Although he fell way short of his own sky-high expectations against Ciryl Gane for interim gold in August, Derrick Lewis wants to end 2021 by righting that wrong against soaring heavyweight contender Chris Daukaus set for his first main event this weekend.
Don’t judge a book by its cover
Don’t be fooled by first impressions. This weekend’s UFC Fight Night main event might seem tame in comparison to recent headliners, but the post PPV fog isn’t one either heavyweight is taking lightly.
That neither are built like impressive mesomorphs ala Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane ahead of their compelling Jan. 22 title fight just amplifies the fact you don’t have to look a certain way to be successful in the world’s dangerous weight class.
As far as Lewis is concerned, he’s got redemption on his mind. That Gane defeat, four months ago, is a bitter pill to swallow – especially one on home soil which was exacerbated by self-inflicted pressure. He revealed as much, during Wednesday’s media day from the Apex:
“Man, it was just overwhelming fighting in my hometown, all that pressure I had on me. I put all that pressure on myself, you know?
It would have been 13 years since the day I got out of prison, and winning the title for the UFC heavyweight champion, it would have just – I put so much pressure on myself, very nerve-racking.”
Lewis, who turned professional in 2010, served a three-and-a-half year prison sentence for aggravated assault and a subsequent probation violation.
Building a new life for himself afterwards, he expressed a desire to continue fighting in Houston in future years while admitting he mishandled his approach that day. But what about his impending opponent and the experience differential?
“Experience don’t mean anything, most go into a fight really just focused on one thing: just winning. So all the outside noise really doesn’t matter. We’re heavyweights, so anything can happen.”
Daukaus has only been in the UFC for 16 months, yet his activity and four-fight knockout streak has proven increasingly difficult to ignore. That notion was reinforced with a second-round TKO win over the returning Shamil Abdurakhimov on a stacked UFC 266 prelim card in September.
Lewis, a fan favourite and KO artist himself, has named two-time heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic as an opponent he’d like to face sometime in 2022 – providing he emerges victorious here.
Daukaus though, is ready to inflict a second straight defeat for The Black Beast and wants to continue rising up the rankings, taking advantage in a division that has plenty of fantasy matchups but minimal movement.
“The only thing I have to do is just get a win.
My name gets right where his was – top three or four in the division, and then we’ll go from there about who we’re going to fight because I don’t see a lot of people I have to fight before getting to the belt.”
The beauty and ruthlessness of situations like this, is the fact they’re battling to take food off the other’s plate to feed themselves.
Curtis Blaydes’ February KO loss by Lewis set him back dearly, while Alexander Volkov (#5) finds himself in an awkward spot too after losing handily vs. Gane this summer.
Daukaus knows, if he keeps winning, he’ll be in a title eliminator before long. That’s a dangerous man, though Lewis is a wounded animal who cannot be overlooked – regardless of his flaws.
Who will prevail?
Picture source: Getty Images — quotes via MMAJunkie