LAS VEGAS — Derrick Lewis has become a main event fighter in the UFC because of his ability to produce highlight-reel knockouts and his sense of humor. Those are a pair of great selling points to start promoting a fight card.
But Lewis has been ending up in the loss column far more often than he wants or believes he should. He's lost two in a row, three of four and five of his last 10. The two most recent losses came in three-round fights that he jokingly asked for, rather than the five-round fights reserved for main events. He's 17-8 in 25 UFC fights and is the UFC's all-time KO leader. But Lewis is sour about how he's performed recently, even though he insists he's worked hard to prepare.
Now, he's fighting the elite of the heavyweight division, and among his losses in the last 15 months were KOs by Ciryl Gane, Tai Tuivasa and Sergei Pavlovich. They're currently ranked Nos. 1, 3 and 4 in the division.
So it could be that Lewis has reached his peak, but he believes he can still right the ship.
"This year, I trained probably the most I've ever done for both of my last fights, and they didn't go my way," Lewis said at media day for UFC Vegas 65, where he'll meet Sergey Spivak in the main event at Apex on the UFC campus. "I did everything the right way and it didn't go my way. I don't know. I still trained even harder for this fight. We'll see how things go Saturday.
"I believe that I can get the job done, even in the later rounds. I'm looking forward to the fourth and the fifth round. I'm looking forward to a main event fight."
Lewis, though, isn't looking to prove anything by going deep into the fight and winning.
He's always had the same outlook and that hasn't changed. He smirked when he was asked if he hopes the fight gets into the fifth.
"S**t, I'm hoping it goes just a few seconds," Lewis said, suppressing a giggle. "But if it goes five rounds, that's fine. I'm ready. I'm excited. My coaches got me ready. I'm motivated, even though there's not too much to be motivated for at this point of my career. But I am motivated and I'm ready to get in there. I feel like I still got a lot left in the tank."
The thing for Lewis is that he doesn't have the diversity in his game that others do, so he faces a situation where he needs to rely on his power to win his fights for him, and if it doesn't, he doesn't have many other options.
Among his 26 career wins are 21 KOs and one submission, meaning he's won only four by decision.
He recognizes the urgency of the situation he's in. He is one of the UFC's good guys, always quick with a quip, but losing has put him in an uncomfortable situation. He's done too much for the company to have to be worried about getting cut, but if he loses again on Saturday, he's going to start appearing on preliminary cards and facing lesser known opponents who would try to make their name by beating him.
So even though he says at this stage of his career he shouldn't be motivated, he has motivation enough to perform.
"I believe I have to [train hard]," Lewis said. "My back is really against the wall now. I don't want to lose three fights in a row. Really, I didn't want to lose one fight. I take it hard on myself every time I lose a fight. I can't stop thinking of my last fight until I get a new fight. And I'm just tired of thinking about my last fight, with the BS the way it ended."
Lewis and many observers felt his fight with Pavlovich was stopped prematurely. And he says he's not concerned about losses because he believes in himself so much.
He would like a rematch with Pavlovich, but said he'll take whoever he's given because he still has a lot to give. His confidence, he said, hasn't taken a hit.
"I don't think [the losses] have no type of impact on me whatsoever," Lewis said. "I've been down and out before. Also, I look at those fights and like, in the Tuivasa fight, I believe I was winning the fight, and stuff happens. The last one? Come on, man. Just like Izzy [ex-middleweight champion Israel Adesanya] was saying. We got to bring Maserati [former referee Steve Mazzagatti] back, man."
With the power in those fists, Lewis doesn't really need the help of Mazzagatti or anyone else. And Spivak may just well find that out Saturday afternoon.