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UFC on ESPN+ 4 preview, predictions: Breaking down ‘Lewis vs Dos Santos’ in Wichita

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is roughly 24 hours away from its UFC Fight Night 146 mixed martial arts (MMA) event on ESPN+, taking place this Sat. night (March 9, 2019) inside INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas.

UFC Wichita pits heavy-handed former title contender, Derrick Lewis, against ex-heavyweight champion, Junior dos Santos, in the five-round main event. In the 170-pound co-headliner, Curtis Millender looks to derail the hype train of Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos.

Before we break down those two bouts, have a look at the rest of the UFC Fight Night 146 main card here, then deconstruct the ESPN+ “Prelims” here and here. All the odds and betting lines for this weekend’s action can be found here.

Let’s get to work.

265 lbs.: Derrick Lewis vs. Junior dos Santos

Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis

Record: 21-6, 1 NC | Age: 34 | Betting line: +170
Wins: 18 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 2 DEC | Losses: 3 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 6’3“ | Reach: 79” | Leg reach: 43.5”
Stance: Orthodox | Striking accuracy: 419 of 822 (51%)
Takedown attempts: 5 of 21 (24%) | Current Ranking: No. 3

Junior “Cigano” Dos Santos

Record: 20-5 | Age: 35 | Betting line: -200
Wins: 14 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 3 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 6’4“ | Reach: 77” | Leg reach: 41”
Stance: Orthodox | Striking accuracy: 1035 of 2143 (48%)
Takedown attempts: 5 of 9 (56%) | Current Ranking: No. 8

Derrick Lewis is an anachronism, a one-dimensional slugger who shows a complete disinterest in learning anything about the nuances of mixed martial arts (MMA). That’s the kind of “kill or be killed” attitude that worked in the early days of UFC when the roster was comprised of shopworn strongmen or barroom bullies with size 14 feet. And yet here we are, with “The Black Beast” sitting at No. 3 in the heavyweight rankings. Not because he’s on some sort of Rudy-type run, the division is just that pathetic. Lewis, who has the jiu-jitsu of a newborn calf, is known for his comeback KOs, which are certainly fun to watch, but in order to come back, you must first be losing the fight.

Junior dos Santos is not the same fighter he was coming up through the ranks roughly a decade ago, but he’s still one of the better boxers in the heavyweight division. He understands how to manipulate distance, puts his combinations together well, and (gasp) even throws the occasional jab. The Brazilian is also well conditioned for a heavyweight and that may prove to be his biggest weapon on Saturday night. If “Cigano” can survive a round or two of incoming fire, Lewis is likely to gas himself out and become a sitting duck. From there, Dos Santos can pick him apart like he did in winning performances against Blagoy Ivanov and Ben Rothwell.

This is a fight Dos Santos should win. He’s the superior athlete as well as the better striker. But Lewis has 25 minutes to bumrush his way into the pocket and land something of merit. As we saw in losses to Stipe Miocic and Alistair Overeem, the Brazilian’s zombie-chin days are long gone and he hasn’t gotten any younger. Keep in mind the aforementioned Ivanov was able to land 51 significant strikes against Dos Santos, 40 of which were to the head. “The Black Beast,” who catches most opponents by surprise because of his speed and agility, is going to eventually make contact. If it’s flush, the night is over.

Prediction: Lewis def. Dos Santos by knockout

170 lbs.: Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos vs. Curtis Millender

Elizeu Zaleski “Capoeira” Dos Santos

Record: 20-5 | Age: 32 | Betting line: +100
Wins: 14 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 4 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 3 DEC
Height: 5’11“ | Reach: 73” | Leg reach: 41”
Stance: Orthodox | Striking accuracy: 360 of 882 (41%)
Takedown attempts: 2 of 19 (11%) | Current Ranking: No. 14

Curtis “Curtious” Millender

Record: 17-3 | Age: 31 | Betting line: -120
Wins: 6 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 11 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 6’3“ | Reach: 75” | Leg reach: 43”
Stance: Orthodox | Striking accuracy: 174 of 365 (48%)
Takedown attempts: 1 of 1 (100%) | Current Ranking: Unranked

Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos and Curtis Millender are battling to be the next big thing at 170 pounds and to date, both fighters have been impressive. The Brazilian stumbled out of the gate with a split decision loss to Nicolas Dalby in his Octagon debut, but has looked like a welterweight killer in the fights that followed, winning six straight with three violent finishes. As for Millender, he captured nine in a row, including three straight under the UFC banner. Not just scrubs, either, as “Curtious” turned away both Max Griffin and Siyar Bahadurzada, two very tough outs for any combatant.

Millender has been successful with a long, rangy striking game that gives him control of the Octagon. Opponents trying to slice their way in have found themselves cut up, instead. That probably won’t work against an aggressive action fighter like Dos Santos, who will come barreling in and won’t stop until he slugs his way into the phone booth. The question will be how Millender reacts and more importantly, how he adjusts. We already know what “Capoeira” is going to do and it’s going to be consistent across all three rounds. Even with his considerable height and reach advantage, I expect “Curtious” to be shut down and neutralized as his opponent grinds him against the cage, threatens takedowns, and forces a more defensive-based approach.

Prediction: Dos Santos def. Millender by unanimous decision

There you have it. will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 146 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” undercard bouts at 5 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.

To see who else is fighting at UFC Wichita click here.

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