Prior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look ahead to the main event of UFC 230 as two division champion Daniel Cormier defends the heavyweight championship against surging contender Derrick Lewis at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Daniel Cormier (Record: 21-2, -700 Favorite, Power Ranking: A++)
The former Strikeforce heavyweight champion and current UFC light heavyweight and heavyweight champion has lost just twice in his career; both times to arguably the greatest fighter of all time, Jon Jones. Cormier surprised many when he knocked out Stipe Miocic in July 2018 to win the heavyweight title.
A former NCAA Division I All American wrestler and national runner up in 2001, Daniel Cormier continued his amateur wrestling career beyond college and represented the United States in world competitions for several years. Once Cormier transitioned to MMA, he took to the sport quickly and became a premier fighter. Cormier made his name in Strikeforce where he competed at heavyweight. His speed and movement for the weightclass were the best in the division and he was able to beat much larger fighters including former UFC Champion Josh Barnett. Once he moved over to the UFC, Cormier transitioned to light heavyweight. Even at light heavyweight, Cormier certainly doesn’t have natural power. He’s rarely going to be a fighter who is going to be a threat for a quick finish. Cormier does his best work using movement to get inside of an opponent and making it an ugly fight. He’s good in the clinch and is able to work in takedowns from that position. Cormier does a good job of avoiding damage overall absorbing just 2.52 significant strikes per minute. Offensively, his wrestling is pivotal to success at the highest levels securing nearly two takedowns per 15 minutes in the Octagon and doing so at a 42% success rate. Cormier isn’t a fighter who stands out physically, but his determination make his opponents work, and he is one of the smarter fighters in the sport knowing what he needs to do in order to be successful. Cormier has a very good gas tank and tends to do much better in fights beyond the opening round. Outside of his bouts with Jones, Cormier has dominated opponents and taken very little damage.
Derrick Lewis (Record: 21-5, +500 Underdog, Fighter Grade: B-)
The New Orleans born heavyweight fighter relocated to Houston, Texas as a teenager. Lewis lived a mixed upbringing where he served three and a half years in prison after violating probation. Afterwards, he began training in martial arts and fighting professionally. Lewis enters his first ever title fight having won nine out of ten bouts including a tremendous come from behind victory over Alexander Volkov just one month ago.
First and foremost, Lewis is a solid athlete. For a man his size, he moves well and has great balance. On top of that he has power in his hands. Lewis is one of the most feared fighters in the division because of the dynamite he packs in his hands. He learned how to box from George Foreman; a legendary boxer who had some of the most powerful hands the sport ever saw. If Lewis is able to land clean, he can easily knock an opponent out quickly. He was able to do this in bouts with Gabriel Gonzaga and Alexander Volkov. While Lewis is very good in stand-up boxing, where he does his best work is ground and pound. He has shown improvements in his offensive wrestling game throughout his MMA career. In top control, he’s absolutely ruthless and very likely to earn a knockout. Where Lewis can struggle is with his defensive wrestling. He can be taken down by opponents and he doesn’t have much of an answer when he’s put on his back. Outside of his victory over Gonzaga, he’s struggled when tasked with a step up in competition having been finished both by Shawn Jordan and Matt Mitrione.
The heavyweight title is up for grabs as Daniel Cormier defends his belt against Derrick Lewis at Madison Square Garden at UFC 230. Lewis has been on a tremendous run beating the likes of Francis Ngannou and Alexander Volkov to earn an opportunity to fight for the title. Lewis is taking the fight just a month after earning a victory over Volkov so one has to wonder just how close to 100% Lewis is entering this fight. The matchup with Cormier is a very difficult one for Lewis. The challenger is at his best when he can gain top position and deliver vicious ground and pound. However, against a fighter with the wrestling pedigree of Cormier it’s incredibly unlikely he’ll be able to get Cormier to the mat. Cormier will force Lewis to work and tire him out. As Lewis’ tires, Cormier will turn it on with his boxing and not let up until the referee steps and stops the fight. Cormier by TKO (+125) is the best play for this event and one that should win at least 50% of the time.