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For more than eight years, Derrick Lewis has been launching lunchbox-sized fists at the skulls of UFC heavyweights. Along the way, Lewis became the Octagon’s all-time leader in knockout victories. Lewis returns on Saturday night to face Serghei Spivak in the main event of UFC Fight Night but does so with many questions surrounding his future.
Lewis enters the fight having lost back-to-back fights for just the second time in his career. He also has lost three of his past four bouts, the first time he’s done so as a professional fighter. All of those losses have come by knockout, leading to many questions as to whether Lewis’ long run as a staple of the top heavyweight contenders has completely come to a close.
A four-fight winning streak landed Lewis in an August 2021 battle with Ciryl Gane for the interim heavyweight title. It was the second time Lewis entered the cage with the opportunity to win UFC gold. Gane methodically picked Lewis apart, landing 98 strikes to a mere 18 for Lewis, before a third round stoppage.
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Lewis was able to rebound by knocking out Chris Daukaus and setting the UFC’s all-time knockout record but then found himself put to sleep by a Tai Tuivasa elbow before suffering a similar fate against Sergei Pavlovich in less than one minute this past July.
In Spivak, Lewis gets the opportunity to step away from the steady diet of dangerous strikers he has been fed in recent years, seemingly giving him the easiest possible path to recapture his form.
Spivak is a fighter whose roadmap to success is as simple as Lewis’. While Lewis succeeds when he’s able to punch his opponent very hard in the head, Spivak manages to find victory when he is able to take the fight to the ground and achieve top control.
Spivak has been able to execute that gameplan with brutal efficiency, bouncing Greg Hardy from the UFC after multiple takedowns ended in brutal ground and pound and then dominating Augusto Sakai for his second straight victory.
In the past, Lewis has feasted on such opponents. In February 2021, Lewis managed to fend off several takedown attempts by Curtis Blaydes before a beautifully-timed uppercut to counter another shot, shutting Blaydes’ lights out.
“My back is against the wall now,” Lewis said at media day this week. “I don’t want to lose three straight fights in a row. I don’t really even want to lose one fight. So I take it hard on myself every time I lose a fight. I don’t stop thinking about my last fight until I get a new fight. And so I’m just tired of thinking about my last fight, it being some B.S., the way it ended. So I just wanted to come out this week. Give it all I’ve got.
“I’m almost at the end of my career now. I don’t want there to be any woulda, coulda, shoulda. I want to have everything all set and done.”
Lewis will need to manage to do the same on Saturday night or he risks not only the first three-fight losing skid of his career but also the second calendar year of his career where he didn’t score a knockout or the first time in his career he has gone a calendar year without a victory.
“It doesn’t matter to me who I fight,” Spivac said at media through an interpreter. “Derrick is a very good fighter. He’s fought for the belt a few times already. He’s a strong guy and I prepared for that. It doesn’t matter for me who I’m going to fight, it’s just that now it’s Derrick Lewis.
“I’m going to say it again: It does not matter who stands in front of me. The time will show what’s going to happen. I do whatever I can to get to the victory. That’s why I’m here. I’m here to get the victory, I’m here to train for the victory and what name is in front of me or how loud that name is, is not important.”
The undercard fills out with more action among the big boys in the sport. Kennedy Nzechukwu and Ion Cutelaba are set to throw down in the light heavyweight division. Nzechukwu got back in the win column in his last outing by finishing Karl Roberson in the final round. Cutelaba has lost his two appearances inside the Octagon in 2022 by submission. Plus, Waldo Cortes-Acosta and Chase Sherman collide in a heavyweight contest.
Let’s take a closer look at the rest of the main card before making a prediction and pick on the main event.
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
It’s easy to write Lewis off after his most recent outings. In his two most recent outings, Lewis has been blasted out by men who he’d have been expected to knock out with ease in the past and he’s done so while getting the kind of stand-up brawl he would want.
Spivak isn’t a big risk to stop Lewis on the feet but his top game on the ground can be suffocating. Lewis is not great off of his back and relies on brute strength over technique trying to get back to standing.
That said, Spivak is going to have to figure out a way to get inside and force the fight to the ground. Ask Blaydes how easy that is to achieve and you’ll know why Spivak being a favorite might be a little confusing. Lewis knows what he has to do in this fight. He has to stuff takedowns and find space to let his hands go. Spivak’s chin can be cracked and Lewis still has the power to put anyone down for good. It’s a good night for an upset. Pick: Lewis via KO1
Who wins UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs. Spivac? And how exactly does each fight end? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed picks on every fight at UFC Fight Night, all from the incomparable expert who’s up more than $13,000 on MMA in the past three years, and find out.
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