The Appeal Of Derrick Lewis

PHOTO: Julio Cortez | The Associated Press


Aleksei Oleinik is as authentic as it gets, he walks out to the octagon with his tall blonde wife to the song “Ballad for the Suppression” by Vladimir Vysotsky, which only accentuates his stoic nature. During the walk out,  Paul Felder was talking about how earlier in the week Oleinik put Dan Hardy in his famed ezekiel choke to demonstrate it , he went on to say how terrifying it was seeing him do it to someone Hardy’s size. At that moment during the broadcast, the reality of Oleinik dawned on me, It made me see him as not an MMA fighter but just a scary individual who could (and probably would) badly mess someone up in a real-life situation. We are used to seeing these fighters as characters, Oleinik in particular comes across as  something of a lighthearted, gentle giant. But there isn’t anything gentle about what he will do to you.  

Speaking of scary individuals, I’m not sure what Derek Lewis’s entrance music was, but when I heard it all I could think was “yup, that’s Derrick Lewis”. It was almost comedic in a way, it brought a smile to my face. But I bet there would be nothing funny about it if you were there in person. In fact,I bet it would feel eerie to be present for that walk out, because when you strip away all the production bells and whistles. What we are seeing is a very big and powerful man about to get into a fight. There would be no smiling if you were in a back alley somewhere waiting to see this go down, the contrast between the man who is walking to the cage and the one we see in interviews is a big part of what makes Lewis so intriguing. 

Earlier in the week Lewis talked about how he isn’t a fan of the anyone on the roster or the sport, and that and that what goes on outside of his own fight is of little importance to him. He does this purely because it’s a job, and that’s not him trying to posture or act cool. That’s the honest to god truth about how Lewis sees things, and this endears him to the fanbase even further.  

Lewis entered the cage in such impressive shape, I laughed to myself in amazement. I’ve never paid too close attention to the physique of Lewis because the persona is so large it’s hard to notice anything  else. But we have never seen him physically look as good as we did on Saturday night, and that speaks volumes about how hard he has been training.  

The first few moments of this fight was the epitome of what Derrick Lewis brings to the table that resonates with the fans so much, he came out essentially running after Oleinik and throwing punches like you’d see in a crazy street fight. When that ended and the two locked up and the fight hit the ground, I was immediately surprised by how well Lewis was moving in the grappling realm. After two seconds on the mat I recognized that this is unquestionably the very best Lewis has ever looked. His punches are straight up nasty to have to watch anyone have to take, they both look and sound horrendous. After a scramble and Oleinik ending up on top, Lewis got locked into that impossibly tight scarf hold and held on the ground. Lewis later confessed in the post fight press conference that he couldn’t breathe when he was locked in it, an interesting end to the first round. 

The very beginning of the second round was coincidentally the beginning of the end of the fight, Lewis viciously ended the contest like he tends to do. The very first punch thrown sent the Russian crashing to the mat where Lewis jumped on top and proceeded to throw punches that are so impactful that when they land, you don’t just hear deep thudding sound, you feel it. The fight was called off after Oleinik went out from absorbing the heavy shots. After Herb Dean called a halt to the action, when Lewis is doing his patent celebration, if you look at the top of your screen you’ll get a glimpse of the very ugly side of this sport. The face of Oleinik after being separated from his conscious due to severe head trauma isn’t a pretty thing, its the end result of getting into a fight with Derrick Lewis. The look on the faces of the athletic commissioners that were in the Octagon after the fight says it all. 

 Paul Felder nailed it when he said that Lewis is fearless, a rare trait in this game believe it or not. In the post-fight interview, the character and the funny side subsided in a moment. Lewis was the most genuine and sincere I’ve ever seen him when he thanked his family, his kids, and his parents for their love and support. He broke character in that moment and showed a different side to him,  which will only serve to make him more loveable and more popular than he already is.

The conditioning and dedication of Lewis seem to be on the rise, and with that, the appeal of him is becoming greater as well. With talks of not wanting to fight until he loses another 20 or so pounds and a seemingly newfound vigor for taking his job a lot more seriously. Lewis might very well just be getting started. When you take into account that heavyweight fighters tend to hit their pique much later in life in comparison to the lightweight fighters, and Lewis now showing that he is taking this more serious than ever . All indications are that the best is yet to come.

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