Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight hitters Derrick Lewis and Blagoy Ivanov and will throw down this Saturday (Nov. 2, 2019) at UFC 244 from inside Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.
After a tough start to his UFC career against Junior dos Santos, Ivanov — a former Professional Fighters League (PFL) Heavyweight kingpin — has picked up a pair of solid wins and climbed into the Top 10. The big Bulgarian needs another victory to really introduce himself to the title mix, which makes this bout an important opportunity. On the other side of the equation, “The Black Beast” returns! Lewis may never develop into a technical marvel, but he always promises to bring the violence and swing heavy punches until the final bell.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Record: 18-2 (1)
Key Wins: Ben Rothwell (UFC Fight Night 146), Shawn Jordan (WSOF 35), Tai Tuivasa (UFC 238), Josh Copeland (WSOF 31)
Key Losses: Junior dos Santos (UFC Fight Night 133), Alexander Volkov (Bellator 120)
Keys to Victory: Despite impressive credentials in combat Sambo and Judo, Ivanov doesn’t wrestle all that often. Instead, Ivanov is a tricky counter puncher, happy to bait his opponent forward, take his head off the center line, and throw a brick into his foe’s jawline.
Durability helps a great deal, as Ivanov is well-conditioned and has never been stopped via strikes.
In general, Lewis is not a particularly difficult man to out-strike. He jumps into crazy kicks and lunges forward with nasty punches, but those attacks are infrequent. On the whole, Ivanov has the skill to land the better punches for much of the fight.
Most of Lewis’ opponents fall into the trap of engaging too often. They hit him, realize it’s pretty easy to hit him, and do it again. Eventually, Lewis times a big counter, or his foe is simply too tired to avoid the obvious power punch that comes back at him. Ivanov’s counter-based style should avoid such pitfalls, but it’s still important that he manage his energy carefully.
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), Junior dos Santos (UFC Fight Night 146), Mark Hunt (UFC Fight Night 110), Shawn Jordan (UFC Fight Night 68)
Keys to Victory: There’s not a lot of technique to discuss when it comes to Derrick Lewis. He likes to jump into high kicks, swang-and-bang in the pocket with powerful punches, and can simply stand up whenever taken down.
It’s not complicated, but it is effective.
Lewis’ one-size-fits-all approach to fighting does make it difficult to write strategy for him, but I’d like to see a bit more focus on cutting off the cage for Lewis. Ivanov already walks himself into the cage fairly often, which means this is a good fight to practice keeping him there. If Lewis can wait until Ivanov’s back is near the fence before exploding forward — be it with heavy punches or his favorite jumping kicks — he’s much more likely to land.
Lunging forward at range and missing wide is a waste of energy, and rarely has it produced positive results for Lewis. A bit of footwork could really go a long way!
Bottom Line: There’s a fair chance this proves to be an ugly fight.
Ivanov wants a full 15 minutes of ugliness. A lot of circling around, some decent counter punches, clinch work, and perhaps a takedown or two — that’s a slow-paced recipe for success. Ivanov doesn’t want a brawl or high-activity fight, as that produces more opportunities for Lewis to land big. Expect Ivanov to slow this fight down, and if it works, victory could raise Ivanov into the top five.
Lewis is perfectly fine with an ugly fight as well, so long as the final 15 seconds live up to expectations. As the knockout artist is looking to avoid three straight defeats, it’s certainly an important bout for him. A win proves that Lewis is still relevant in the upper echelon of the division, whereas a loss will send him quite a few rungs down the ladder.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 244 fight card this weekend RIGHT HERE, starting with the Fight Pass/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN 2 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
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At UFC 244, Blagoy Ivanov and Derrick Lewis will square off. Which man will have his hand raised?