A heavyweight clash between Derrick Lewis and Sergey Spivak is this weekend’s UFC Fight Night 215 main event.
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Lewis will look to bounce back after consecutive defeats to Tai Tuivasa and Sergei Pavlovich. His #7 spot in the UFC heavyweight rankings will be on the line at the UFC Apex facility as he faces Spivak, who has entered the rankings at #12 following his victory against Augusto Sakai in August.
Read on for our latest staff predictions, picks, betting odds and analysis before Derrick Lewis vs. Sergey Spivak this weekend.
Lewis is a big underdog with odds of +170 over at MyBookie before the fight. Spivak, the favorite, is currently sitting at -200 odds.
Derrick Lewis has a very obvious but frightening way of fighting. His right hand can be compared to any of the best knockout tools in MMA history and because of this, most of his tactical choices revolve around getting an opportunity to land it. Derrick Lewis may choose to be on the back foot and clip his opponents as they try to get to him, or he pressures them with wild strikes like his jumping knees and big looping punches to get them to over-exaggerate as they try to escape from between him and the cage and in that chaos he has become excellent at finding the chin. While Derrick Lewis is often on the less technical side of fighters at his level, his power and accuracy are extremely unique.
For Sergey Spivac, it is likely his best option to grapple. For Lewis, this means managing his range, both being the aggressor to put Spivak on the backfoot but also not crashing into a clinch situation. It also means giving Spivak both threats up high like his overhands and uppercuts to make him think before shooting or clinching up. For Spivak, trying to tie up Lewis in the clinch and using trips rather than level changes could be smart, as Lewis is so physically powerful if he has use of his hips. His physicality allows him to have greater success with basic bridging and tripoding out of positions that other fighters can’t mimic, but if Spivak can trip him into a dominant position, side control would be effective, and keeping weight on one of Lewis’ legs he can make it far more difficult for him. Even if Spivak can mount, Lewis has been able to roll and reverse, especially if Spivak is looking for an arm triangle or other submissions that don’t allow him to post and maintain top control. That being said, being patient in controlling positions like side control and half guard can wear out Lewis, and once tired, that physicality can’t make up the difference in grappling as well as early on, which is where Spivak’s submissions become a particularly dangerous weapon against Lewis.
Spivak has a wide array of submissions on his record, including an arm triangle, a neck crank, a rear-naked choke, a pair of armbars, and a kimura. This fight will be won on who dictates where it’s fought. If Lewis can force a kickboxing bout he has 25 minutes to find Spivac’s chin, but if Spivak can get Lewis down, be patient in his control a tired Lewis makes more mistakes on the ground, but even in the fifth round he can knock anyone out. Isolating limbs, pinning legs, flattening Lewis out, and basically making him use jiu-jitsu instead of power wrestling will really help Spivak on the mat if he can accomplish it, and I think he can.
Prediction: Sergey Spivak to win (bet now at MyBookie)
Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis has been in the UFC since 2014, nearly a decade, and has fought the same way for that entire stretch: with incredible power and frustrating inconsistency. Now, at 37, Lewis’ positive attributes, namely his power and timing, are even more impressive. While his deficiencies, specifically his singular approach in the cage and increasingly shaky chin, have become more worrisome. Lewis typically fights with an apathetic style that can result in emphatic finishes. In most of Lewis’ fights, we see him remain stationary, allowing his opponent to come toward him, and shell up. Lewis will stay in this shell, like a boxer, to force his opponents to hit his guard rather than his chin. Then, like a chicken hatching from an egg, Lewis will unshell and unload a devastating power shot, often an unseen uppercut that can drop anyone in the UFC. If his power shot connects, and his opponent somehow remains standing, Lewis is willing and able to continue landing heavy blows in combination. But, if his power shot misses, he’ll re-shell and repeat the approach. If the fight enters the 2nd round, Lewis starts to take more risks in the cage. His shell becomes less secure, his burst blows become more common, and Lewis can find himself in a brawl. In his prime, getting in a brawl with “The Black Beast” was nearly as good as losing the fight. Few fighters could match his power and Lewis’ chin tended to hold up longer than his opponent’s. However, as he’s aged and absorbed damage through his tenured career, while Lewis still has the power, his chin is less and less reliable. This makes a brawl more and more dangerous. Lewis’ best path to victory is to capitalize, often in round 1, against an overzealous fighter who overcommits to his volume and allows Lewis to land cleanly on the chin. However, against fighters who are more patient, more technical, or more varied than the traditional power punchers of the past, Lewis does not appear to have evolved his game for a secondary attack.
