Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight knockout artists Junior dos Santos and Derrick Lewis will go to war TONIGHT (March 9, 2019) at UFC Fight Night 146 from inside Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas.
Dos Santos keeps on keeping on. The Brazilian has suffered brutal losses, bad injuries, and an unfair USADA suspension over the last few years, but dos Santos keeps working towards his goal of recapturing the UFC heavyweight title. Unlikely as it may sound following two failed attempts already, “Cigano” is ranked inside the top 10, on a two-fight win streak, and looking to take out No. 3 tonight.
Lewis will attempt to bounce back from his own failed title bid, a fight in which he simply could not overcome a monstrous skill gap. One of the most active big men in the sport, Lewis is only a single strike away from a sudden knockout.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each man:
Junior dos Santos
Key Wins: Stipe Miocic (UFC on FOX 13), Cain Velasquez (UFC on FOX 1), Ben Rothwell (UFC Fight Night 86), Mark Hunt (UFC 160)
Key Losses: Cain Velasquez (UFC 155, UFC 166), Stipe Miocic (UFC 211), Alistair Overeem (UFC on FOX 17)
Keys to Victory: Dos Santos has never lost to anything but the elite inside the Octagon. The Brazilian is an agile Heavyweight with quick hands and brutal knockout power. Though he rarely turns to that aspect of his game, dos Santos’ is an effective wrestler/grappler as well.
To defeat Lewis, dos Santos must stay offensive. He’s been working to improve his footwork and cage awareness, but to be frank, it still isn’t great. Against a foe like Lewis, there is little room for error, meaning this really is not the time to show off defensive improvements.
Instead, “JDS” needs to put Lewis on his back foot. “The Black Beast” is well-known for his many upset victories, but it’s important to remember that all those come-from-behind wins are only possible because he first spent a lot of time getting his ass beat. Dos Santos has all the tools to deliver that early beating, but unlike many of his peers, will not tire until completely helpless three minutes later.
Key Wins: Francis Ngannou (UFC 226), Alexander Volkov (UFC 229), Marcin Tybura (UFC Fight Night 126), Travis Browne (UFC Fight Night 105), Shamil Abdurakhimov (UFC Fight Night 102)
Key Losses: Daniel Cormier (UFC 230), Mark Hunt (UFC Fight Night 110), Shawn Jordan (UFC Fight Night 68), Matt Mitrione (UFC Fight Night 50)
Keys to Victory: Lewis is a powerhouse. He walks around above the Heavyweight limit, which definitely carries over to his heavy hands. It’s also very true that Lewis is no technician, but his heart and ability to keep his power through fatigue has proven effective regardless.
The above video breaks it down as well, but the real goal here for Lewis is to back “JDS” into the fence — where his defense tends to fall apart — without overextending himself. If Lewis simply charges at dos Santos, he may successfully get his foe to the fence. However, he may also leave himself very open to counters or be off-balance in the brief moments where dos Santos is most vulnerable.
If Lewis can move forward without falling over his feet, he’ll be in position to land when dos Santos does inevitably hit the fence. Ideally, he’ll back “Cigano” up behind a jab, but even just advancing behind a high guard would be better than swinging wildly from the get-go.
Bottom Line: Heavyweight is not a division with an abundance of contenders, meaning the winner is in the mix.
The former champion dos Santos is never that far away from a title shot, particularly since he’s never faced off with Daniel Cormier previously. As a still-athletic big man who can fight at a consistent pace for five rounds, dos Santos is still very relevant. A victory here pushes him into the top five, leaving him one more win from the strap.
Perhaps a showdown with Francis Ngannou?
It’s a longer road for Lewis, who accomplished very little against Cormier just a few months ago. Luckily, “DC” is fairly close to retirement, so a new king will be crowned in some manner sooner than later. Until then, getting in the win column puts Lewis in good position to either fight for the vacant belt when Cormier retires or potentially challenge for the strap again if the Olympian were to fall.
At UFC Fight Night 146, Junior dos Santos and Derrick Lewis will battle in the main event. Which man will see his hand raised?