UFC Fight Night 86 Breakdown: Gabriel Gonzaga vs Derrick Lewis

Gabriel GonzagaPrior 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 at a heavyweight bout between Brazilian Gabriel Gonzaga and American Derrick Lewis. This is an important clash in the heavyweight division as the winner likely vaults into the division’s top 15 with a victory.   Gabriel Gonzaga (Record: 17-10, +120 Underdog, Fighter Grade: C) The fourth division Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt is a highly skilled grappler. He holds a silver medal from ADCC Submission Wrestling Championships. He has one of the longest tenures in the UFC having fought in the organization since 2005. For lack of a better term, Gonzaga is a gatekeeper in the UFC’s heavyweight division. He’s a solid heavyweight, but challenging the elite is certainly behind him. His standup has improved and he fights with caution on the feet looking to avoid getting knocked out. Eight of his ten career losses are by knockout, so that is his Achilles heel. His ability to wrestle is above average for the weight class with his submission game very strong.  He holds some solid wins over Shawn Jordan and rising contender Ben Rothwell. He only has losses to established heavyweight fighters. Gonzaga is not fast, nor too athletic, but he’s a big heavyweight, tough to outmuscle, and difficult to grind to a decision. The way to beat him is by forcing him into a standup exchange and putting him away with a knockout.   Derrick Lewis (Record: 14-4, -140 Favorite, Fighter Grade: C-) The New Orleans-born Lewis moved to Houston as a teenager and that’s where he picked up boxing. Under the tutelage of the great George Foreman. After being introduced by a friend to mixed martial arts, Lewis stuck with it after dominating an opponent in his first career MMA bout. Lewis is an intimidating heavyweight at 6’3” tall and a 79 inch reach. He’s best known for his forward style and his heavy hands. He throws punches with intent and is capable of putting opponents away. Of his 14 career wins, all but one of those victories ended by knockout. Lewis has had success in recent UFC fights as he had been paired with some of the smaller fighters in the weight class. He significantly outweighed opponents on fight day and was able to muscle his opponents to the ground. In top control, he’s a devastating fighter and a guy that can finish an opponent easily with ground and pound. He’s shown more a calculated style in his past couple fights and an improved gas tank which has put him on the verge of the top 15 in the division.   Match-up This is a solid co-main event between two guys at different stages of their career. Gonzaga is an established heavyweight that has become a gatekeeper in this weight class. Lewis, while not young in his own right, is a fighter on the rise looking to make a name for himself at heavyweight and get the best win of his career. On the feet, Lewis is the natural striker with a solid pedigree in boxing. Gonzaga has made improvements in his standup becoming a capable counter striker, but clearly there is an advantage for Lewis here. Gonzaga has been knocked out eight times in his career. The longer this fight stays standing, the more likely that Lewis will land a shot on the feet and take control of this fight. On the flipside, Lewis has done his best work by sheer strong arming  opponents to the mat and demolishing them in ground and pound. That’s where this fight gets interesting as Gonzaga is really the first large heavyweight Lewis has faced in the UFC with a strong base. I think it will be difficult for Lewis to get Gonzaga to the ground. In fact, I think it’s more likely that Gonzaga lands takedowns of his own. If he’s able to do that, he’s absolutely a threat to win with submissions. Gonzaga has one of the best submission grapplers in the weight class. In what looks to be a competitive fight, I side with the fighter who has more tools in his arsenal and that’s Gonzaga. At plus money, he’s very much worthy of a bet on Sunday.

Written by Jay Primetown

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