On Saturday, August 8, the heavyweights will take center stage in the main event of UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs. Oleinik, live from the UFC APEX Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. The 12-fight event features plenty of veteran names alongside rising prospects to round out the compelling bout sheet. Chris Weidman looks to get back in the win column, as do Tim Means, Nasrat Haqparast and Yana Kunitskaya, but Beneil Dariush vs. Scott Holtzman is my early pick for fight of the night, and definitely the most interesting fight on the card.
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Derrick Lewis ($8,700)
Derrick Lewis is a hard-punching force of nature. With hands like hammers and plenty of aggression and forward movement, he is the owner of 18 knockouts—10 of them inside the octagon. He has a very sturdy chin, and has made strides towards improving his takedown defense, as he has very rudimentary ground skills. Lewis’ one-punch power is lethal, and his 43-year-old opponent, Aleksei Oleinik ($7,500), has a very pronounced button on his chin.
And in the event Oleinik manages to get a submission clamped onto him, let’s not forget his infamous defense technique—he simply stands up and shrugs it off. I’m not saying that’s the best way to do things, especially against a submission genius like Oleinik, but he has done it with success on more than one occasion. Lewis is also known for his ability to turn around a losing effort, so even with stamina issues, he’s capable of reaching down deep into his reserves of intestinal fortitude and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
Beneil Dariush ($9,100)
Beneil Dariush is another grappling ace who also happens to possess a marvelous striking game. A southpaw kickboxer, he’s equally adept at boxing up his opponents as he is at kicking them to pieces. Beneil’s real bread and butter is his jiu-jitsu, and if this fight hits the ground, even with Scott Holtzman’s ($7,100) excellent wrestling, I’d favor Dariush to get the job done.
The question mark with Beneil is the foundation of his chin, which has seen its fair share of punishment. While he has great standup, Holtzman does as well and is extremely durable, so it’s in his best interest to get “Hot Sauce” on the ground and on his back—a spot Scott has had troubles with in the past. This is a very well-matched contest, despite the huge gulf in pricing.
Nasrat Haqparast ($9,000)
Nasrat Haqparast is another knockout artist with plenty of potential for ascension. He’s fast, light on his feet and throws tons of volume. Nasrat is a southpaw with the cardio to match his high output, and he has a thirst for redeeming himself after a 70-second knockout defeat at the hands of Drew Dober. We should not assume that loss will define his future, as Dober is a tall order for any rising prospect to be served.
With nine knockouts on his resume, Haqparast should look to keep the fight standing where he can work inside the pocket and wear out Team Alpha Male’s Alexander Munoz ($7,200), who will no doubt want to get this fight to the ground. Munoz is a solid talent, however he is untested against high level opposition where Nasrat Haqparast has the far greater upside.
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Maki Pitolo ($7,600)
Maki Pitolo is a hyper aggressive volume striker who loves to stand and bang right in the pocket. I mean, they don’t call him “Coconut Bombz” for no reason. He’s paired off with an equally aggressive rocket launcher in Darren Stewart $8,600), so you can count on this fight being a real banger. Pitolo has decent ground game, but his takedown defense needs some work, though I doubt this contest sees much time on the canvas.
Stewart is a mixed bag, going 4-4 inside the octagon, and coming off a loss to Bartosz Fabiński this past March. The technique advantage lies with Maki, as he actually uses a jab, counters well and throws effective combinations. Stewart is more prone to throwing wild bombs and using a bumrush style to overwhelm his opponents. This is a coin-toss fight and could also be another fight of the night contender.
Chris Weidman ($8,000)
Chris Weidman is not the sum of his losses. Yes, I know there’s a serious question of durability, but his losses are to a Murderer’s Row of talent. Omari Akhmedov ($8,200) is a talented fighter, but Weidman still has excellent grappling chops and a very good standup game to go with it. As far as physical advantages go, Weidman will have two inches in height and five inches in reach—plenty of length to potshot from range. Both men fight from the orthodox stance, but Weidman’s striking is more polished and more potent historically.
When we get to the ground edge, recency bias would have us looking to Akhmedov, as he’s very adept on the mat with above average takedown defense and a very good top game, but Weidman has both better offensive and defensive wrestling, managing more takedowns and 73% takedown defense. He’s also got submission chops, with four wins coming by submission, most recently against Kelvin Gastelum via arm-triangle choke.
Many have given up on Weidman being able to mount a comeback at the elite level, and that might end up being the case, but Akhmedov doesn’t typically present the one thing Weidman is prone to fall victim to—power. This bout will really determine where Chris stands in the pecking order of the division. He has plenty of physical and technical advantages, making it his fight to lose.
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