Derrick Lewis (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs. Nascimento Preview and Predictions

The Show Me State looks to show fans an exciting UFC fight card as the promotion touches down in St. Louis for what should be an action packed day of mixed martial arts. The headliner is a heavyweight tilt between former title challenger Derrick Lewis and Rodrigo Nascimento. Lewis, as always, is looking to bolster his position as all-time promotional knockout leader while Nascimento is looking to plant his flag and announce to the rest of the division and UFC brass that he is a force to be reckoned with as he makes his way towards the division’s elite.

The co-main event takes place in the welterweight division as two fighters look to continue to build momentum while they halt their opponent in his tracks. Joaquin Buckley notched the biggest win of his UFC run last time he fought by defeating perennial contender Vicente Luque. Nursulton Ruziboev steamrolled Sedriques Dumas that very same night and now the two will square off in front of Buckley’s home crowd to see which one of these men deserves a number next to his name when the next rankings are released.

Also on the main card is a showdown between two of the best physiques in the light heavyweight division as Alonzo Menifled squares off against Carlos Ulberg. Menifield is on a five fight unbeaten streak coming into this contest. After a surprising loss to Kennedy Nzechukwu in his UFC debut, Ulberg has put together five straight wins and finishes in the last four of those fights. These two big fellas should put on a heck of a show midway through the main card.


UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs. Nascimento airs live in its entirety on ESPN+ starting at 4 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Dan Kuhl and Matt Petela preview the action in this week’s edition of Toe-to-Toe.

Derrick Lewis holds the record for most knockouts in UFC history; can he stop Rodrigo Nascimento’s three-fight winning streak and add to his knockout record?

Kuhl: It’s honestly getting to the point where predicting a Derrick Lewis fight seems gratuitous at best. If he lands a solid punch, he will knock his opponent out. If he doesn’t, he will lose. Rodrigo Nasciemento saw what Jailton Almeida was able to do to Lewis back in November – don’t get clipped and push the cardio. There is not much more to this.

Nascimento is a higher volume striker, he has some decent takedown ability, and he can piece Lewis up on the feet with better cardio. If he can do that, Lewis will wilt over the course of the fight. However, one hard shot from Lewis could send the Brazilian into the shadow realm. While that is always a possibility, I see Nascimento taking this one by decision.

Petela: Nothing that Dan said is incorrect but I see this fight going the opposite direction. Not getting clipped by Derrick Lewis is much easier said than done. Like the old Bulls teams in the 90s, opponents knew that if they could disrupt the triangle offense they would have success but yet those Bulls teams still rattled off 6 championships.

This is going to be a boring fight for eight minutes and then it will be exhilarating for a few moments and over in the blink of an eye. A looping overhand right from Lewis will land flush and that’s all it is going to take for him to expand on his lead as the all time knockout king.

Both Joaquin Buckley and Nursulton Ruziboev picked up wins just over a month ago in Atlantic City; which fighter prevails when the two welterweights throw down?

Petela: This is a quick turnaround for both fighters, but, luckily, neither of them sustained any real damage in their last outings. Joaquin Buckley is fighting better than ever recently, and he is starting to look like a real contender. A win in his hometown could give him the momentum he needs to propel his name into consideration for high-profile fights with some of the division’s biggest names. Nursulton Ruziboev has won both of his UFC fights and is riding a 10-fight winning streak. If he can take out Buckley, and silence the St. Louis crowd, it will do wonders for his popularity and status within the promotion.

While Buckley can certainly hang with Ruziboev on the feet, there will be a clear grappling advantage for the Uzbek fighter. That’s where this one will be decided. After an opening round of fairly even standing and trading, expect Ruziboev to work into the clinch and get a takedown where he will go to work. As Buckley tries to explode back to his feet it will provide the opportunity for Ruziboev to snatch his neck or a limb and latch onto it until Buckley is forced to tap. Second round submission win for Nursulton Ruziboev.

Kuhl: I agree with Matt on this one. Both men are streaking, with Joaquin Buckley facing much tougher competition, but Buckley is not quite as well-rounded as Nursulton Ruziboev. The Uzbek fighter will be better at managing the game, while Buckley will be looking purely for the knockout. Better management will lead to a unanimous decision win for Ruziboev

What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?

