Throughout the history of prize fighting, the heavyweight division has drawn casual fight fans like a moth to flame. Combatants such as Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and Joe Frazier ruled the ratings when they stepped into the ring. In MMA, it’s been the likes of Fedor Emilienenko, Randy Couture, and Stipe Miocic that’s brought eyes to the screen.
The big men throw big shots and often deliver what we’re all ultimately here for — the knockout.
And if you’re a fan of knockouts, Derrick Lewis has you covered.
Of his 24 victories, 19 have come via KO or TKO. On paper, that’s impressive in its own right. Yet, we need to dig a bit deeper to understand the enigma that is The Black Beast.
Before his five round main event against Mark Hunt, Lewis was photographed backstage eating a plate of chicken and a full rack of ribs. He would gas out badly in that bout before succumbing to the fists of Hunt, but fans didn’t mind. The act only helped to build the mythos around the fighter.
In August 2017, Hurricane Harvey ravaged Texas. While many fled, Lewis hopped into his jacked up truck and drove around the flooded area, giving people rides to safety. He explained to MMA Junkie that he’s “always been the type of person to help others more than he likes to help himself.”
Lewis became a living meme back in 2018 when he took off his fight shorts after knocking out Volkov on the biggest selling fight card of the year. When Rogan asked why he removed the shorts, Lewis proclaimed simply, “My balls was hot.” The comeback performance and the nonchalant way in which Lewis delivered the line shot his social media following through the roof and likely parlayed him into a short notice title fight against Daniel Cormier just weeks later.
If you watch selected segments of Lewis’ fights, it may seem surprising that he’s a top ten UFC fighter. Folks salivate as they break down the technical mastery of a Petr Yan or Jose Aldo, but leading up to Lewis fight week, the attention isn’t on his technical prowess. It’s his humor, memes, and as far as those technical breakdowns go, you won’t see many on Lewis. Not because he’s a bad fighter per se, but because his style, as MMA twitter has so lovingly put it, is simply “swangin’ and bangin’.”
Though he doesn’t always have the best set-ups or combinations, Lewis throws every strike intending to decapitate his opponent. Fans watched Alexander Volkov out-kickbox the Texan for over 14 minutes before succumbing to a Beast bomb. Marcin Tybura survived the early blitz from Lewis and controlled him on the ground until Lewis found his chin in the third round. There are many more examples, but Lewis has been seemingly losing the fight on more than one occasion before one of his nuclear punches detonated on an adversary’s skull.
And despite his good deeds and social media presence, this is the major reason the fans tune into Derrick Lewis’ fights with excitement: the anticipation. It’s the knowledge that even though Lewis is a big underdog to Curtis Blaydes, he can connect at any second. It’s the knowing that “The Black Beast” can be down four and half rounds and still land with enough force to end the fight.
It is complex to navigate the path to MMA stardom. Lewis took the simple route; he was unapologetically Derrick Lewis the entire way. Authenticity is welcome in a sport where being a character sells. The people can spot it from afar and it will always captivate.