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UFC 230: A feast for the Black Beast

Derrick Lewis of Houston will get his shot at a title. Harry How/Getty Images

On Nov. 3, the double champion Daniel D.C. Cormier takes on Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis for the UFC heavyweight title at the famed Madison Square Garden.

Bet the house on black. Specifically, bet the house on Black Beast. Sure, Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis opens as an 8-to-1 underdog in his fight against heavyweight champion Cormier. Sure, Cormier just knocked out the most dominant heavyweight champion in the history of the UFC. And sure, Lewis miraculously survived a fourteen minute beating just three weeks ago. Who cares? It doesn’t matter.Lewis is unstoppable.  Lewis is immovable. And against all odds, he’s proved time and time again that he Just. Can’t. Lose! (Except that time he lost).

Using the letter “H” as a tribute to Houston, the city Lewis so proudly represents, this writer will provide real and not-at-all satirical evidence to show how The Black Beast feasts on Nov. 3.

History

For Lewis, this fight is personal. Cormier and Lewis are no strangers. Behind the scenes at UFC 226, Lewis vowed to knock out  Cormier. The reason? Disrespecting the Black Beast’s sacred cow. Popeyes Chicken.

 

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The greatest fights in history come packaged with stories that can’t be matched by any film or novel. The Thrilla in Manilla. McGregor vs. Diaz. When these two fighters cross paths on that fateful night, their destinies will intertwine like a Popeyes mixed combo meal. Derrick Lewis vs. Daniel Cormier. Spicy vs. Plain. Warring in a contest to prove who’s breast- AND THIGH WILL BE DONE.

Heart

A beast isn’t known for its skill. It’s not known for its smarts. It’s known for its heart. And that’s what Lewis has. An enlarged heart. In each of his most notable wins, Lewis lands a spectacular KO, but not before getting beat up and exhausted first. He’s the first to admit he has cardio problems. But with heart the size of Lewis’, there’s simply no room for lungs.

How will heart factor into this fight? We simply need to analyze the last of either fighters’ bouts. Just three weeks ago, the Russian contender Alexander Volkov hacked away at Lewis like it was a U.S. presidential election. With seconds left into the fight, Lewis summoned his heart, and put a whoopin’ on a PutinCormier’s last fight? Moved up a weight class to KO then-heavyweight king within one round, extending his undefeated heavyweight streak while capturing a simultaneous belt. No heart whatsoever.

Heat

It’s a tale as old as time in Mixed Martial Arts: styles make fights. DC owns an Olympic medal in Wrestling, and can send heavyweights flying. Lewis’ grappling consists of… waiting to stand back up. Advantage: DERRICK LEWIS.

Lewis wins this match up flat out, as proved by sports science. In his fight against Volkov, Lewis scored a late knockout with seconds left to go. In his post-fight interview, Lewis famously dropped his shorts and declared to the world, “My balls was hot.”

Great balls of fire

As an accredited analyst, I must correlate the two: Derrick Lewis gets stronger as his balls get hotter. My professional prediction: Cormier outwrestles Derrick Lewis for four rounds, before Lewis’ balls reach a fiery temperature. Unable to clinch or grapple Lewis without being scorched, DC is forced to stand, and The Black Beast sends Cormier into retirement with one final Popeye's punch.

Official pick: Lewis via fifth round hot and spicy KO.

 

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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