There aren’t too many people in professional sports who would scoff at the idea of fighting for their division’s top championship – especially when they’re ranked as the number-two competitor in the world.
But after his performance against Alexander Volkov at UFC 229, Derrick Lewis didn’t seem too impressed with himself. Despite mounting a star-making rally for victory that saw him snatch a win in the fight’s final 30 seconds, Lewis simply said he needed more cardio before he was ready to fight for the title.
He’d seemed to be on the losing end of the bout for most of it, but the ending was telling of why Lewis is such an attraction – no, not because of the “my balls was hot” sound bite – but because he proved he only needs to hit his opponent one time to win.
Lewis has been very humble about his skills in interviews, noting how he isn’t the most technical striker and isn’t exactly the pinnacle of fitness. He’s always improving and has unmatched heart, but he seems very realistic about where he is in terms of skill.
However, his soon-to-be opponent Daniel Cormier has some questions. The two were given the UFC 230 headlining spot on short notice, and it will be Cormier’s first defense of the heavyweight crown since besting Stipe Miocic earlier this year. And Cormier seems suspicious that Lewis isn’t quite the slacker he portrays himself as.
Cormier said: “I believe he trains a lot harder than [he says]. I believe he’s not really as hurt as he pretends to be when he’s against the side of the Octagon. Derrick is a little smarter than you guys think. But the problem is he’s smart in a way that you learn when you grow up in urban areas. He’s kind of got a little more street smarts.”
Cormier said he has those same type of smarts, and says he sees Lewis is a lot craftier than he lets on. It’s a smart move on Cormier’s part – despite being a massive favorite heading into the bout, he knows there is a chance he could be stopped as Lewis hits as hard as anyone in the sport.
The UFC 230 card has undergone many changes, losing one of its first-ever-announced bouts in Dustin Poirier vs. Nate Diaz a few weeks back. Then the co-headliner between Luke Rockhold and Chris Weidman fell through as Rockhold suffered an injury. Ronaldo Souza was moved into the spot, with his original opponent on the card, David Branch, now facing Jared Cannonier. Undefeated Israel Adesanya will test himself against Derek Brunson.
The card has shaped up nicely despite some setbacks and shuffling, and will likely be worthy of its historic venue at Madison Square Garden. Cormier could continue his undefeated run at heavyweight, but Lewis could always shock the world. People have counted him out before, and in some ways, that’s just a means of doing the big man a favor.