Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight sluggers Derrick Lewis and Sergei Pavlovich will duel this weekend (Sat., July 30, 2022) at UFC 277 inside American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.
It really seems like Lewis has been forced into the role of gatekeeper. He’s been knocked out by younger contenders twice in his last three fights, though he did turn away Chris Daukaus between those defeats. Once again, Lewis is fighting down the rankings against a talented up-and-comer. Pavlovich debuted against Alistair Overeem, a testament to UFC’s confidence in his potential. Though that bout was too soon for the Russian, he’s since stopped three opponents via knockout in the first round, justifying his initial hype.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Francis Ngannou (UFC 226), Curtis Blaydes (UFC Vegas 19), Alexander Volkov (UFC 229), Aleksei Oleinik (UFC Vegas 6), Blagoy Ivanov (UFC 244), Marcin Tybura (UFC Fight Night 126), Chris Daukaus (UFC Vegas 45)
Key Losses: Ciryl Gane (UFC 265), Tai Tuivasa (UFC 271), Daniel Cormier (UFC 230), Junior dos Santos (UFC Fight Night 146), Mark Hunt (UFC Fight Night 110)
Keys to Victory: Lewis has the UFC knockout record for a reason. “The Black Beast” can obliterate opponents with short combinations on the feet, but he’s at his most dangerous when able to gain top position. Usually, a few seconds of top control results in a brutal finish, though Tuivasa’s iron head bucked that trend last time out.
Writing a couple paragraphs about Lewis’ strategy never comes easily to me, because Lewis’ strategy never changes. “The Black Beast” will open the fight with some heavy (likely flying) kicks, a few big swings, and an odd takedown attempt. If he connects clean on any of them, the fight is likely over.
If not, things get complicated.
As such, little adjustment from Lewis should be expected at this point. If there’s a single minor change I’d like to see, it’s just the occasional punch to the mid-section. Mix up the combinations, get his opponent’s hands to drop for a brief moment, then capitalize upstairs.
Key Wins: Shamil Abdurakhimov (UFC London), Maurice Greene (UFC Fight Night 162), Marcelo Golm (UFC Fight Night 149)
Key Losses: Alistair Overeem (UFC Fight Night 141)
Keys to Victory: Despite a background in Greco-Roman wrestling, Pavlovich has been relying almost entirely on his stand up skills inside the Octagon. With an 84-inch reach and massive knockout power, it hasn’t been the worst decision.
Contrary to popular belief, wrestling Lewis is very rarely a good strategy. His technical defense may not be amazing, but Lewis is massive, hard to hold down or damage. Time and time again, we’ve seen lots of skilled wrestlers exhaust themselves successfully wrestling Lewis, only to get smacked up late in the fight.
Pavlovich is much better off striking with Lewis. In that case, the keys are patience and range. Trading with Lewis is a definite no-no, but hanging back, kicking him in the leg and shooting heavy straights down the middle? That’s a recipe for success, one that Pavlovich should be trying to follow.
Against Lewis, the other big risk is getting overeager. From Travis Browne to Curtis Blaydes, we’ve seen fighters in the process of picking apart Lewis get creamed as they start taking more chances. Against “The Black Beast,” being okay with holding back is often a major key to staying conscious.
This is a major test for Pavlovich.
The Russian talent has impressed in a big way in his last three fights, but the jump from Abdurakhimov to Lewis is significant — just ask Daukaus. If Pavlovich is able to pass the test, he’s instantly introduced to the title picture. At just 30 years old, that’s a pretty huge accomplishment for the big man, as the division usually favors age and experience.
For Lewis, we’re not quite in must-win territory. “The Black Beast” is a popular and established Heavyweight, so he’s not going anywhere even if he suffers a bad streak. Defeat would remove him further from the title picture, but Lewis has always been active enough to rebuild momentum when necessary.
Still, if Lewis is going to earn a second title shot in the back end of his 30s, winning here sets him up much better.
At UFC 277, Derrick Lewis and Sergei Pavlovich will throw down. Which man earns the victory?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 277 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ABC/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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