Sergey “The Polar Bear” Spivak is a polar, pun intended, opposite of Lewis. Spivak is a grapple-first heavyweight who looks to land takedowns early and often while holding heavy top position, as he grinds out gritty wins, smashes foes with ground and pound, or secures a submission, often a choke. On the feet, an important angle when handicapping any fight but ultra-important in a fight against Derrick Lewis, Spivak is often in danger. His striking is average, his defense is porous, and his linear movement makes him an easy target for most strikers in the division. Beneficially for any fan or backer of Spivak is that he finally seems to realize that he can’t safely stand and trade with most UFC heavyweights. Instead, especially recently, Spivak has shown a willingness to wrestle almost immediately. Spivak averages 4 takedown attempts per 15 minutes and lands them at an impressive 63% success rate. His ability to attempt multiple attempts with such success speaks to his fundamentals and his cardio. “The Polar Bear” really seemed to turn a corner in his last fight by setting up his takedowns with feints and timing them well. Once he gets opponents down, few men at this size have the hip dexterity and flexibility, not to mention the grappling skills, to get back up to their feet. Even those who have the physical and fundamental skills to attempt to get back up have struggled because of Spivak’s heavy top pressure. When he faces a legitimate but one note power threat, the game plan is simple: get the fight down before he gets knocked down himself.
As long as time is left on the clock and his synapses are firing, Lewis is and will be live in this fight. He can end the fight in an instant and Spivak is far from difficult to hit. But, Lewis’ career has been on the downtrend for a while and Spivak is improving fight after fight. I think the odds are right and Lewis has a puncher’s chance but I like Spivak to wrestle and get the finish early. I wouldn’t expect this fight to see round 3 start.
Pick: Spivak inside the distance (bet now at MyBookie)
Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis is a fan favorite, both for his fighting style and overall personality. Not having gone to a scorecard in his last 6-fights, Derrick Lewis is more than happy to test his strength against his opponent, and whoever’s trait falls short will likely mean they will be put to sleep. This style, of fighting to see who falls first, is certainly more of the traditional style of heavyweight that many fans grew accustomed to given these fighters possess next-level power and often, lack the necessary speed and athleticism to evade the opponent for the full duration of the scheduled affair. While the degree of success for this style has proved somewhat difficult of recent note, particularly when fighting a newer-age opponent, the perhaps best person to showcase the effectiveness of power over speed, particularly in the heavyweight division, is Derrick Lewis.
Lewis, beyond having elite power and setting records for finishes in his career, is able to successfully use power over speed because he understands timing quite well. This timing extends beyond timing a punch to land cleanly, to the point of timing the opportune time to throw end-of-fight power strikes. Moreover, he comprehends the importance of keeping the fight standing for as long as possible to extend the time necessary to land his one-punch, and, because he is simply so large and strong, he is far more difficult to take down than one would initially presume – Curtis Blaydes learned firsthand how blindingly shooting a takedown can prove to be a fatal mistake. Overall, Lewis’ elite power, veteran understanding of timing and duration, and an overall sense of beating non-elite challengers make him an extremely dangerous test to overcome.
Overcoming a power puncher is a test Serghei Spivac needs to show as he looks to crack the top of the division. For him, fighting an elite power threat is quite dangerous given Spivac’s weakness is on the feet, but, the slow movement of Lewis does present an opportunity for him as well. This opportunity is the ability to secure a takedown, as Spivac is a very good wrestler who wins fights through ground control as well as ground and pound. The effectiveness of fighting in this consistent style has proved dividend, as he is 5-1 over his last 6 fights and is seemingly entering his prime as a fighter. The confidence he should enter with against Lewis is quite important, given trust in his athletic movement on the feet with strong wrestling will be paramount to avoid the threatening power of Lewis. While confidence is indeed important, maintaining continual thought to the one-punch ability of Lewis will be key for Spivac to avoid the same fate as fellow heavyweight wrestler in Blaydes. If he can remain cautious on the feet and cognitively plan his takedowns contrary to shooting just to shoot, he does have the necessary new-age fight style to topple the future HOF’er in Lewis.
Serghei Spivac is looking to have entered his prime as a fighter and is ready to show he can beat the top of the heavyweight division. While I normally favor wrestling-dominate fighters who are on the upward trajectory of their careers, I cannot discount the fact that Lewis has all the experience necessary to showcase once again that timing and power can triumph over technique within the heavyweight division. Because I believe Spivac will be – intelligently – cautious with shooting a takedown early in the fight, and, because Spivac is a lower-end striker than what Lewis is used to fighting, I ultimately predict that “The Black Beast” will touch him early, and if he lands cleanly, will end the night.
Bet: Lewis by TKO/KO (bet now at MyBookie)
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.
Michael Pounders is a high school English Teacher, a boxer himself, and is a fan who loves, gambles on, and nerds out about all things MMA.