UFC color commentator Brian Stann could have been talking to any other fighter anywhere else in the world, and if he'd seen them clutching their stomach that way and he asked them how badly their opponent hurt them, he'd get the usual post-fight answer. Yeah he got me good, my hat's off to him, he's a hell of a competitor—something to bland effect.
But last night in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Stann was talking to Derrick "The Black Beast" Lewis after he knocked out fellow heavyweight Travis Browne in the main event of UFC Fight Night 105. That question about how badly those kicks hurt him got a response that, even if you're familiar with Lewis's off-the-cuff and off-color statements, was pretty near the end of things you'd expect him to say.
"I've just got to do a number two, that's all," the Black Beast mumbled.
The interview was a case study in Stann's talent for steering a conversation away from unexpectedly uncomfortable terrain while not bursting out laughing. The performance as a whole was more evidence that Lewis, at 32-years-old and having won half a dozen fights in a row, is one of the best going in the UFC's heavyweight division. As a mass of marquee 205-to-265ers reach an age when they should think about purchasing long-term care insurance instead of limping through another training camp, the only thing that can keep the division from devolving into a fallow wasteland is new names with heavy hands and unmanufactured charisma. And despite the expectations that have landed on him, Lewis can't help saying the first thing that comes to his mind—even if it's gross.
At the post-fight presser, toting a mini-UFC belt and proclaiming himself the interim heavyweight champion, Lewis elaborated on why he was holding his stomach after the fight. "It was more I'm just trying not to shit on myself," he said. "Because I'm holding my gas in and at the same time I'm trying to breathe, I just didn't want to shit on national TV." Asked how he was able to work through the discomfort during the fight, he said, "I just eased out a little fart." He said this with a stone face because sophomoric humor requires deadpan delivery.
The way Lewis beat Browne, however, was no joke. Browne, to his credit, had the best first round he's had in a long time, kicking Lewis in the liver and stomach in ways that had Lewis's cornerman icing down his midsection between rounds. (A moral victory for Browne, who after three straight losses and five in his last seven, might not be long for the UFC.) But in the second, Lewis swarmed Browne with punches on the feet and battered him for long stretches on the ground, the weight of "262 pounds of behemothness"—to steal a phrase from Todd Grisham, last night's newcomer in the UFC broadcast booth—bearing down on the lighter Browne. After Browne scrambled up and winged a wide right hand, Lewis's near-phantom counter put him back down, and he followed him to the canvas to bounce his head off of it too many times.
That late stoppage was okay, Lewis said, because of the past allegations of domestic violence against his opponent. At the post-fight presser, he offered $1,000 to referee Mario Yamasaki as a gift "because I just want to get all on my anger out on Travis's face anyway, because he likes to hit on women. So I appreciate [Yamasaki] for doing that." For extra cold-bloodedness, pair that sentiment with Lewis's consecutive social media posts of Browne getting throttled to the overdubbed voice of Edmond Tarverdyan and of Browne's spirit leaving his unconscious body.
The nature of Lewis's victory, however, only reinforced questions about the depths of his talents. In style, he's a throwback, power-punching fighter; at the post-fight presser, he even described himself as "almost one-dimensional" and said, "To me, jabs are a waste of time." The spinning kicks he threw against Browne were physical satire. As in his previous fight against Shamil Abdurakhimov, Lewis came back from a slow start against Browne. Francis Ngannou, the other great prospect at heavyweight, grows a fight vocabulary with every bout. Lewis, meanwhile, seems okay with the right hands and uppercuts he already has.
In a weight class where a good right hand can end it all, that's enough to make Lewis a champion in the near future. And even if you think you know how he'd win, you never know what he might say once that belt goes around his aching belly.
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