It was immediately being called one of the worst heavyweight fights of all time. And while that might be pushing it, Ngannou vs. Lewis at UFC 226 was a snooze-fest.
Promoted to the co-main event at UFC 226 in the wake of Max Holloway’s withdrawal, Francis Ngannou vs. Derrick Lewis promised to be one of those King King vs. Godzilla, Behemoth vs. Leviathan style battles that can only happen in the heavyweight division. Like watching worlds collide, the fight took place Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, and was expected to inch one man closer to a shot at the winner of the main event.
A don’t blink sort of affair, that’s what it was advertised as. What played out was anything but. Ngannou vs. Lewis arrived not with a bang, but with a whimper. It ended the same way, with the biggest commotion the sound of the crowd voicing their displeasure.
Lewis opened with a high kick well wide. Ngannou sitting back, showing some stance switches. Another kick by Lewis, and this one connected. He followed up by throwing leather over the top off the kick. Lewis then went high with a switch kick. Lewis went to the body next. Then fanned with a front kick. With two minutes left in the round, Ngannou still hadn’t let his hands go — not a single punch thrown by the former title challenger. Lewis then moved in for a takedown off a kick, but was easily shrugged off. Ngannou popped off a jab, remembering his striking for the first time in the fight. A jab to the body followed. Another switch kick from Lewis came in the last seconds of the round, and the buzzer came shortly after. A strange approach from Ngannou to be sure.
Round two saw Ngannou whiff with a punch early. The feeling out process, or one-sided affair with only Lewis throwing (and then mostly kicks) continued. Fans in the stands at the T-Mobile Arena broke out their phones and lighters, rock n’ roll ballad style. Lewis fired another high kick. ‘The Black Beast’ chopped at the legs, but Herb Dean was finally fed up and warned the fighters to engage. Back underway Lewis went to the body. He was going after it, at least a fair bit more than Ngannou, but the crowd remained irritated, to say the least.
At the risk of hyperbole, Francis Ngannou had gone from lion to mouse between his UFC 220 title fight against Stipe Miocic and his meeting with Derrick Lewis. Lewis was a dancer without a partner, practically shadow boxing. If you were waiting for Ngannou to explode, it didn’t happen. The pair engaged a little towards the end of the round, but it was mostly Lewis making the effort, and Ngannou was nearly jeered out of the arena.
Derrick Lewis def. Francis Ngannou by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)