Kuhl: Tecia Torres is attempting to get back into the Octagon, and, while she is certainly a talented high-profile athlete, I’m not entirely sure why. She hasn’t truly finished a fight in nearly seven years, and most of her decisions in that time were losses. Her last fight two years ago was against Makenzie Dern, and it ended in a split decision loss. The point is that if Torres cannot get past Tabatha Ricci, it might be time to hang it up. Anything but a finish could end in a pink slip.

Petela: There aren’t a ton of fighters on this card who might be facing a pink slip with a loss so I’ll pivot and kind of take this in a different direction. Waldo Cortes-Acosta needs a big performance or else he will start to be known as a boring heavyweight, a fighter who the UFC uses when they need to fill a spot on a card. For all of his accolades and the hype behind him, only once in his UFC run has he really delivered the goods and that was against Lukasz Brzeski. If he gets wiped out against Robelis Despaigne, which is quite possible, it might kill the momentum he has been building and make him an afterthought for fans rather than a fighter who they tune in to watch.

Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?

Petela: Trey Waters vs. Billy Goff. This is an excellent matchup of welterweight prospects who are both making their sophomore appearance in the UFC. Goff has won seven in a row and Waters sports an 8-1 professional record with his lone loss coming against Gabriel Bonfim on Dana White’s Contender Series. Both of these fighters are on the right side of 30 years old and have the raw talent needed to become a mainstay in the UFC. It will be exciting to see which young man emerges with a victory and how they both progress after this showdown.

Kuhl: Jake Hadley and Charles Johnson should put on a hell of a fight. Both men are super talented fighters who have yet to put on a meaningful run in the Octagon. Johnson is a native of St. Louis, Hadley is fighting in hostile territory, and both men need a win to maintain any sort of relevance in a stacked flyweight division.

Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?

Kuhl: How could this be anyone other than a UFC lightweight, which is one of the most exciting divisions in the sport today? Mateusz Rebecki is going to make short work of Diego Ferreira, and he will walk away with some extra dough.

Petela: I’m going to say that Nursulton Ruziboev gets some extra dough after submitting Joaquin Buckley in the co-main event. All aboard the hype train after this one; Ruziboev is going to be off to the races and add his name to the list of guys with difficult names to pronounce that nobody at welterweight wants to fight.

Pair this card with…

Petela: When you think about St. Louis you probably think of two things, murder and Nelly. However, the Gateway to the West is also where Pixy Stix, Sprees, and SweetTarts were invented. So pair this card with a menagerie of candies as you enjoy some sweet action from start to finish.

Kuhl: St. Louis-style pork spare ribs just happen to be on sale at Kroger stores right now. Throw some on the smoker, give them the 3-2-1 treatment, and enjoy them during a late afternoon of exciting fights.

Fight Kuhl’s Pick Petela’s Pick
Main Card (ESPN+, 7 p.m. ET)
HW: Derrick Lewis vs. Rodrigo Nascimento Nascimento Lewis
WW: Joaquin Buckley vs. Nursulton Ruziboev Ruziboev Ruziboev
LHW: Alonzo Menifield vs. Carlos Ulberg KUlberg Ulberg
LW: Diego Ferreira vs. Mateusz Rebecki Rebecki Rebecki
FW: Alex Cacares vs. Sean Woodson Woodson Cacares
HW: Waldo Cortes-Acosta vs. Robelis Despaigne Despaigne Despaigne
Preliminary Card (ESPN+, 4 p.m. ET)
LW: Chase Hooper vs. Viacheslav Borshchev Borshchev Borshchev
LW: Terrance McKinney vs. Esteban Ribovics McKinney Ribovics
Women’s StrawW: Tabatha Ricci vs. Tecia Torres Ricci Ricci
WW: Trey Waters vs. Billy Goff Waters Waters
FlyW: Jake Hadley vs. Charles Johnson Hadley Hadley
Women’s FlyW: JJ Aldrich vs. Veronica Hardy Hardy Hardy