Derrick Lewis vs. Junior dos Santos headlines UFC Wichita this March 9, 2019 at the Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas.
One sentence summary:
David: Heavyweights pre-Bison bosses take center stage.
Phil: Carwin-JDS spun back through the strangest mutations imaginable
Record: Derrick Lewis 21-6-1 NC | Junior dos Santos 20-5
Odds: Derrick Lewis +185 | Junior dos Santos -200
History / Introduction to the fighters
David: Whatever happens from here on out, Lewis has punched, kicked, and mud-butted his way into our hearts and minds. For that, I harbor no ill-will. He could have another Francis Ngannou fight, and I’ll ignore the performance and rewatch highlights of his interviews. Fighters are not mere cattle in a sport. Lewis is an engaging man. He can’t hide his humanity behind the UFC’s arm and hammer bureaucracy, and grade school belligerence.
Phil: Derrick Lewis has probably peaked... right? The Cormier title shot represented the inevitable ceiling to how far he could go, and now it’s time for him to fall gracefully back to being an ‘action fighter’, drifting back through the ranks in a gentle shower of fried chicken and laconic complaints.
David: I honestly don’t know how we got here. When JDS lost to Stipe Miocic, it felt like that time everyone thought Andrei Arlovski was one more punch away from murder in the first. In recent years he’s gotten away from the sluggishness that defined his fights with Cain Velasquez. Even in recent losses, at least his body looked ready. He looks like he has that charismatic JDS energy again. Still, damage like that doesn’t just go away. It might not hurt in a fight. It might lay dormant. But it doesn’t just go away. That’s the part that makes me go ‘hmmm...’
Phil: Time was, this was the kind of match you could pick effortlessly. JDS against an unstructured power puncher? While he was never defensively untouchable, he had one of the best chins around. Cain took that from him, and in a post Velasquez-Ngannou world, this fight feels a lot more precarious than it would have back in the day for the other half of 2010s dream HW prospect duo.
What’s at stake?
David: I have no idea. Both these guys are here to basically fill time despite their reputations. Which makes it meaningful if, like, four guys get injured on a fishing trip.
Phil: Uh I don’t know? The UFC is clearly still angling for Lesnar-Cormier, so no-one is going anywhere for the time being. Ngannou and Stipe are both floating around, and both represent rematches to be avoided for each man respectively. Stipe-JDS III? Lewis-Ngannou II? Nah.
Where do they want it?
David: Derrick Lewis is the Reluctant Hero Trope in the flesh and cage. Nothing about his behavior inside the cage indicates he’s proud, or excited to be hurting (and getting hurt) for a living. So his efficiency is inversely proportional to his opponent’s enthusiasm. A fighter willing to attack him on the feet will take a chance that he lands a big right hand. A fighter willing to attack him with wrestling will take a chance that Lewis wins a scramble. Lewis represents a fighter at their purest: improvising against the henchmen of the night with theatrical efficiency.
Phil: Lewis pretty much takes the fight as it comes. He’s pretty passive, but you couldn’t really describe him as a counter fighter. The main thing to do is to look as miserable as possible while absorbing damage on the feet and ending up in horrible positions on the ground, encouraging the opponent to empty their gas tank on this cringing behemoth, then suddenly burst out with a salvo of sweaty, lumbering offense to improbably send them to the shadow realm.
David: Cigano is that rare heavyweight who moves his arms, and fists with extreme celerity. Like a lightweight with a boxing record, Junior stands at range and effortlessly establishes his jab upstairs and down to find openings for other big strikes: whether it’s the uppercut he wiggled Werdum’s ears with, the overhand right he landed on Stefan Struve, the left hook he destroyed Gilbert Yvel with, etc. Everything violent that happens in a JDS fight happens because he’s setting everything up with a simple jab that can not only change levels, but packs enough power in its bite-sized snap to dictate an opponent’s pace for them.
Phil: JDS, conversely, has an extremely defined space that he likes to operate in. He loves to stand at mid-range, feint with his shoulder, draw reactions and then stab the opponent with the head or body jab. Other moves he’s typically complemented with are a front kick, rear hand uppercut, right straight and of course the big tolling overhand around the field of vision. His problems near the fence are well documented, but if he’s not put there he’s still tough, dangerous and one of the most well-conditioned heavies around.
Insight from past fights
David: Lewis’ history doesn’t bode well for him. dos Santos will never do what Volkov did which was suddenly slug away with brain-melting abandon. Like I said, output and enthusiasm are what define Lewis’ ability to pull ahead in fights. Cigano is measured and deliberate.
Phil: JDS has, as alluded to, kind of mopped up on this style matchup before. Big directionless hitters have been his forte. It’s also worth remembering how badly Lewis responds to body shots (Volkov, Browne), and how that is also a thing that Junior is quite good at.
David: Both guys don’t exemplify supreme durability. This section is a toss-up, which makes it even worse for Lewis.
Phil: Junior might fall off a Velasquez-esque cliff physically, but is Lewis really in great shape either? His incredible strength keeps him going, but those back problems will take him out of the sport one day.
David: For me, the question is whether Lewis has another big time charge in him. He’s a fighter of medieval mechanics: if he can pressure just enough to open JDS for a big shot, perhaps he’s in the driver seat. I don’t expect this to happen in any universe. Junior dos Santos by Decision.
Phil: With all the necessary ‘it’s heavyweight caveats, this still seems like a nightmare for Lewis. He conserves energy too much to effectively pressure and given his range JDS is a more accurate, diverse, higher paced and even defensively sound fighter. Junior dos Santos by TKO, round 3