The Ultimate Fighter
The cards keep rolling through the Apex in Las Vegas as veteran heavyweights duke it out in the 25-foot Octagon. The veterans in this Saturday’s main event make for an intriguing matchup of styles and experience, and the card also features important bouts that should clear up several trajectories for different fighters going forward in 2020.
With so much veteran experience on the card, we sifted through the numbers to see where these mixed martial artists might lean when they clash on August 8.
(All stats according to UFC’s Record Book and Fight Metric as of August 5, 2020, and only include active athletes in their respective division unless noted otherwise)
Main Event: Derrick Lewis vs Aleksei Oleinik
Key Stats: 10 KO/TKO wins (tied 1st all-time among HW), 53.4% takedown defense (9th), 2.14 strikes absorbed per minute (3rd)
What It Means: Derrick Lewis is a true brawler. He throws everything with malicious intent and has refined his approach with each appearance in the Octagon. While Lewis’ pace might seem methodical, when “The Black Beast” decides to explode, it creates plenty of stress for his foes. His takedown defense is solid, but it’s in his get-ups that he is uniquely difficult. While he might seem blanketed, Lewis often can just explode up and return to where he does his best work.
Key Stats: 2.21 submissions per 15 minutes (1st all-time among HW), 46.2% takedown accuracy (tied 7th all-time among HW), 6 submission wins (tied 2nd all-time among HW)
What It Means: Few mixed martial artists on the planet have the experience to match Aleksei Oleinik, and in that time, he has built a worthy reputation as a dangerous submission artist – a quirky one at that. Oleinik kind of marauds forward, ready to unleash a heavy overhand before getting his hands on his opponent and fishing for a submission. He is particularly fond of the Ezekiel choke, a technique hardly used in MMA and therefore is a peculiar one to defend.
What to Look For in the Fight: A matchup between an elite brawler and an ultra-experienced submission artist presents a whole bunch of question marks with obvious answers. Derrick Lewis’ path to victory is likely one that includes him staying out of clinch situations and off the mat while looking to land his big power punch, whereas Oleinik will try to get inside and put the squeeze on Lewis. Both can end fights in a blink, as most heavyweights, but the methods they use to go about their work makes the bout an intriguing one.
Co-Main Event: Omari Akhmedov vs Chris Weidman
Key Stats: 3.02% bottom position (8th), 1:55 bottom position time (5th), 62% takedown defense
What It Means: Omari Akhmedov is adept at grinding his opponents down over the course of an entire fight, and since returning to middleweight, he has gone on to win his last three fights. He is a stout physical presence who can nullify grapplers with his own defense and keep fights to his pacing.
Key Stats: 52.1% takedown accuracy (5th all-time among MW), 37 takedowns landed (tied 1st all-time among MW), 33% control time percentage
What It Means: One of the division’s most decorated competitors, Chris Weidman’s game starts with his high wrestling pedigree. From there, he mixes in his striking and keeps his opponents off balance. If they can’t nullify his wrestling attack, he’s happy to dish out hard ground-and-pound or seek submissions in a blink. The “All-American” is an all-around threat.
What to Look For in the Fight: This is a matchup of a middleweight rising and a former champion trying to find traction in the division over which he once reigned. Weidman’s five losses have all come by knockout, but Akhmedov has only had two finishes of that type in the UFC, and one of them was a knee injury for his opponent. Hypothetically, this projects to be a grinding, potentially grappling-heavy bout where technique and cardio might play the biggest role.
Other Fights to Watch (Beneil Dariush vs Scott Holtzman)
Key Stats: 3% bottom position percentage (8th), 5 submission wins (tied 6th), 49% strike accuarcy
What It Means: Beneil Dariush is most dangerous because of his slick jiu-jitsu, but his striking has grown to become a dangerous weapon as well due to his reputation making opponents wary of his grappling. Coming out of the always-aggressive Kings MMA camp, Dariush has nasty chokes but also holds knockout power as he showed in a stunning knockout of Drakkar Klose in early 2020.
Key Stats: 60% takedown accuracy (6th all-time among LW), 50% significant strike accuracy (10th), 14:08 average fight time (4th longest among LW)
What It Means: Scott Holtzman is as solid a mixed martial artist as it gets in the ever-talented lightweight division. While his style might not be flashy, his technique and ability give him a shot at anyone. He is the kind of good everywhere but not great anywhere type of fighter that can adapt well to any type of scrap his opponent brings.
What to Look For in the Fight: This is a fight that could turn out to be a true mixed martial arts contest in the sense that both fighters are adept wherever the fight goes. Whether it’s a grueling brawl, a technical striking bout or a scrambly grappling match, both men are experienced and skilled in each area. It’s a fight where you see the small differences between black belts or where cardio makes a major difference. Beneil Dariush is on a four-fight roll that includes three straight performance bonuses, and Scott Holtzman has quietly won five of his last six, most recently in a Fight of the Night contest against Jim Miller.