The referee who had been Derrick Lewis’ nemesis was nowhere to be found. Lewis was fighting in Las Vegas, not in his hometown of Houston, where he experienced so much pressure trying to put on a show for the home folks.
And still, it was not enough for the UFC’s all-time knockout leader, who lost yet again, this time at Apex in the main event of UFC 68.
Sergey Spivac mauled Lewis and eventually forced him to tap to an arm triangle at 3:05 of the first round. Lewis entered the bout having lost two in a row and three of his last four, but complained that he was the victim of early stoppages by referee Dan Miragliotta.
Lewis, though, had no answer for Spivac, a combat sambo fighter from the Republic of Moldova. Spivac took Lewis down with a hip toss early, and then never gave up the body lock. Lewis would work to his feet and Spivac would fling him back to the canvas.
It was a brilliant plan and led to the biggest win of his career.
THE BIGGEST WIN OF SPIVAC’S CAREER!!
The Polar Bear submits Derrick Lewis in round 1 to close the show at #UFCVegas68 🐻❄️ pic.twitter.com/D1NMlWUFKC
— UFC (@ufc) February 5, 2023
“He fought two times for the title and I love him,” Spivac said of Lewis. “But today is my time. ‘Polar Bear’ is here.”
Pressed to call out an opponent for his next fight, Spivac laughed and said he wants Jon Jones. The legendary Jones is a former UFC light heavyweight champion who meets Ciryl Gane in March for the vacant heavyweight belt.
Spivac knows he’s not going to get either Jones or Gane next, but he’s on the move upward.
Lewis, though, faces a murky future. He’s 37, and he entered the fight having been knocked out three times in his previous four fights by Gane, Tai Tuivasa and Sergei Pavlovich.
He didn’t get knocked out this time, but he had little to offer Spivac and faces a tumble down the rankings and likely out of the Top 10.
At 37 and trying to fight off the worst streak of his career, he has a lot to ponder as he moves forward.
UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs. Spivak odds, predictions: Top MMA expert reveals surprising fight card picks
Kyle Marley reveals his UFC Fight Night picks and best bets for Sergey Spivak vs. Derrick Lewis in Las Vegas
Derrick Lewis and Sergey Spivak were originally scheduled to meet three months ago, but the fight was called off at last minute due to unforeseen circumstances. The ranked heavyweight contenders will finally meet Saturday in the main event of UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs. Spivak in Las Vegas. Their matchup anchors the main UFC Fight Night card (1 a.m. ET) from the promotion’s Apex facility. The No. 7-ranked Lewis and No. 12-ranked Spivak were originally set to headline a UFC Fight Night card in November, but Lewis fell ill just hours before the opening bell and the bout had to be scrapped. Now, the combatants will clash with the winner making headway in the crowded division, while the loser will face a long road back into the title-picture conversation.
Caesars Sportsbook lists Spivak as a -235 favorite (risk $235 to win $100), while Lewis comes back at +195 in the latest Caesars UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs. Spivak odds. In the co-main event, light heavyweight veterans go to battle when Da Un Jung (-235) faces Devin Clark (+195). Before locking in any UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs. Spivak picks, make sure you check out the MMA predictions and betting advice from SportsLine expert Kyle Marley.
Marley won the first-ever “ToutMaster” UFC betting contest sponsored by MMAOddsBreaker and appears regularly on multiple MMA betting and daily Fantasy shows. He watches every single fight for every professional MMA card and does extensive research before each event.
Over the past four years, $100 bettors who have followed Marley’s picks are up nearly $12,000. Last year, the accomplished MMA analyst launched the UFC season by telling SportsLine members to support Calvin Kattar (+200) against Giga Chikadze (-240) in the featherweight main event. Kattar’s lopsided unanimous-decision victory gave Marley’s followers another easy winner. Anyone who has followed him has seen massive returns.
Now, with UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs. Spivak looming, Marley has studied the card from top to bottom and revealed his top picks and predictions. Marley’s UFC Fight Night picks are only available at SportsLine.
UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs. Spivak preview
The heavyweight division is now in a transitional phase following the departure of former champion Francis Ngannou, who left the promotion and the title vacant after he was unable to come to terms with the UFC on a new contract. Top-ranked Ciryl Gane will face former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, who hasn’t fought in more than three years, for the heavyweight belt at UFC 285 in March.
