Daniel Cormier and Derrick Lewis have stepped up to save UFC 230 because of the money offered, but any cage fight with fighters of their caliber is serious business.
As intriguing personalities as Daniel Cormier and Derrick Lewis are, the circumstances of their fight this Saturday might be more interesting than any other match this year. By all accounts, the UFC has made it worth the while of both men to take the fight after they have admitted they will not be at one hundred percent on fight night. And yet, UFC 230 at Madison Square Garden could well be the stage for one of the most shocking upsets in MMA history.
Daniel Cormier’s victory in July continues to be lauded as one of the greatest feats in MMA history. After his saga with arch-rival Jon Jones and against the daunting challenge of Stipe Miocic, to walk away with two UFC belts after less than five minutes of cage time cemented Cormier’s place as one of the best in the history of the sport. It also set him up for what he has said will be the grand finale of his competitive career. His options have already been well set: a match with WWE superstar and former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar or a possible third fight with Jon Jones should Jones defeat Alexander Gustafsson for the light-heavyweight title in December.
All of this makes the fight with Derrick Lewis a high risk situation for the double-champion. Cormier reiterated several times that he injured his hand during the fight with Miocic and that he was unable make a fist as recently as earlier this month. When UFC 230 lost the anticipated fight between Dustin Poirier and Nate Diaz, the company offered him a dollar amount to save the event that he was unable to turn down. Per Cormier, he will be making twice the amount of money to fight Lewis than he did this past July to fight Miocic.
Derrick Lewis has always had a penchant for being so candid to that he toes the line with controversy, but his 2018 campaign has been unusual even by his standards. Less than an hour before Cormier claimed his second UFC title, Lewis won arguably the most criticized fight of the last several years in a highly disappointing contest against Francis Ngannou. He was also seconds away from losing to Alexander Volkov before his epic comeback to stop “Drago” at UFC 229. Then came the win, and post-fight interview. By Sunday morning, Lewis’ comments had spread across the MMA sphere and his social media following skyrocketed to over a million on Instagram alone.
UFC 230 will be exactly 28 days since Lewis’ 15 minute fight with Volkov. In his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, Lewis scoffed at the idea of fighting for the title in light of the poor cardio he showed in the bout, and in other post-fight comments said he suffered a broken finger during the warm-up. While he is remains affable with such an opportunity in front of him, he has also been honest. He has said that he felt that former champion Stipe Miocic was deserving of a rematch with Cormier, and should have been able to take the slot at Madison Square Garden.
Stylistically, Cormier will need to overcome the size and physicality of Lewis. It is expected that Cormier will look to use his wrestling to keep the fight on the mat where the incredible strength of “The Black Beast” is neutralized. The x-factor: will he have the grip strength to grab and hold onto Lewis if his hand is still compromised? Cormier on paper has the advantage in cardio and on the ground. The fact that he may be less than 100% with little time to prepare makes this bout much closer than would usually be expected.
Lewis will look to use his physicality and walk down Cormier, putting himself in position to throw the wide punches that have brought him victory so many times in the past. Should he be able to get on top of Cormier on the mat, being able to rain down ground-and-pound will be his best chance to score an upset. The consensus is that Lewis will tire well before the later rounds. The main question surrounding him will be whether he can attack with both hands to deliver damage early before fatigue sets in.
A Cormier victory sets up a world of opportunity with names like Lesnar and Jones possibly waiting in the wings. For Derrick Lewis, options could range from rematches with Cormier, to Stipe Miocic, Curtis Blaydes, or one of the many contenders who continue to vie for the championship belt. By the same token, a Lewis victory even on short notice would go down as the biggest upset of the year.