Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight hitters Roy Nelson and Derrick Lewis will throw down this Thursday (July 7, 2016) at UFC Fight Night 89 inside MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nelson has been going through a pretty serious rough patch. He may have won his last fight, but it was a truly terrible bout that came on the heels of three straight emphatic defeats.
The veteran’s position in the division is uncertain at best.
On the other hand, "Black Beast" is riding a considerable wave of momentum stemming from a trio of knockout victories. Lewis has already broken into the rankings, but now he’ll look to earn a spot inside the Top 10.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for both athletes:
Key Wins: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (UFC Fight Night 39), Stefan Struve (UFC Fight Night 21), Matt Mitrione (TUF 16 Finale)
Key Losses: Fabricio Werdum (UFC 143), Stipe Miocic (UFC 161), Junior dos Santos (UFC 117), Josh Barnett (UFC Fight Night 75)
Keys to Victory: Nelson is a fairly well-rounded Heavyweight who relies almost entirely on his overhand right. He has admittedly knocked out 14 opponents, but that's probably not the ideal strategy opposite Lewis, who has dropped and stopped the same number of foes in half the amount of fights.
If there were ever a bout for Nelson to rely on his grappling, this is the one. Lewis is a ferocious puncher, but he's still rather raw on the mat. In his last bout, it took Gabriel Gonzaga about a minute to take him down and move into a dominant position.
Nelson has the skills to do the same. Plus, unlike Gonzaga, "Big Country" has the conditioning to wrestle for more than a couple minutes without gasping for air. In fact, Nelson is straight up dominant from top position and knows how to control his foe without expending energy.
Basically, there's no reason for Nelson not to take it to the mat.
Record: 15-4 (1)
Key Wins: Gabriel Gonzaga (UFC Fight Night 86), Viktor Pesta (UFC 192), Damien Grabowski (UFC Fight Night 82)
Key Losses: Shawn Jordan (UFC Fight Night 68), Matt Mitrione (UFC Fight Night 50)
Keys to Victory: Lewis is a physical beast who commonly overwhelms his opponent with massive displays of power. Regardless of whether they're thrown on the feet or after tossing his opponent to the mat, Lewis' punches simply decimate most opponents.
Time to test them out on Nelson's legendary jawline.
While Lewis certainly could simply walk forward and brawl with Nelson, it's a risky strategy. Both men hit absurdly hard, and either one could end up taking an early nap.
That may be a simple fact of life for most Heavyweights, but I'd like to see Lewis switch up his attack a bit and look to clinch with Nelson. He's a strong fighter and capable wrestler, so he should be able to force a clinch war with Nelson without giving up an easy takedown.
When allowed to fight at his pace, Nelson's conditioning is pretty solid. If, however, he's jammed against the fence and forced to wrestle, his pace and punches will slow. On the other hand, Lewis has proven to carry his power deep into the fight.
If Lewis can get Nelson tired, he's shifted the odds further into his favor.
Bottom Line: Someone is probably going to sleep.
Nelson really needs a definitive victory. For a man known as a knockout artist, Roy Nelson hasn’t actually beaten anyone on the roster via knockout since 2010 (or 2012 if we’re being generous and count Matt Mitrione).
Either way, it’s been a while.
If Nelson is still in fighting shape, this is a fight he should win. Lewis is a defensively open fighter, both to Nelson’s overhand and excellent jiu-jitsu. In short, Nelson either proves his worthiness or shows that he probably isn’t long for UFC.
Meanwhile, "Black Beast" is on the rise and is looking for big victories. Declined or not, Nelson has only lost to Top 10 fighters, and Lewis would like to place himself on that list.
If Lewis comes up short, it definitely hurts. He’s built up some momentum thanks to his wins and personality, but a loss places him firmly outside the Top 10.
At UFC Fight Night 90, Roy Nelson and Derrick Lewis will trade blows. Which fighter will remain standing for the final bell?