UFC Vegas 6: Only One Can Move Up Between Lewis and Oleinik

Derrick Lewis vs. Aleksei Oleinik, UFC Vegas 6
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - AUGUST 07: (L-R) Opponents Derrick Lewis and Aleksei Oleinik of Russia face off during the UFC Fight Night weigh-in at UFC APEX on August 07, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

The affable Derrick Lewis has made changes to make himself a more dangerous fighter than ever before, but is it enough to take out dangerous submission ace Aleksei Oleinik at UFC Vegas 6?

It can be seen with undeniable photo and video evidence, this is a different Derrick Lewis.  Never one to go into detail about the finer points of mixed martial arts, “The Black Beast” has always frequently asserted that MMA is not a passion so much as a job.  But his commitment in recent years to the fight game has gone to the next level.  Normally having a large cut to reach the heavyweight limit, Lewis has looked noticeably leaner in recent fights and the results have spoken for themselves.

A fan-favorite behind earning a Popeyes sponsorship ahead of a title fight and a timeless post-fight interview that lives on, Lewis has always done his part to put on a show.  Victories over top contenders such as Alexander Volkov and Francis Ngannou have kept him in the upper-echelon of the heavyweight division.  After a two-fight skid that included an opportunity to fight for the world title on short notice, the hard-work of Lewis began showing  new results.  In the last year, he turned in gritty victories over Blagoy Ivanov and Ilir Latifi to work his way back up the rankings.  Now up against the perennially ranked Aleksei Oleinik, Lewis could find himself in line for a title eliminator at a time when the belt is expected to be back in play after a year of inactivity.

Aleksei Oleinik has been in this position twice before: riding a pair of victories with a chance to rise in the UFC rankings with another win.  A professional since 1996, the veteran of more than 70 fights has built a reputation as one of the premiere submission artists in the game today.  The King of the Ezekiel Choke has gone 8-4 in the UFC, with all but one of his victories coming by submission to bring his grand total of submission victories to 46 in his career.

“The Boa Constrictor” has stopped the likes of Mark Hunt, Travis Browne, and Mirko “Cro Cop” Flipovic over the years.  Despite his consistency and longevity over the course of his career, however, his UFC tenure has seen him struggle to score a significant breakthrough.  He has failed to get more than two victories in a row, with his attempts having been stopped by the likes of Curtis Blaydes and Alistair Overeem.  That said, this year has seen two of his best performances with wins over Maurice Greene and former champion Fabricio Werdum.  Oleinik is seemingly in the best form we have seen in the UFC, but at 43 years old, there is question of how many potential title runs he may have should he be unable to get the victory.

The conditioning of Lewis will be put to the test against the durable Oleinik.  “The Black Beast” should look to fight with a more measured approach, keeping the jumping knees at home in favor of pushing Oleinik into the fence where he can unload with power shots at close range.  Oleinik by comparison should look to keep the fight in the middle of the Octagon where he can look to counter Lewis as he pursues a takedown and get the fight to the mat where he has the greatest advantage.

The two have fought the majority of the top contenders in the heavyweight division, but that’s not to say a fresh opponent can’t be found for either man.  A victory for Lewis would likely set the stage for a top contender match-up with Curtis Blaydes as the two look to get back into the title picture.  Oleinik would make a big jump in the rankings and could face the winner of next week’s bout between Junior dos Santos and Jairzinho Rozenstruik.