UFC Fight Night: Albany – Lewis shows off skills and limitations

‘Nobody has hit better than me this week’ – Koepka on his ball-striking during third round

In a tedious affair that left the crowd booing and jeering for more than three rounds, Derrick 'The Black Beast' Lewis was able to outlast his Shamil Abdurakhimov, and find the finish in the fourth.

Derrick Lewis is a monster of a man. At 6’3, weighing over 300lbs, and with 14 years of boxing experience, any man that steps into any kind of ring with him knows there’s a solid chance they might end up being put to sleep. Derrick has to cut weight to make the UFC heavyweight limit of 265 lbs, but he doesn’t look like he’s carrying much excess fat. He doesn’t look stupidly muscular either, like a cartoon character. Heavyweight that are pure muscle tend to gas fast if a fight lasts more than round, and most guys that look that way are on steroids to boot. No, Derrick just looks thick. Powerful. Imposing.

15 of his 17 wins are by KO, and it was clear after several minutes into this fight that Derrick’s opponents are starting to realise that they don’t want to stand and trade with him. Abdurakhimov hails from Dagestan, Russia. The region is known for churning out technically gifted as well extremely resilient fighters. The Dagestanis seem to take pride in their desire to engage in firefights. But Abdurakhimov right from the get-go proved that he and his camp had a rather different game plan.

Abdurakhimov’s logic was this: Lewis hits like a truck, and he’s much bigger, so I’ll use my superior grappling and keep Lewis where he can’t smush his fist into my face- with his back on the ground. So the Russian did exactly that for 3 rounds. Lewis, who’s MMA career is still impressively new, was mostly powerless to resist. Commentator Brian Stann pointed out that in the past, any time Lewis has been taken down he’s been mostly able to simply “stand back up”. He’s just so strong, opponents without elite wrestling could not keep him down. Abdurakhimov, on the other hand, was managing to do just this.

It was boring though, as the Dagestani failed to do any damage from the top, while Lewis lay on the bottom looking frustrated, daydreaming about punching things. The crowd let the fighters know what they thought, and the atmosphere was turning hostile, after a night of truly enjoyable fights.

If this had been a 3-rounder, Abdurakhimov would have won the MMA’s most boring decision. But luckily for Lewis, this was a main event 5-rounder, and Abdurakhimov was finding out fast that holding down such a huge man was doing a number on his cardio. After the bell rang for the end of the third, Abdurakhimov was visibly fatigued. In the 4th, he couldn’t get the takedown that he would desperately need to survive. Lewis, on the other hand, really hadn’t done much of anything for 15 minutes, and was clearly feeling pretty fresh. Even when the fight had been on the feet, Lewis had been chasing a running opponent, so his arms hadn’t been swung too much.

After so much tedium, the end of the fight seemed to come on fast. Abdurakhimov shot for a terribly laboured and telegraphed takedown, and he was in return taken down. Well, more that he was on his knees and Lewis simply pushed him down against the cage. From there, Lewis worked some truly thunderous ground’n’pound, while one of his giant knees was squeezing down on Abdurakhimov’s belly. 

I never thought that this one was going to be a war of attrition, but that’s the way it turned out. Abdurakhimov is a good fighter, but he needs to come in next time ready to use all of his tools. He was afraid to engage in any meaningful way on the feet, and if that’s the situation you’re in, then you’re in the wrong sport. As for Lewis, he showed that a good grappler with decent cardio can still beat him without barely taking a hit. It’s worrying for Lewis, but he is learning the game fast and hopefully comes in with better takedown defence next time. Also, I’d like to see him improve his fight IQ a little. Abdurakhimov was clearly in a takedown-mindset, and Lewis kept throwing head kicks! It wasn’t a smart technique to fall back on.

With 4 wins in a row, Lewis will certainly find himself against a top10 opponent next time. I think a war against Travis Browne makes sense, but Barnett, Hunt, Arlovski or Rothwell would all be great fights too. They’re the fighters ranked no.5 to no.9, and fortunately for Lewis, none of them are wrestlers who favour top control. So here’s hoping the UFC books us a heavyweight slugfest!