UFC Fight Night 110 ended with a bang in Auckland, New Zealand. The card was headlined by heavyweight titans Mark Hunt and Derrick Lewis in what was billed to be the slugfest of the year. To the shock of most fans, and Vegas oddsmakers, the fight lasted into the forth round until referee Mark Goddard called the fight for Mark Hunt by TKO stoppage. It was the correct decision, Lewis had curled up and wasn’t even trying to defend himself. But the result left the fans of Derrick Lewis questioning why the big man gave up.
Lewis, a seemingly perpetual underdog, has shown so much heart and resilience in his career that to see him break under the pressure of Hunt was somewhat shocking. Who could forget when Travis Browne had broken Lewis ribs with teep kicks to the body and Lewis unleashed a hellish tornado of punches that put Browne away. Or when Roy Nelson kept taking him down and Lewismanaged to get back to the feet over and over. But in the forth round he buckled under the constant pressure of Hunt.
Hunt, the Vegas underdog at +143, displayed more technical and patient striking than Lewis. Lewis threw a high volume of leg kicks and short bursts of punches trying to catch Hunt with power shots early in the fight. For his efforts Lewis only resulted in tiring himself out in the first two rounds, in the third round we began to see Lewis even dropping his hands completely or posing with his hands on his hips to catch his breath. The main issue is cardio, yes, but Lewis also claimed to have a back injury that contributed to this. Which makes sense, seeing him stand with his hands on his hips in front of Hunt looked like insanity until I heard this. I fractured two lumbar vertebrae ten years ago and even after corrective surgery, I still have weakness in my lower back that causes me to stand the same way during workouts and between rounds of jiu jitsu. It feels like your chest is too heavy and your lower back is carrying too much strain, in an attempt to alleviate the pain the most natural posture is to arch your shoulders back and posture your hands on hips to help brace the weight loaded on your spine. To the average viewer Lewis’ behavior looked like exhaustion, which there was plenty of, but to someone who’s endured significant lower back injuries the writing was on the wall that he was in serious trouble for more reasons than just an expended gas tank.
If I could say anything to Lewis right now it would be this: “You don’t need to retire you need a break.” since coming to the UFC in 2014 Lewis’ longest break between fights has been 5 months. He’s fought ten times in 3 years. He even asked for time off after the Travis Browne victory but instead signed a bout agreement for Mark Hunt within two weeks of his fight. The man is burnt out and maybe even a little emotional after the old war horse put an end to his six fight win streak. I’d like to see Lewis take the rest of 2017 off to heal his mind and body, and return with a new fire in 2018. While significant back injuries tend to stay with you forever, it’s possible with rest and proper rehab Lewis could get back into the cage healthy next year. Until we hear more from Lewis, I’ll have my fingers crossed.