Since around 2017 – New Orleans born favourite, Derrick ‘The Black Beast’ Lewis, has been as perennial contender at heavyweight you’re likely to find. Following Saturday night’s stoppage over veteran submission ace, Aleksei Oleinik – that fact remains the same.
Improving his winning run to four, Lewis leapt past both former champions, Cain Velasquez, and Junior dos Santos in the heavyweight knockout pile – scoring his eleventh stoppage via strikes.
Another noteworthy inclusion is Lewis’ ever-growing résumé. He’s now managed nineteen professional victories, including eye-catching wins over names such as Francis Ngannou, albeit forgettable, former Bellator and M-1 Global champion, Alexander Volkov, and Blagoy Ivanov – to go with triumphs over Ilir Latifi, Travis Browne, Gabriel Gonzaga, Roy Nelson, Shamil Abdurakhimov, and Marcin Tybura.
Lewis has earned his shot at heavyweight gold once before, following his stunning knockout win over Volkov – but stumbled opposite then champion, Daniel Cormier. The charismatic 35-year-old is edging closer to that ground once more, and is likely to tackle within the top-five in his next outing,
One of the most experienced competitors to ever enter the Octagon, submission specialist, Oleinik has dropped his first outing in three – following successes opposite former titleholder, Fabrício Werdum, and Maurice Greene.
The 43-year-old sat at #10 in the official rankings prior to Saturday’s headliner, and with #9 ranked, Augusto Sakai slated to meet with Alistair Overeem, and former opponent, the #11 ranked Walt Harris already booked against the aforenoted, Volkov – the next path for Oleinik isn’t crystal clear. Nevertheless, join me below as I play heavyweight matchmaker.
Curtis Blaydes vs. Derrick Lewis:
Both Curtis Blaydes, and now Lewis – find themselves in an unfortunate catch twenty-two situation at this time in heavyweight history. Next weekend, Stipe Miocic and the previously mentioned, Cormier round off their trilogy with a championship rubber-match – and with Cormier set to retire, regardless of the result – I don’t necessarily see a world where Miocic isn’t involved in the next title matchup, vacant or otherwise.
So, if Ohio striker, Miocic is a shoo-in for the next championship clash, then we’re likely to see him opposite former-foe, the ever-present, Francis Ngannou. The Cameroonian finisher is fresh from a demolition of Jairzinho Rozenstruik and has twice felled Blaydes.
Unfortunately, for two of the division’s best, their path to Octagon gold, ultimately goes through each other. The wrestling and grappling heavy, Blaydes – versus the knockout artist, Lewis should be next.
Aleksei Oleinik vs. Blagoy Ivanov:
A massive fight for the European scene between two massive sport veterans. Oleinik has featured thirteen times in the Octagon since his promotional bow back in 2013 – while Bulgarian former WSOF heavyweight best, Ivanov has been incredibly unfortunate to find himself on the wrong side of scorecards, in fact, in his last two recent outings.
Both have now shared the Octagon with Lewis – with Ivanov dropping a razor-thin split decision to the Louisianan – before a May split judging defeat to the aforementioned, Sakai.
Both Oleinik and Ivanov and proper old school veterans, with championship pedigree following Ivanov from his stint with WSOF and then PFL, and while both have experienced a mixed bag of success in their respective UFC runs, they most definitely offer something to the division still.