At UFC Vegas 19 this past Saturday, Derrick Lewis authored potentially the Knockout of the Year, sleeping second-ranked heavyweight contender Curtis Blaydes with an uppercut. The KO came just 1:26 into the second round and put Lewis in a position where he might once again be able to challenge for the UFC heavyweight title and the man who defeated Lewis in his first title fight believes things could be different this time.
In 2018, Daniel Cormier used a wrestling-heavy game plan to submit Lewis and retain his heavyweight belt. So, coming into this fight against the premier wrestler in the UFC’s heavyweight division, most assumed that things would go poorly for Lewis again. However, Cormier says this is not the same Derrick Lewis that he was able to dominate.
“Can I be honest? The odds for that fight felt right,” Cormier said on ESPN’s DC and Helwani. “Derrick was like +300 or something? Here’s the thing, it’s fair because the last time you saw Derrick with a predominantly wrestling fighter, he wasn’t able to do very well. So you envisioned that it would look the same. Curtis Blaydes being the type of wrestler that he is, with the pace and the pressure, would just continue to ground Derrick until maybe he found the submission or got the finish. But the reality is, this is not the same Derrick Lewis from back in the day. This guy has shown improved takedown defense on multiple occasions because this isn’t the first time that he’s wrestled better.
“He wrestled better against (Aleksei) Oleinik. Oleinik was trying to take him down, couldn’t get Derrick down. Blaydes tried on a few occasions, couldn’t get Derrick down. . . This dude is improving, but not only is he improving, he’s improving very fast, and if you have to stand with Derrick Lewis, you’re in a ton of trouble.”
Lewis has always been a dangerous puncher but has historically had a difficult time defending takedowns. However on Saturday, Blaydes failed on his three takedown attempts, including the one that led to his knockout. That’s an impressive improvement considering the quality of Blaydes’ wrestling, and Cormier believes that if Lewis can continue to improve, he can beat anyone in the division give the absurd power he brings to the table.
“He continues to impress and I believe that if this dude continues to show marked improvement in the wrestling, he can fight anyone,” DC said. “For a guy that has to stand with him, they’re in trouble.”
Lewis’ KO of Blaydes tied him with Vitor Belfort atop the list of most UFC knockouts with 12 total and it’s not surprising given Lewis’ power. On Saturday, he landed only seven significant strikes during the fight but with Lewis, he only ever needs one shot to get the job done. Such is the heaviness of his hands that Cormier believes that it’s Lewis who is the most powerful striker in the sport.
“The other day on my Twitter I said, ‘Derrick Lewis has the most power ever’ and somebody goes ‘Francis (Ngannou) 1, Derrick 2.’ Everyone started going ‘Francis, Francis, Francis.’ People, there is a reason Francis Ngannou was so tentative in the fight against Derrick Lewis. It’s the only time he’s ever fought like that. Francis just bullrushes everybody from Stipe Miocic to Alistair Overeem. Almost a blatant disregard for them and their power. He stood and took pictures with Derrick Lewis because of the power coming back in his direction. So let’s not go acting as if Derrick Lewis doesn’t have power to match anyone in the heavyweight division, even Francis Ngannou. And when you talk about knockouts, nobody has more than Derrick so how do you say that another guy has more power than him? That’s not a knock on Francis, that’s just reality.”
Lewis and Ngannou fought in what is widely considered to be one of the worst UFC bouts in recent memory, with Lewis winning a decision wherein nearly nothing happened and again, Cormier knows why. Reflecting on his own fight with Lewis, Cormier says that fighting “The Black Beast” is an exercise in pain.
“It’s awful. It’s not even just his punches, it’s everything,” Cormier said. “His kicks - Derrick did a jumping kick and he kicked my arm. I had knots in my arm for days afterwards. I had his leg up in the air and he hammerfisted me - I had a black eye for two days. It doesn’t take much from this guy to hurt you. He hits you and it’s thudding. There are guys in my career that I fought that have just natural power. Derrick Lewis is another guy. He just hit extremely hard. The power is real and it’s on display every time he goes into the octagon.”
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SOCIAL MEDIA BOUILLABAISSE
Tony is not a fan of Khabib’s comments.
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Juice is better than beer.
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Askren has the right of it.
I feel like this is average work at best. the guy has a full-time production staff and he can’t come up with anything better??? https://t.co/R5238po9Lr— Funky (@Benaskren) February 23, 2021
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Zuluzinho drops Shuaev at the bell and thinks the fight is over. Amazing pic.twitter.com/OQNhdIVdGZ— caposa (@Grabaka_Hitman) February 23, 2021
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