UFC 244 is scheduled for November 3rd and, looking at some of the match-ups, looks set to be a great night of MMA. Everyone’s talking about the Diaz v Masvidal headliner, and with good reason—the bout has all the makings of a classic. But what about the other match-ups on the main card for 244?
Lewis v. Iganov
I want to talk about the heavyweight showdown between the closely-ranked Derrick Lewis and Blagoy Ivanov. As we all know, styles make fights, and personally I’m always fascinated when fighters with wildly-differing styles get matched together.
Due to its open rule-set, MMA has a unique capacity to bring fighters together from radically different training backgrounds and test their respective disciplines out on each other. This diversity of approaches, which is possible in MMA, is what makes the sport so special, and the pairing-up of Lewis and Blagoy really encapsulates this inclusive ethos.
A born slugger
Let’s start with Lewis. Lewis is your classic heavyweight brawler—a man-mountain with knockout power in both his right and left hand who has the potential to use sledgehammer haymakers to knock out any opponent who steps into the ring with him.
What he lacks in style he makes up for in sheer aggression and power, and this monster of a true heavyweight knockout artist has some impressive scalps on his belt, including Alexander Volkov, Francis Ngannou, and Roy Nelson.
However, as undeniable a threat as a puncher he is, Lewis is a one-dimensional fighter. His grappling is weak and his kicking basically non-existent. He relies very heavily on his heavy hands to finish his opponent, and this dependency is a weakness that could be exploited.
Judo meets catch-wrestling
Now on to Ivanov. As a fighter, the Bulgarian’s strongest stylistic association is with sambo, the self-defense system developed by the Soviet Union. Sambo is a style that is decidedly underrepresented in the UFC, and this lack of familiarity with the style among many in the UFC is something that works to Ivanov’s advantage. Sambo’s stylistic origins lie between judo and European “catch-as catch-can wrestling,” as advocated by the free-wrestling pioneer Billy Reilly in his notorious Snake Pit gym in Wigan, England. The result is something more brutal than judo; sambo is more aggressive, uses more strength-based techniques, and has fewer restrictions on holds and locks.
Remember Zangeif from the Street Fighter games? His character’s fighting style was based on sambo wrestling. But Ivanov can hold his own in boxing, too, and is actually quite a competent volume puncher. He doesn’t have anything resembling the same knockout power as Lewis, but he is pretty quick for a guy his size and can put his punches together well.
However, although he has a good record in UFC, his victories have been far less decisive than Lewis’, and he tends to win on decision. This inability to put an opponent away means he leaves himself open to getting knocked out by a Lewis haymaker in the later rounds.
So, when it comes to predictions, I have to say that Lewis looks set to get the win. Ivanov may have the hand speed and the confidence that comes from his impressive recent victories, but Lewis’ superior punching power and merciless knockout ability will almost definitely be too much for the Bulgarian to bear. Ivanov is not to be underestimated, and this will be by no means a one-sided fight, but I wouldn’t want to bet on Ivanov getting the win.
Ivanov struggles to finish people off, and the longer the fight goes on, the more likely Lewis is to land those haymakers and get the TKO/KO, so anything other than a victory for Lewis would be a massive upset here.
In short, this looks set to be an electrifying showdown between two great fighters, and the contrast between their respective fighting styles should make for some fascinating action. But it’s difficult to see this ending any other way than in a TKO/KO by Lewis, probably in one of the later rounds when Iganov is starting to get gassed out. But, this being MMA, there’s always the possibility of an upset. Let’s wait and see.