UFC Vegas 65: Is Now the Perfect Time for Spivac to Catch Lewis?

Derrick Lewis and Serghei Spivac (Sergey Spivak), UFC Vegas 65
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 18: (L-R) Opponents Derrick Lewis and Serghei Spivac of Moldova face off during the UFC Fight Night weigh-in at UFC APEX on November 18, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

The UFC’s all-time knockout leader is looking to avoid a third straight loss to a surging up-and-comer as Derrick Lewis takes on Serghei Spivac at UFC Vegas 65.

Though he will never admit it, none can imagine the recent frustrations of Derrick Lewis.  “The Black Beast” has been scheduled to be the homecoming hero in his native Texas (twice specifically in his hometown of Houston) in the past two years and each time has been stopped in stunning fashion.  While it has not slowed his popularity, he has instead been used to propel other contenders forward while he is pushed further back in line.  Saturday feels precariously like a tipping point, a third straight loss would force a hard look at the title aspirations and headlining ability of the now longtime veteran of the UFC.

The turn has been a jarring one to say the least.  Last year, Lewis was in title contention after breaking the all-time knockout record in the promotion.  Usually accompanying his victories with an entertaining post-fight sound bite, Lewis racked up victories over top-contenders and veterans such as Curtis Blades, Aleksei Oleinik, and Ilir Latifi.  He is also notably the last man to defeat reigning champion Francis Ngannou.  He has remained adamant that her felt he still had more to offer in his last bout against Sergei Pavlovich, and a return to form would help him reinforce that notion while also setting him up for a resurgent 2023.

Serghei Spivac (Sergey Spivak) may have had a few stumbles in his UFC career, but he remains a consistent performer in the highly dangerous heavyweight division.  A former WWFC champion, the Moldova native joined the UFC after posting a perfect 9-0 record back in 2019.  Since then, he has kept busy after fighting nine times (ten after Saturday) in the past three years.  All three of his career losses have come in the UFC, but he has also dispatched his share of veterans and up-and-comers such as Tai Tuivasa, Greg Hardy, Aleksei Oleinik, and Augusto Sakai.

Saturday’s headliner comes at an interesting time in the heavyweight division.  While the top of the division is currently dominated by a trio of veterans, a new guard has now arisen to take a firm hold of the weight class. A decision is expected to be made early in the new year regarding the title, but the rest of the weight class is expected to jostle for position in the first half of 2023 with the hopes of securing a shot at the championship in the back half of the year.  For Spivac, that would mean positioning himself for another high profile bout that could break him into title contention next year.

Stylistically, patience and shot-selection will be the key for Spivac.  His last fight notwithstanding, opponents tend to have struggled with Lewis in the opening round.  While Spivac will need to eventually wade into the fire, he will be best served taking the opening minutes to be highly selective in getting into range as he gets the timing of Lewis down before committing to longer exchanges.  For Lewis, using his size and physicality against the fence will help him to wear down on Spivac while also assist him in opening up the rising contender for more critical shots.

The winner of the bout is expected to wait to see how the title picture plays out as it will likely determine how the other contenders are matched up.  Assuming a fight between champion Ngannou and Jon Jones is finally made, a bout with former champion Stipe Miocic stands out as a great option.