Veteran knockout artist Derrick Lewis will try to get the most out of his second title bout against kickboxing specialist Ciryl Gane this Saturday (August 7, 2021) at UFC 265 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.
What is there to say about Lewis that hasn’t been said yet? The pillars of Lewis’ Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) strategy include hardness and strength far more than any technique. His reliance on big right hands, jumping kicks, and an effort to fight his way out of bad positions has been a wag for literal years, but Lewis’ limited play rarely prevents him from taking out “better” opponents.
On paper, Gane is the superior fighter in every way, but that hardly guarantees his victory. Let’s take a closer look at Lewis’ abilities:
Before entering the cage, Lewis practiced boxing. He may not have particularly skillful footwork or a jab (at all, really), but Black Beast stuck to something important from that workout: the ability to load and deliver bursts of force, occasionally in combination.
The man with 21 previous fights in the Octagon has a proven strategy. Initially, Lewis generally stays outside until he’s ready to explode. From this distance, Lewis waits for his moment, usually far enough away to dodge big blows from his opponent. Suddenly Lewis charges forward at surprising speed, usually with a charging high kick or jumping switch kick. When the 265-pound “Black Beast” hits its entire leg into its opponent, it makes an impression. Also, the result of this kick is that his opponent has to put his feet down and block, keeping him within range for the bombs that follow. If the kick throws him off balance instead, his opponent is in a bad position to trade shots with Lewis.
In another example, Lewis landed kneeling in Roy Nelson’s large intestine with a Running Step. In the ultimate void fight between Lewis and Francis Ngannou, Lewis’ accidental kicks won the game.
Thanks to Lewis, he’s proven in recent fights that he’s ready to watch tape. Against Aleksei Oleinik, Lewis copied Walt Harris directly by opening the second round with a jump knee to his chest. When Oleinik stumbled backwards, Lewis took a big swing and threw the Russian veteran on the mat (GIF).
Against Curtis Blaydes, Lewis was completely sold out on the idea of countering Lewis’ takedown attempts. Seriously, he threw almost nothing when Blaydes landed hard, straight punches and dull low kicks at almost will. It seemed like a catastrophic decision until Lewis perfectly timed an uppercut on the shot (GIF) and became the first man to really put Blaydes to sleep with punches.
Outside of the sudden jolts from distance, Lewis bursts forward in good stance and is able to do well-balanced punches and combinations. On the offensive he can string together powerful punches, which makes him quite dangerous in short thrusts (GIF).
Lewis often hits the clinch where he can get the box dirty. Lewis does this quite well as he works the body and head with large hooks. He will often use his left hand to grab / grab his opponent’s arm or head and use that arm to control and build up the large right hand. Eventually, in his fight with Nelson, Lewis usually went to the double collar tie and knees on the body, a technique that worked well unlike “Big Country”.
The right opposite hand is another preferred technique by Lewis. When his opponent tries to throw a right hand, Lewis simultaneously throws and ducks his head off the center line. With good timing, Lewis lands his powershot while his opponent leans forward, which has real potential to end the fight. After all, Lewis can definitely hold his own in a brawl. When things get ugly, Lewis can bite his mouthpiece and trade hard punches. Most notably, Lewis’ ability to generate a lot of power while completely exhausted is legendary.
It is worth repeating that Lewis is not a technical striker. Men like Alexander Volkov and Junior dos Santos largely dominated Lewis by holding him on his back with range blows. When he can’t close the distance and his wild kicks don’t hold back his opponent, Lewis tends to fight mightily.
Despite his fierce clout, Lewis is definitely ready to start looking for takedowns of his own. They’re rarely that technical, but Lewis is more than strong enough to end a shot if he’s able to take a decent position.
Lewis achieved the top position in several situations. Occasionally he will try to catch a kick and throw his man off balance. Alternatively, Lewis changes level against the fence and tries to lift his opponent with a double-leg takedown. Most often he undoes his opponent’s takedown attempts. Few men with a wrestling background are ready to trade and trade with Black Beast, which means they try to fall for takedowns right away. As a result, their shots become careless with fatigue, allowing Lewis to dig an underhook and force opponents in the back.
Lately, Lewis has been looking for a unique takedown that he tried several times against Volkov. Lewis throws his right hand forward and ideally kicks his right leg behind his opponent’s lead leg, hoping to throw his opponent off balance and cause him to trip over his leg.
It still has to work.
Once at the top, Lewis is absolutely devastating. He dives into the guard with mighty blows, will stack his opponent to strike, and has also gone into the mount to finish. It is absolutely the worst position to face the Texan whose size is pressing his opponent onto the mat and he is unable to evade his heavy hands. Crawling out from under him seems almost impossible and definitely tiring, which means his tired opponent is unlikely to escape the onslaught.
Shooting takedowns just to get an opponent to stand up is exhausting. After a short time, Lewis is able to do takedowns more easily. As soon as that happens, his opponent is in a terrible position. He is no longer able to land takedowns as easily due to fatigue, and standing with Lewis while he’s gassed is a recipe for dying.
Lewis doesn’t do jiu-jitsu … he just gets up again.
To get up again, Lewis needs one of two things. First and foremost, if he can get an under hook, Lewis will wait his time before getting up and lifting his opponent with the hook. His opponent could possibly be trying to snap his neck in the process or hold him in place with a heavy overhook, but both are difficult against such a tall man.
Alternatively, Lewis will try to stiffen his opponent. When he gets a frame in his opponent’s armpit, it’s easy for Lewis to make room and take his opponent’s weight off of him. After all, Lewis’ size and build help quite a bit. He’s a tall man with a bit of a belly, which means most heavyweights can’t find an easy position to balance or wrap a tight body triangle while riding.
Daniel Cormier was able to control Lewis, but he did it by bringing Lewis back down as soon as “Black Beast” got up. Most heavyweights don’t have the wrestling skills or fitness to continuously chain takedowns and mat returns, so Lewis “just stand up!” is so effective.
In between or not, it would be truly amazing to see Lewis lift a title over his head in his home state of Texas. “The Black Beast” is already proof of how far strength and grit go in heavyweighting, but gold around the waist would be the ultimate finish for anyone complaining about their lack of technical ability.
Remember it MMAmania.com delivers LIVE, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 265 battle map, lap after lap herestarting with the early ESPN + “Prelims” games online that are scheduled to start at 6pm ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN2 /ESPN + at 8:00 p.m. ET, before the main PPV card start time at 10:00 p.m. ET ESPN + PPV.
For the latest and greatest UFC 265: Lewis vs. Gane news and notes, be sure to visit our extensive archive of events exactly here.
Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional fighter who trains on Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to studying with world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for some of the sport’s most elite fighters.