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Hometown pressure: Can Derrick Lewis redeem himself in Houston at UFC 271?

Derrick Lewis felt a lot of pressure ahead of his loss to Ciryl Gane in Houston. Can he avoid that stress at UFC 271?

On Saturday, Derrick Lewis fights in his hometown of Houston for the fourth time as a member of the UFC roster. The question heading into this bout is if the former UFC heavyweight title challenger will put the pressure of his last fight in Houston — an August 2021 TKO loss to Ciryl Gane for the interim heavyweight crown — behind him?

In January, Lewis told The MMA Hour that his fight against Gane at the Toyota Center in Houston was “too much pressure.”

“Never felt it (the pressure) that bad before,” said Lewis. “Actually, before court, before I went to court, before they gave me some time to go to prison, that’s the other time I felt so much pressure. But other than that, it was the Houston card. It was pretty bad as well.”

One reason Lewis felt pressure was that he was headlining the event. The other reason Lewis was more stressed than normal was the date coincided with his release from prison.

“It was like 13 years to that day,” said Lewis. “It was the same day I was released. So, it was like I put a lot of pressure on myself as well. It would have made a great story (winning the UFC title.) From the worst of times to the best of times.”

Lewis bounced back from his loss to Gane with a first-round knockout win over Chris Daukaus in the main event of an ESPN+ card at the Apex in Las Vegas in December. The win gave Lewis the UFC record for most career knockout wins at 13. It also set up a bout with Tai Tuivasa in Houston at UFC 271.

A month after appearing on The MMA Hour and speaking about the pressure of the August fight in Houston, Lewis revealed he thinks he will avoid the anxiety he faced in that contest when he returns to the Toyota Center on Saturday.

“I believe it’s not going to happen this go around because it’s not happening on that one specific day,” Lewis told Aaron Bronsteter. “Because that day right there meant a lot to me and my history and my life and all the stuff I’ve been through.”

While Lewis feels there will be less pressure on him on February 12, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some drama surrounding this Houston fight.

“My kids are finally going to see my fight for the first time in their life live. So, they’ll be in the stands for the first time,” said Lewis.

Lewis is the No. 3 ranked fighter in the official UFC heavyweight rankings. His opponent, Tuivasa, who is on a run of four straight knockout wins, is No. 11 in the rankings. Lewis is the betting favorite ahead of the event.

UFC 271 takes place on February 12 at Toyota Center in Houston. The main card streams on ESPN+ pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and early prelims on ESPN+.