By: Victor Vargas
30 days have not even passed since the Ultimate Fighting Championship landed in the Big Apple for its inaugural show and it is once again returning to the Empire State for its sophomore appearance. UFC 205 seemed big on every level, big names, big arena, big stakes, and a big promise to deliver to a state that has been deprived of professional mixed martial arts for over two decades; the promotion came through but New York’s capital may not have such a monumental event.
UFC Fight Night 102 aka UFC Albany, will air live on UFC Fight Pass on Friday December 9th and some big men will meet in the main event. Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis will meet Shamil Abdurakhimov in a five round bout that is all but assured to not hear the 25 minute horn.
Derrick Lewis may be one of the most impressive heavyweights of 2016. Of course, that honor will ultimately go to Cleveland hero and heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic but Derrick Lewis has already amassed three impressive victories within ten months. A quick TKO of Damian Grabowski, a brutal knockout of onetime heavyweight title challenger Gabriel Gonzaga, and a hard fought decision over divisional stalwart Roy “Big Country” Nelson.
Shamil Abdurakhimov has had an impressive 2016 run of his own. The Russian would come back from a year long layoff and promotional debut loss to Timothy Johnson to beat Anthony Hamilton and Walt Harris.
UFC Fight Night 102 may not have the name value of some of this year’s Fight Pass exclusive events like Silva vs. Bisping or Dos Anjos vs. Alvarez but Lewis is a fan favorite and any hardcore fan should be tuned in to see some giant men throw heavy leather at one another.
Derrick Lewis has gone from a fun knock out or be knocked out brawler, to a legitimate contender in under a year. Abdurakhimov is a man seeking to go from unknown to top 15 heavyweight with one performance. The division will not be shaken up by this fight in any real feasible way but it will be a nice litmus test to see where the lower tier and fringe top 15 heavyweight contenders really are.
Abdurakhimov is solid but not really excellent anywhere. His grappling is adequate and his striking is effective but he doesn’t seem to possess any tangible skill that can threaten Lewis. Yes, the obligatory “265 pound men can knock out anyone with the right strike” must be considered like in any heavyweight fight, especially considering that Lewis has already been knocked out twice in his UFC stint but other than a wild haymaker, the Dagestani’s chances of winning are rather slim.
Abdurakhimov doesn’t possess huge power and isn’t exceptionally athletic or crafty. In tight with dirty boxing is a position where he excels but it’s tough to see Lewis caught in that kind of fight for very long. Grappling has never been a strong suit of Lewis and the last fight with Roy Nelson showed that is a department that the Houston native still needs to work on but Abdurakhimov has shown virtually no intent on taking opponents down even with his Sambo background.
Shamil Abdurakhimov seems like a disciplined, hardworking athlete, but at 35 years of age and with a stationary, low output style like he has shown in his UFC tenure it’s likely that the odds would not bode well in his favor against an athletic powerhouse who is still improving. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Dagestani can get his shots in and maybe get a takedown, but Lewis is much too dangerous and his three round battle with the iron chinned “Big Country” showed that his power can still carry over in the latter stages of a fight. It can be a slobberknocker for however long it lasts, just don’t expect it too last too long.
Derrick Lewis by first round KO.