Derrick Lewis celebrates a trademark knockout in dramatic fashion (Image Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)
On August 7th, technical finesse meets pure unrelenting knockout power at UFC 265 as Houston-native Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis takes on Ciryl “Bon Gamin” Gane for the Interim UFC Heavyweight Championship. Lewis, who has tied the record for most KOs in UFC history, is coming off consecutive knockout victories over Aleksei Oleinik and Curtis Blaydes. “The Black Beast” combines freakish one-shot knockout power with sneaky athleticism and a sharp sense of timing and distance. Ciryl Gane, a former undefeated professional Muay Thai fighter, boasts unparalleled movement and technical striking ability at heavyweight. Gane’s hand speed and overall fluidity make him a true challenge for anyone in the division.
“The Black Beast” Breakdown
Derrick Lewis is one of the purest knockout artists in the sport, only rivaled by current heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou. Lewis boasts 12 KOs and has the ability to carry his power deep into the later rounds. His recent focus on improving his conditioning has only made him deadlier. Besides his heavy hands, Lewis has surprisingly quick kicks and knees for a man of his size. Coupled with his natural explosiveness, “The Black Beast” can flip the kill switch at any moment. While Lewis is not known for his ground game, he is crafty and uses his immense strength to burst out of dangerous positions on the ground. His ability to ‘just stand up’ solidifies his status as a fan favorite.
Lewis has sometimes struggled with consistently initiating offense, often preferring to bait and counter instead. This hesitation is exactly what made Lewis and Ngannou’s first fight so lackluster. To Lewis’s credit, he has worked on improving his work rate and has shown more sophisticated entries into the pocket in recent fights. He sometimes struggles against technically sound strikers who can keep him at range such as Volkov. Luckily for Derrick Lewis, he only needs to connect once to end the fight. This creates a dynamic similar to Deontay Wilder’s fights in boxing. Lewis’ opponents need to be perfect for the entire fight, but Derrick only needs to touch them once.
An Introduction to “Bon Gamin”
Ciryl Gane presents a real threat to Lewis because he simply does not move or fight like a heavyweight. Gane glides around the octagon with smooth, quick footwork. He builds on this strong foundation with deft use of angles and excellent shot selection. His professional background in Muay Thai is the backbone of his skillset. He possesses an excellent sense of distance that is well complemented by his varied striking arsenal. This skill set makes “Bon Gamin” dangerous from kicking range to the clinch. His jumping knees, round kicks, and jab are particularly excellent. His ground game is also quite underrated and his grappling abilities are quite good for a fighter known for his striking.
Gane is also a very patient fighter who has no problems sticking to legendary coach Fernand Lopez’s game plan. The result is a polished, disciplined fighter that picks apart his opponents without taking unnecessary risks. Gane will never be caught “swangin’ and bangin'” and is perfectly content with dominant decision wins. This strategy is ideally suited for the heavyweight division, where nearly every member of the elite has power.
Despite the danger Lewis’ power presents, Ciryl needs to avoid being overly cautious. Being overly hesitant would throw off his rhythm and prevent him from getting into the flow state he will need to survive 5 rounds of “The Black Beast.” Gane also needs to respect Lewis’ underrated technical ability and fight IQ. Lewis is not a barroom brawler who blindly charges forward winging shots. Instead Gane needs to dig to the body with his great round kicks, which has a weakness of Lewis’ in the past.
With the interim belt at stake, both fighters are highly motivated going into the bout. And despite what Vegas and the oddsmakers will tell you, this fight is a complete toss up. Derrick Lewis has been a massive underdog before, and has proven again and again that odds mean nothing when you have God-given power. Both Lewis and Gane present intriguing matchups for Ngannou. In a potential rematch, both Lewis and Ngannou would be motivated to make up for an underwhelming first impression. And while the fight likely would not last longer than a round or two, it would be an extremely explosive, fan-friendly affair. Gane, a former teammate of Ngannou’s, presents a very different challenge. While Francis has blasted through technical strikers before, if anyone has the striking proficiency to evade and tag Ngannou, it is Gane.
Other exciting matchups like Jose Aldo versus Pedro Munhoz and Michael Chiesa versus Vicente Luque give the main card some serious depth. Both fights are looking to be quite competitive, and the latter will bring some new blood to the top of the welterweight division. You can watch the UFC 265 prelims on ESPN+ and catch the main card via ESPN+ PPV on Saturday night.