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UFC Fight Night: Lewis v Nascimento Predictions

The UFC’s all-time knockout king Derrick Lewis returns to the Octagon for a main event heavyweight battle against Rodrigo Nascimento at the Enterprise Center in St Louis on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.


The UFC’s all-time knockout king Derrick Lewis returns to the Octagon for a main event heavyweight battle against Rodrigo Nascimento at the Enterprise Center in St Louis on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

UFC St Louis’ co-headliner will see local favourite Joaquin Buckley battle Nursulton Ruziboev in a welterweight contest, while light heavyweights Alonzo Menifield and Carlos Ulberg collide in the featured bout.

The first half of the main card consists of a heavyweight duel between Waldo Cortes-Acosta and Robelis Despaigne, a featherweight fight between veteran Alex Caceres and Sean Woodson and a lightweight meeting between Diego Ferreira and Mateusz Rebecki.

MAIN CARD (from 1 AM Sunday SA time):

Derrick Lewis (1.64) v Rodrigo Nascimento (2.30) (Heavyweight)

A fan-favourite brawler, Lewis (27-12) has blasted a record 14 foes into oblivion inside the Octagon and boasts 22 knockouts in all. He’s not the fastest or most skillful fighter but the frightening dynamite he has in his hands has made him a mainstay in the heavyweight elite for years.

“The Black Beast” is a former two-time title challenger, holds a win over former champion Francis Ngannou and has knocked out top contenders such as Curtis Blaydes and Alexander Volkov.

He’s deceptively athletic for a behemoth who cuts weight to make the 265-pound limit, throwing out a jumping knee or switch kick every now and then, and has the patience to stalk his prey and wait for an opening to close the show.

At 39, however, his best days are behind him. He’s just 1-4 in his last five fights, though it must be said all four of those losses came against top-10 giants.

He brought the house down with a quick finish of Marcos Rogerio de Lima last July to snap a three-fight losing streak but was controlled by Jailton Almeida in a frustrating five-round decision loss four months later.

Now ranked 12th, he’s become somewhat of a gatekeeper and serves as a dangerous veteran test for the oncoming Nascimento (11-1).

Three straight wins will see Nascimento enter uncharted waters as he competes in his maiden UFC main event. Lewis, on the other hand, has headlined 11 UFC cards, which is one less fight Nascimento has in total.

A skilled grappler, “Ze Colmeia” will aim to follow Almeida’s blueprint to score the biggest win of his career. He’s far from the athlete and grappler Almeida is, though, and hasn’t fought anyone near the calibre of Lewis. He’s a plodding heavyweight who’s yet to truly impress in the UFC, with two of his wins being by split decision.

He has a solid ground game (six submissions) and will shoot early and often. It’s easy to suggest the fight will come down to whether Lewis can stuff his Brazilian opponent’s takedowns but it’s not quite as simple as that as Lewis has shown the ability to buck and worm his way off the bottom and back to his feet.

Again, 15th-ranked Nascimento isn’t the world-class grappler Lewis is used to facing, so even if the veteran is put on his back, he should be able to turn it back into a stand-up battle where he has a decided advantage.  

Add his invaluable experience and Lewis should return to his knockout ways.

Prediction: Lewis by knockout.

Best Bet: Lewis by KO/TKO/DQ at 1.74.

Alternative Bet: Lewis at 1.64.

Joaquin Buckley (1.74) v Nursulton Ruziboev (2.14) (Welterweight)

The Enterprise Center will be rocking when hometown hero Buckley (18-6) makes the walk to the Octagon in the co-main event.

“New Mansa” is on a tear, winning three in a row, and is coming off a massive win over Vicente Luque (his 13th career knockout) that elevated him to No.11 at 170 pounds.

Muscle-bound Buckley will always be remembered for his all-time classic knockout against Impa Kasanganay four years ago, but he’s put in work since then, particularly since making the move from middleweight to welterweight, where he’s unbeaten and an explosive dark horse.

Speaking of dark horses, Ruziboev (34-8-2-2NC) has almost twice as much experience as Buckley but is only two fights into his UFC career. The Uzbekistan ace is thus relatively unknown to UFC audiences but has the tools to make a serious impact.

First off, he’s massive for the weight class; at 6’5″, he’ll tower over his 5’10” opponent. And secondly, he’s a well-rounded savage who’s claimed 32 of his 34 wins by finish (12 knockouts and 20 submissions), including recording back-to-back first-round KOs inside the Octagon.

I won’t be surprised if “Black” spoils the party in his welterweight debut, but Buckley’s speed, explosiveness and experience along with the support of his home crowd should see him prevail.

Prediction: Buckley by decision.

