UFC 230

Oh Danny Boy … the fists, the fists are calling …

It’s kind of weird (and a little refreshing) to see newly-christened heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier competing without the specter of Jon Jones haunting him and lo and behold, this marks the third straight fight that he — and we — are “Bones” free.

That allows for some pretty interesting match ups in both divisions and tomorrow night we get Derrick Lewis standing in as short-notice heir to the 265-pound throne. Not that anyone thinks he can weather the “DC” storm but hey, this sport would not exist without the oft-vaunted “puncher’s chance.”

And so, “Cormier vs. Lewis” is the headlining attraction for the UFC 230 pay-per-view (PPV), which lost Dustin Poirier, Nate Diaz, and Luke Rockhold along the way, but still has enough quality pairings to make the Nov. 3 extravaganza inside New York City’s Madison Square Garden worth buying.

That includes the Chris Weidman vs. Jacare Souza co-headliner, which rids the division of one middleweight title contender and gives the other something for Rockhold to bitch about, kind of in the same way Patrick Stumberg was bitching about the UFC 230 “Prelims”.

As for the five-fight main card? We’ll predict, preview, and analyze those offerings below.

265 lbs.: UFC Heavyweight Champion Daniel “DC” Cormier (21-1, 1 NC) vs. Derrick “Black Beast” Lewis (21-5, 1 NC)

Daniel Cormier is a short, stubby-armed wrestler who looks more like a New York City cabbie than the UFC heavyweight champion of the world. I know that irks some fight fans, because they want a champion who looks the part, which may be why “DC” can be the model of excellence and still get booed out of the building. That aside, I think we’re all in agreement that Cormier is pretty fucking talented and what he’s done in spite of his physical limitations is remarkable.

For those of you “stat” guys out there, here is something to chew on: Cormier has never had a reach advantage in his entire mixed martial arts (MMA) career and in 23 professional fights, the only opponent shorter than him was the equally tiny Jeff Monson. And yet it never stopped him from running through every fighter in his way across two different weight classes — with the exception of Jon Jones. That should give you an idea of just how special “Bones” is.

For his first title defense, Cormier draws Derrick Lewis, who is more circus act than prize fighter, distracting fans with his sense of humor and well-timed mic drops. The “Black Beast” is not the tallest fighter “DC” has ever fought, nor will he be the heaviest. And considering some of the devastating right hands he’s faced in his career, like “Rumble” Johnson, Dan Henderson, and Roy Nelson, just to name a few, Lewis may not be the most powerful, either. He’s certainly not the fastest.

I think you know where I’m going with this.

Lewis has a gas tank to rival the four-stroke trolling motor on the back of my 12-foot Sun Dolphin and if we’re going with the “puncher’s chance” argument, and I think we don’t have much choice, then the new face of Popeye’s has one round to get it done. Forget about those past Hail Marys because Cormier does not make those kinds of mistakes and doesn’t get sucked into a firefight when he gets tagged. Instead, “DC” frustrates his foes by shooting when they think he will strike and striking when they think he will shoot.

The best thing you can say about Lewis is that he’s an entertaining fighter who’s earned this title shot by laying waste to most of the division. But a lot of his wins are the result of his opponents’ flaws, and not his own talent, which is why they call them “come-from-behind” victories. Did he really win the Francis Ngannou fight? Or did he just suck less?

Cormier is a former Olympic wrestler fighting a combatant who does not train wrestling or jiu-jitsu. Or cardio, Or anything else. I’m sure he shows up at the gym and goes through the motions but c’mon, let’s not pretend he’s putting himself through the meat grinder. And can we blame him? If you can beat most heavyweights just by showing up and swinging for the fences, why waste all that time training?

The gameplan could not be better suited for Cormier. And it won’t even take much work. All “DC” has to do is shoot, take Lewis to the ground, and beat the shit out of him until he’s too tired to fight back. Considering how winded “Black Beast” was against Volkov, I’m not expecting it to take very long, especially because Lewis thinks a flying right fist qualifies as takedown defense.

Final prediction: Cormier def. Lewis by technical knockout

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