Frank Franklin II/Associated Press
Although Derrick Lewis is currently the No. 4-ranked contender in the UFC’s heavyweight division, his sights aren’t yet set on another shot at the UFC Heavyweight Championship as he enters his fight against Aleksei Oleinik at UFC APEX in Nevada on Saturday night.
«It really just needs to be a dominant performance just so it can keep me in line because Francis [Ngannou] and the dude [Curtis] Blaydes, they might get a title shot before me,» Lewis said, according to Danny Segura and Ken Hathaway of MMA Junkie. «So we’ll just see how everything goes from there. I’m not really focusing on the title.»
However, it could keep Lewis’ name in the conversation for a shot at the title (held by Stipe Miocic) down the line. Lewis’ clash with Oleinik will be the main event of Saturday’s card, which is the second event to be held in Las Vegas since the UFC returned from its «Fight Island» in Abu Dhabi.
Here’s a look at the full card for Saturday night’s event, along with odds and predictions.
Main Card (ESPN+ at 9 p.m. ET)
Derrick Lewis (-200; bet $200 to win $100) vs. Aleksei Oleinik (+175; bet $100 to win $175)
Omari Akhmedov (+115) vs. Chris Weidman (-135)
Darren Stewart (-155) vs. Maki Pitolo (+135)
Yana Kunitskaya (-230) vs. Julija Stoliarenko (+190)
Beneil Dariush (-185) vs. Scott Holtzman (+165)
Prelims (ESPN+ at 6 p.m. ET)
Tim Means (+120) vs. Laureano Staropoli (-140)
Kevin Holland (-450) vs. Joaquin Buckley (+360)
Nasrat Haqparast (-230) vs. Alexander Munoz (+190)
Andrew Sanchez (+140) vs. Wellington Turman (-160)
Gavin Tucker (-125) vs. Justin Jaynes (+105)
Youssef Zalal (-450) vs. Peter Barrett (+360)
Irwin Rivera (-180) vs. Ali Alqaisi (+160)
Odds obtained via Caesars Palace
Lewis continues winning streak with strong performance
At UFC 230 in November 2018, Lewis lost his first UFC title fight, getting submitted by Daniel Cormier. Then, Lewis lost his next fight as well, falling by TKO to Junior dos Santos in March 2019. But since those setbacks, Lewis has been stringing wins together.
Lewis defeated Blagoy Ivanov via split decision at UFC 244 last November, then he earned a unanimous-decision victory over Ilir Latifi at UFC 247 in February. Now, getting set to take on Oleinik, the No. 10-ranked heavyweight contender, Lewis has an opportunity to keep making a statement.
One advantage that Lewis will have over Oleinik is size. On Friday, Lewis weighed in at 265 pounds (which is the heavyweight limit), making him 38 pounds heavier than Oleinik. Lewis also has a one-inch height advantage, as he stands at 6’3″.
Oleinik is an experienced fighter, as he has 73 professional MMA fights under his belt. But he’s 43, and he may not be able to survive some of the brutal shots that the 35-year-old Lewis is capable of landing.
While the fight will be competitive to start, Lewis will land a shot to knock out Oleinik either late in the first round or early in the second to extend his winning streak.
Prediction: Lewis via KO
Weidman earns much-needed victory
Julio Cortez/Associated Press
Chris Weidman is a former UFC middleweight champion who won his first 13 professional fights and burst on to the scene when he defeated Anderson Silva for the title at UFC 162 in July 2013. He went on to defend the title three times, beating Silva, Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort.
However, Weidman lost the middleweight title at UFC 194 in December 2015 to Luke Rockhold, which began a stretch of five losses in Weidman’s last six fights. His only win since May 2015 came against Kelvin Gastelum in July 2017, and he’s dropped his last two bouts against Ronaldo Souza and Dominick Reyes (Weidman’s light heavyweight debut).
Dropping back down to middleweight, Weidman is in need of a win when he faces Omari Akhmedov, the No. 11-ranked middleweight contender, on Saturday. However, Akhmedov is sure to be a challenge, as he hasn’t lost in his last six fights, with four of his last five bouts coming by unanimous decision.
While Weidman has started strong in many of his recent fights, he has gotten worn down and gone on to lose. That could be a problem against Akhmedov, who continues to go the full three rounds in his bouts.
This could be Weidman’s last opportunity to prove himself, though, as he may not continue to earn spots on cards with continuous losses. Because of that, the 36-year-old former champion will break through for a win, going the distance with Akhmedov in impressive fashion.
Prediction: Weidman via unanimous decision
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Stewart bounces back with TKO
Elise Amendola/Associated Press
After a slow start to his UFC career, Darren Stewart was on a roll entering his last fight, as he had won four of five bouts and notched an impressive split-decision win over Deron Winn. Then, he lost to Bartosz Fabinski at Cage Warriors 113 in March, a one-off fight away from the UFC.
But Stewart has the potential to bounce back in Saturday’s middleweight clash, and he’ll have the advantage over Maki Pitolo, who is more of a natural welterweight. Stewart will have a three-inch height advantage as he stands at 6-foot, while he’ll also have a two-inch reach advantage.
Still, Pitolo will be a solid competitor. After losing to Callan Potter in his UFC debut at UFC 243 last October, Pitolo bounced back with a TKO win over Charles Byrd at UFC 250 in June. So, it’ll have been only a little more than two months since Pitolo was last in the Octagon.
Although this should be a competitive fight in the first round, expect Stewart to use his size advantage to take control in the second and put away Pitolo well before the end of the three-round bout.
Prediction: Stewart via TKO
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