Best Bet: Buckley at 1.74.

Alternative Bet: Buckley by decision at 5.00.

Alonzo Menifield (3.20) v Carlos Ulberg (1.37) (Light Heavyweight)

Heavy-handed light heavyweights trade leather in the featured bout.

A tank on a roll, Menifield (15-3-1) is on a five-fight unbeaten streak that’s taken him up to 11th place in the rankings. A compact crusher, he has 10 knockouts to his name. He’s a brawler by nature, one who’s improving gradually and starting to enter his prime. 

Ulberg (10-1) has plenty of momentum as well. He’s on a five-fight win streak with each of his last four victories coming by stoppage. As a training partner of Israel Adesanya’s at City Kickboxing, the New Zealander is primarily a striker but showed another side of his game when he submitted Da-un Jung last time out.

In what’s set to be a striking battle, “Black Jag” is the more technical striker whose straighter, crisper shots and superior distance management should see him take Menifield’s number.

Prediction: Ulberg by knockout.

Best Bet: Ulberg by KO/TKO/DQ at 1.90.

Alternative Bet: Under 1.5 rounds at 2.14.

Diego Ferreira (4.10) v Mateusz Rebecki (1.25) (Lightweight)

An intriguing lightweight match-up will see a battle-tested Octagon warrior cross swords with an oncoming threat out of Poland.

Ferreira (18-5) made his UFC debut almost a decade ago and has faced some of the best 155-pounders of his era. The Brazilian, who boasts a submission win over former champion Anthony Pettis, is nearing the end of his career, though, and was on a three-fight losing streak before he starched Michael Johnson last May.

By rattling off a trio of victories in his first year in the UFC in 2023, Rebecki (19-1) extended his win streak to 16. The southpaw packs a serious punch and is a powerful grappler looking to prove just how good he is against a seasoned campaigner. 

While Ferreira is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, he’s been controlled by strong wrestlers in the past and will struggle to keep up with the pace of his 31-year-old opponent. That leaves the Pole poised to pick up the win, most likely by knocking out a tired Ferreira.

Prediction: Rebecki by knockout.

Best Bet: Rebecki by KO/TKO/DQ at 2.20.

Alternative Bet: Over 1.5 rounds at 1.64.

Alex Caceres (2.70) v Sean Woodson (1.48) (Featherweight)

Missouri’s own Woodson (11-1-1) looks to claim a cherished scalp when he squares off against featherweight veteran Caceres (21-14).

“Bruce Leeroy” is in his 14th year on the UFC roster and while he was unsuccessful against Giga Chikadze last time out, he’s 7-2 in his last nine fights, an impressive record that shows the 35-year-old remains a tough out for anyone trying to break into the top 15.

Jiu-jitsu is the strongest part of Caceres’ game, but he wouldn’t have lasted this long in the world’s leading mixed martial arts promotion if he wasn’t well-rounded.

Woodson returns home on a five-fight unbeaten run, most recently beating Charles Jourdain by split decision in January. Super tall (6’2″) and lanky for a featherweight, “The Sniper” lives up to his nickname as a precision puncher from the outside.  

Expect a striking chess match at range pitting Caceres’ kicks and veteran savviness against the boxing and speed of Woodson, with four-and-a-half-inch reach advantage tipping things in the latter’s favour. 

Prediction: Woodson by decision.

Best Bet: Woodson by decision at 1.95.

Alternative Bet: Woodson at 1.48.

Waldo Cortes-Acosta (2.70) v Robelis Despaigne (1.48) (Heavyweight)

Up-and-coming heavyweights plan on starting the main card with a bang.

Cortes-Acosta (11-1) is 4-1 in the UFC and is coming off a decision win over former champion Andre Arlovski in January. Although Arlovski is nowhere near the fighter he was in his heyday, it was still a solid win for “Salsa Boy”, who isn’t particularly potent but more of a tactician.

The undefeated Despaigne (5-0) is the polar opposite. The Cuban colossus, who stands 6’7″ and has a superhuman 87-inch reach, has won all of his fights by knockout in the first round.

Just how explosive is he? Well, his 18-second destruction of Josh Parisian in his UFC debut last time out was the second-longest fight of his career to date. Making “Big Boy” even more terrifying is the fact that he’s an Olympic bronze medallist in taekwondo.

As Cortes-Acosta isn’t the most dangerous heavyweight around, Despaigne won’t hesitate to walk him down and with excellent technique and an unheard-of 17-inch reach advantage, he’ll score another finish. 

Prediction: Despaigne by knockout.

Best Bet: Despaigne by KO/TKO/DQ at 1.62.

Alternative Bet: Despaigne by KO/TKO/DQ in round one at 2.20.

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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