UFC Wichita: Junior dos Santos and Derrick Lewis Set to Bring Fireworks

UFC Wichita Junior dos Santos Derrick Lewis
Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Former champion Junior dos Santos is one of the biggest threats in the heavyweight division, but can he turn back the powerful and affable Derrick Lewis at UFC Wichita?

Derrick Lewis went from cult hero to a bonafide lightning rod in 2018. Every interview leading up to his fight with Daniel Cormier in November was must-see television and the results were reflected in his social media following. So magnetic is his personality, that it curtails any talk of the areas he needs to improve. Consider that when the year was over there was little talk of how the fight with Francis Ngannou played out or that he was seconds away from having been decisively shut down by Alexander Volkov. Lewis is back where fans want him: in a main event at UFC Wichita where he has ample time to say what’s on his mind and where we can see if he can pull out yet another dramatic finish over one of the best in the game.

It’s one thing to talk about his popularity, it’s another to discuss where he fits into the title picture. He’s had 16 fights since making his promotional debut in 2014 and Saturday night will be his fifth main event. So long as Cormier holds the title, it will be a tough sell to see Lewis in another title fight. But should he add former champion dos Santos to his list of victims, he keeps himself on a short list of contenders for the belt.

Former champion Junior dos Santos has struggled with consistency for the better part of the decade. His streak of alternating wins and losses going back to 2012 was finally snapped when he defeated Tai Tuivasa to put together back-to-back wins last December. Even his losses have only come to the best in the world as the only men to have bested him were former champions or challengers in Stipe Miocic, Cain Velasquez, and Alistair Overeem.

What’s more, the timing of Saturday’s battle takes place at a crucial time in the division when it comes to the major players. Cormier is committed to facing Brock Lesnar when he returns to action. Jon Jones appears intent on staying at 205 for the moment and Miocic is uninterested in any bout that isn’t Cormier. There is a strong possibility that the division will be wide open by the end of the year and dos Santos would be the heavyweight riding the most momentum by that time.

The fight figures to be a classic brawler vs. boxer match-up. Lewis will be looking to get his hands on dos Santos in the pocket where the former champion’s speed is neutralized and Lewis can rely on his incredible chin in a firefight. If dos Santos gets on his bicycle and stays away from him, “The Black Beast” should look to force his way to the clinch and get the fight to the ground where he can use his size to great effect. Another strategy is to stay close to the fence and counter dos Santos as he comes forward.

Dos Santos has a proven record of besting dangerous brawlers in the past. Similar to his fights with Mark Hunt and Tai Tuivasa, dos Santos should look to get in and out behind a hard jab and avoid staying in the pocket with Lewis. The Brazilian has a gas tank that has been proven in 25-minute fights in the past and he should rely on that as Lewis tends to gas out in the later rounds. As Lewis slows down, dos Santos can pick his spots to open up with bigger combinations.

Both Derrick Lewis and Junior dos Santos will look to set up fights with the bigger names in the division with a victory. For both men, a fight with Francis Ngannou would figure to be the best possible match-up. It would be an exciting fight stylistically and the winner would be considered the top fighter behind the champion.