When fight fans watch heavyweights battle it out in combat sports, they get excited. More than in any other division, they can probably expect a huge knockout to happen. Not only are these two gorilla-sized individuals trying to knock each other’s heads off, but they can usually take a punch better than anybody, too.
That’s why when Derrick Lewis and Mark Hunt faced each other at UFC Fight Night 110 in New Zealand, people were looking forward to these two fighters that know how take 10 shots to give 10 of their own. That’s how they roll, and they take tremendous pride in it, because they’re known for it and they know it entertains the fans.
Well, luckily, the fight ended up happening, and it resulted in a TKO victory for Hunt, which is somewhat shocking in itself, considering the recent run Lewis has had of knocking out just about everybody in the division. It’s really not that shocking, in hindsight, though, because Hunt also knocks everyone out. So, basically, what was supposed to happen ended up happening.
Unfortunately, what happened after the fight was a bigger shock. Lewis abruptly retired, albeit adding the “likely” caveat. He probably hated having to accept that he’s done fighting, but stated that he didn’t want to put his family through it anymore, especially since he’s also getting married soon.
What does this mean for the future of the UFC’s heavyweight division?
Well, to put it simply, it’s pretty terrible. It creates a gaping hole in a UFC weight class that is desperate for new talent. With the departure of Roy Nelson this year, as well as Matt Mitrione last year, and now Lewis potentially on his way out, things are looking pretty bleak.
Again, the heavyweight fights are almost always going to be exciting, because of the high knockout factor. However, when you don’t have the talent to create great fights, then it’s just a mix of the same fighters facing one another, which can only happen so many times. Variety is much better in the fight game, so all of these defectors from the UFC definitely hurts the company.
Lewis’s departure isn’t disastrous in the long run, though. It’s just going to be the next guy in line that will take his place, but nobody knows how long that can last for. It’s not like Lewis was the best or most technically sound fighter ever, but he put on really exciting fights and he’s known for his great chin and massive power. That’s something that’s needed in abundance in MMA, so for the UFC to lose that kind of fighter hurts.
If the UFC is able to sign a new fighter for the heavyweight division that is just as good as Lewis, it would help. However, that’s unlikely. There just aren’t that many options for new heavyweight talent right now. Furthermore, the top 10 UFC fighters in the division have an average age of nearly 38 years old (not including Lewis). Every top-ranked UFC heavyweight is 30 or older, except Stefan Struve and Alexander Volkov. Struve has been fighting in the UFC since 2008, so he’s not new or unknown by any means. Volkov has only had two fights in the UFC, after fighting mostly in M-1 and Bellator. These guys can help, but they’re not a serious injection of fresh talent.
The problem I foresee is the lack of youth in the division, as well as the lack of a variety of fighters that can face one another. There’s no telling how the UFC plans on fixing this, but it doesn’t look like the company has any intentions of adding any significant new talent there. At some point, this will hurt the quality of fights. That’s when the UFC will start missing Lewis.