Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight bruisers Derrick Lewis and Marcin Tybura will collide this Sunday (Feb. 18, 2018) inside Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.
A big heart and bigger right hand saw Lewis score an unlikely six-fight win streak and rocket up the divisional ladder, but the veteran composure and kickboxing of Mark Hunt proved too much for him last summer. It’s now the return of “Black Beast,” as Lewis fights to break back into the title mix. Tybura also saw the best win streak of his career snapped last time out, coming up short to former champion Fabricio Werdum. Though this will be just his sixth UFC fight, Tybura has already come a long way since his debut, showing a well-rounded approach to mixed martial arts (MMA).
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for both men:
Key Wins: Travis Browne (UFC Fight Night 105), Roy Nelson (UFC Fight Night 90), Shamil Abdurakhimov (UFC Fight Night 102), Gabriel Gonzaga (UFC Fight Night 86)
Key Losses: Mark Hunt (UFC Fight Night 110), Shawn Jordan (UFC Fight Night 68), Matt Mitrione (UFC Fight Night 50)
Keys to Victory: Lewis’ approach to fighting may be a bit odd, but it’s rather easy to describe. “The Black Beast” whips heavy punches on the feet, mixes in the random jump knee or high kick, and hits with otherworldly power if he’s somehow able to secure top position.
As always, the question for Lewis is how does he make the damage happen. At Heavyweight, the random offense on the feet is often enough, but Tybura is reasonably tight defensively. Scoring a takedown seems unlikely given Tybura’s success in grappling with high-level fighters.
Lewis’ best bet is to make this thing ugly. Tybura is not going to want to exchange with Lewis, so barreling towards the Polish athlete with combinations seems to be the best path. If the knockout doesn’t materialize, it could very cause Tybura to take a bad reactionary shot, which is Lewis’ best chance to score top position. For this strategy to work, Lewis has to have the energy to pressure. Last time out, he wasted much of his gas tank on unnecessary jumping kicks and other low percentage techniques. To defeat Tybura, he’ll very likely have to manage his conditioning a little more carefully.
Key Wins: Andrei Arlovski (UFC Fight Night 111), Viktor Pesta (UFC Fight Night 92), Luis Henrique (UFC 209), Damian Grabowski (M-1 Challenge 50)
Key Losses: Fabricio Werdum (UFC Fight Night 121), Timothy Johnson (UFC Fight Night 86)
Keys to Victory: Unlike much of his division, Tybura is a well-rounded fighter without one main avenue to victory. He’s not a specialist — Tybura is equally capable of grinding for takedowns along the fence and kicking from range, and there is no significant hole in his skill set.
Lewis may be simple to describe in theory, but he’s difficult in practice. Tybura has good conditioning, but it’s not an endless gas tank, and a single lazy moment opposite Lewis can easily result in a fight-ending right hand or takedown.
First and foremost, Tybura needs to establish his range weapon: the left kick. Tybura’s lead leg is snapping and effective, and it should be targetting Lewis’ mid-section right away. Kicks to the body are confirmed no-good for Lewis, and they’re a great way to limit his offense.
The biggest key to defeating Lewis is energy management. Travis Browne had huge success with kicking the body, but he was overeager and tired himself out doing so. Shamil Abdurakhimov landed a half dozen takedowns, but he couldn’t maintain his own pace. Both kicks and takedowns are paths to victory for Tybura, but only if he learns from the men who faced Lewis before him and manages to maintain an even pace the whole 15 minutes.
Bottom Line: It’s a match up of Top 10-ranked Heavyweights looking to get back into the win column.
With Stipe Miocic set to defend his crown opposite Daniel Cormier in July, there’s some time for the division to produce a top contender. Victory here doesn’t earn the winner that slot, but it sets him up for a bout with someone in the upper echelon of the division. In Lewis’ case, he’s been talking shit with Francis Ngannou for awhile now, and that would be a reasonable fight for both men assuming the Cameroonian returns in the near future.
Defeat send either fighter to the back of the Top 10 line. There are still big fights potentially available — big names like Mark Hunt, Alistair Overeem, and the aforementioned Ngannou are coming off losses — but two defeats in a row makes receiving those match ups less likely.
At UFC Fight Night 126, Derrick Lewis and Marcin Tybura will meet in the co-main event. Which man will remain standing when the dust settles?