MMA Ratings Podcast

August 11, 2020

UFC Vegas: Derrick Lewis vs. Curtis Blaydes Is The Fight To Make

By Adam Martin

When UFC heavyweight contender Derrick Lewis scored a record-setting second-round TKO over Aleksei Oleinik at UFC on ESPN+ 32, it pretty much guaranteed that he would get a top-ranked opponent in his next outing. Lewis' UFC record 11th knockout in the heavyweight division -- his 15th victory in the Octagon overall -- solidified his place as the #4 heavyweight in the world. In a division that could be in flux pending the result of the UFC 252 main event trilogy bout between Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier, Lewis suddenly finds himself in a very cozy place in the UFC's heaviest weight class.

The win over the Top-10-ranked Oleinik bumped Lewis' win streak to three following decision wins over Blagoy Ivanov and Ilir Latifi. In a division where few fighters are riding multi-fight win streaks, Lewis' victory over Oleinik established himself without a doubt as a top heavyweight in the division. After beating three opponents in the lower half of the Top 15, Lewis has earned himself a date with a top-five opponent in his next fight. With another big win, Lewis could find himself back in title contention. The division all hinges on what happens between Miocic and Cormier, but Lewis is in a good spot.
Following the win over Oleinik, Lewis was asked at the post-fight press conference who he would like to fight next, and he mentioned three names. Lewis mentioned #2-ranked contender Francis Ngannou, who Lewis beat in a stinker of a bout back in 2018. UFC President Dana White was vocal in his displeasure of the fight, as were the fans, and quite frankly, the fighters themselves. Lewis has suggested a potential rematch against Ngannou will be more exciting, but the UFC may want to avoid running this back. I do believe we will see a rematch between these two fighters eventually, but not right now, as Ngannou is going to fight for the belt in his next fight regardless of who wins between Miocic and Cormier.

Another fighter who Lewis suggested was Alistair Overeem, who is coming off of a big win over Walt Harris. Overeem is a legend of the sport and is well respected by the fans and his fellow fighters. However, Overeem is not that highly-ranked right now due to a recent KO loss to Jairzinho Rozenstruik, and I believe Lewis has earned the right to fight someone higher than him due to his three-fight win streak. Having said that, a fight against Overeem would be a lot of fun, and I'm fine with it if the UFC matchmakers book it. However, there's another fighter who makes more sense.
Curtis Blaydes is the fight to make for Lewis. He is one spot ahead of Lewis in the rankings, so this is a logical fight for both men. Blaydes is actually riding a longer win streak than Lewis, as he's won four in a row -- over Justin Willis, Shamil Abdurakhimov, Junior dos Santos, and Alexander Volkov. Overall he's won nine of his last 10 fights, with his lone loss in that stretch coming to Ngannou. Blaydes is an excellent fighter, but he's in the UFC doghouse right now after putting on a mediocre performance against Volkov. In that fight, Blaydes was content to grind on Volkov to edge out a win, but he won't have that same luxury against Lewis, who is dangerous for the entire 25 minutes.

I like this matchup between Blaydes and Lewis a lot stylistically. We all know that Blaydes chooses to wrestle, but after being criticized for his last fight, maybe he would rather show off his striking skills in this fight. Of course, that's what Lewis wants to do as well. Even if Blaydes wrestles, though, Lewis has proven that he can at least defend himself when he's planted on his back, with only Cormier having tapped him out in the UFC. He's a tough out that will make Blaydes work for the finish. Depending on how the fight plays out, the winner could be next in line to fight for the belt.
But that all depends on the result of Miocic vs. Cormier 3, which has the potential to change the landscape of the division. If Miocic wins, he seems likely to continue his career and will probably fight Ngannou next. But if Cormier wins, he may very well retire, which would lead to a vacated title. Ngannou would likely fight for the belt, but who he fights would be up for grabs, and that's where the winner of Lewis-Blaydes would come in. But regardless of what happens in the fight between Miocic and Cormier, the winner of Lewis-Blaydes will find himself in an enviable position at heavyweight.

Francis Ngannou and Alistair Overeem are both fun fights for Derrick Lewis, and if the UFC matchmakers go that route, I wouldn't complain about it. But I really think the Curtis Blaydes fight is the one to make. Blaydes has already said on his social media that he wants the fight with Lewis, and Lewis has said in interviews that he wants Blaydes. There's heat here, and these two would likely put on a very intriguing fight for the fans. With the state of the UFC heavyweight division very much in the air pending the result of the UFC 252 main event, Lewis vs. Blaydes is the perfect title eliminator at this time.

UFC Fight Night
Derrick Lewis vs. Aleksei Oleinik: Derrick Lewis def. Aleksei Oleinik via TKO (punches) at 0:21 of Round 2.

UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs. Oleinik took place August 8, 2020 at UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Click HERE for more UFC Fight Night Post-Fight Analysis

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