot going to the winner.
Instead, the duo, who earned KO/TKO wins in 24 of their previous 30 combined wins, engaged in a staring contest at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
In a bout color commentator Joe Rogan called the worst heavyweight fight he’d ever seen, Lewis got the nod on a unanimous decision. The judges’ scores were a pair of 29-28s and a 30-27.
The opening round figured to get off to a slow start regardless, as both competitors are known as counter-strikers. Ngannou, who is coming off a one-sided decision loss to Stipe Miocic in the main event of UFC 220 in January, seemed particularly gun shy, and landed just two strikes the entire round.
Lewis, at least, threw occasional kicks, including an impressive-looking switch kick, and that was likely enough to get him the nod in the round.
However, Lewis, who once had to pull out of a fight on fight day due to back spasms, told his cornerman after the round that his back was acting up. The pace in the second round was slow enough that referee Herb Dean called a timeout and gave the fighters a lecture on the lack of action.
The duo combined for just 15 strikes landed over the first two rounds, and land just 18 more in the third, with Lewis landing 22 overall in the bout. Lewis showed more urgency in the final minute, which was enough to seal the deal.
Lewis (20-5, 1 NC) won his second consecutive fight and eighth in his past nine. Ngannou dropped to 11-3 with his second straight loss.