On Sunday night, seventh ranked heavyweight Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis scored his seventh win in his last eight fights over ninth ranked Marcin Tybura at UFC Fight Night 126 in Austin, TX. In typical Lewis fashion, his monstrous power was the difference maker. Lewis, who spent most of the fight on his back or stomach, managed to fend off the ground and pound and submissions of the quicker Tybura. Midway through the third round, Tybura attempted a single-leg takedown that Lewis was able to thwart. With a moment of separation, Lewis looked for a takedown of his own and then hit Tybura with a pair of hooks that wobbled him, and then a third one finished him. After a loss in his last fight to Mark Hunt, Lewis is now set to face a top 5 opponent again in his next fight. But who?
The two names that jump out to me are #5 contender Curtis Blaydes, who is coming off his unanimous decision victory over Mark Hunt a few weeks ago, and #1 contender Francis Ngannou, who went the distance in a lop sided loss to champion Stipe Miocic last month at UFC 220. These two fighters bring very contrasting styles. Blaydes is a wrestler, who put on a clinic in rounds two and three against Mark Hunt after nearly getting KO’d in the first round, and Ngannou is a pure power striker who clearly is one dimensional in his game. After watching the way Tybura was able to work against Lewis on the ground and score takedowns, I feel as if Blaydes would be a terrible matchup for Lewis. Lewis has essentially turned into a methodical plodder who has one punch knockout power. Most of the time he’s a stationary fighter who just wants to throw bombs. Which is fine, except when you have an opponent who is very quick on their feet. It’s a shame that Lewis hasn’t developed his game at this point in his career. He does tip the scales at the heavyweight maximum of 265 lbs, but with better conditioning, he could be much more active in the cage. He has great athleticism that he displays once in a while when avoiding kicks.
This brings us to a matchup against Francis Ngannou. These two guys easily have the heaviest hands in the UFC. Each one of them possesses one punch knockout power. It would be interesting to see how Ngannou would go after Lewis considering he gassed out in the first round against Miocic. With Lewis’s slower pace, Ngannou would probably welcome this challenge. The UFC could easily promote this fight as a FOX Fight Night main event, or a Pay Per View co-main event.
With #4 Cain Velasquez M.I.A. (Rumor has it that he’s in training and ready for a fight later this year) and #3 Fabricio Werdum headlining Fight Night in London next month against #8 Alexander Volkov, The only other opponent available to fight would would be Alistair Overeem, but Lewis tweeted out that he may have broken his hand in the fight against Tybura. If this is true, Lewis might be able to take enough time off that he could face either the winner of the Werdum/Volkov fight or hold out to face Ngannou. Lewis was supposed to face Werdum at UFC 216, but was forced to withdraw due to injury. Lewis has never been one to shy away from any fight. I am incredibly anxious to see what happens in the next few months.