The sizable group of viable contenders below them will be vying for position on the rankings, in hopes of landing the next title shot or perhaps a title eliminator. Either Lewis or Spivak can enter the title-shot conversation with an impressive performance Saturday.
Lewis (26-10-1) is a nine-year UFC veteran who has faced off against some of the division’s biggest names, but he has twice come up short in title fights against Gane and former champion Daniel Cormier. His resume includes a knockout win over No. 4-ranked Curtis Blaydes and a decision victory over Ngannou.
His explosive power makes Lewis a threat in any matchup, but recent results have many MMA observers wondering whether the 37-year-old’s best days are behind him. Each of his past three losses have come by stoppage to younger contenders inside of three rounds. Lewis can halt that narrative should he get past the versatile Spivak (15-3), who is 6-3 in nine UFC appearances but has faced mostly modest competition to this point.
The highlight of the Russian fighter’s resume is a second-round submission against No. 5-ranked Tai Tuivasa, who knocked out Lewis at UFC 271 in February of last year. But Spivak also has suffered losses to the likes of veteran Marcin Tybura and fellow prospect Tom Aspinall. You can only see who to pick at UFC Fight Night at SportsLine.
UFC Fight Night predictions
We’ll share one of Marley’s UFC Fight Night selections here: He is backing Marcin Tybura (-140) to get his hand raised against Blagoy Ivanov (+120) in a matchup of veteran heavyweight sluggers on the main card.
The No. 10-ranked Tybura is a seven-year UFC veteran and one of the division’s most versatile combatants, with nine knockouts and six submissions on his record. The 37-year-old Polish fighter has enjoyed a late-career surge that has seen him crack the rankings for the first time. He has won six of his past seven and is coming off a win over prospect Alexander Romanov last August.
Ivanov (19-4-1) similarly has a diverse skill set, as evidenced by the six knockouts and six submissions on his record. The Bulgarian fighter is a former World Series of Fighting champion but has struggled to gain consistent traction in the UFC, posting a 3-3 mark in six appearances.
“I give Tybura the slight edge in striking because he is lighter on his feet. He is also the bigger and faster fighter. Either fighter could get takedowns and win rounds with ground control. But I will side with the veteran Tybura,” Marley told SportsLine. See who else to back here.
How to make UFC Fight Night picks
Marley has strong picks for Lewis vs. Spivak and every other bout on the UFC Fight Night card. He’s also backing a fighter who “is the better striker with higher volume” to emerge with a big victory. Marley’s picks and MMA analysis are only available at SportsLine.
Bellator 290 results, highlights: Johnny Eblen batters Anatoly Tokov for decision to retain title
Through the completion of two close rounds on Saturday, it appeared as if the Bellator MMA middleweight title was up for grabs. That’s when the gas tank and ragdoll wrestling of defending champion Johnny Eblen began to take over.
Eblen (13-0), in the first defense of his 185-pound title, simply outworked Anatoly Tokov to the point of near exhaustion over the championship rounds to take home a dominant unanimous decision in the co-main event of Bellator 290 from the Kia Forum in Inglewood, California. Eblen took home judges’ scores of 50-45 and 49-46 (twice). CBS Sports also scored it for 50-45 for Eblen.
Fighting out of American Top Team in south Florida, the 31-year-old Eblen never let a right eye that was nearly swollen shut from counter jabs by Tokov get to him. He mixed calf kicks with well-timed takedown attempts to eventually break the will of Tokov beginning late in Round 3.
The final rounds featured nothing but straight domination from Eblen against a fatigued Tokov as he routinely ragdolled his opponent by taking him down time and again without releasing his grip. Eblen later put a stamp on the victory by connecting with a belly-to-back suplex in the final round.
“As the fight goes on, I get better,” Edwards said. “I just keep getting f—ing better. I’m the king of cardio.”
Tokov (31-3) saw his seven-fight win streak under the Bellator banner come to a close. The Team Fedor product out of Russia was competitive in the opening rounds by stuffing takedowns and landing the more technical counter punches. But once Eblen rallied to drop him late in Round 2 with a right hand, Tokov was never able to recover from the loss of momentum.
Eblen, a native of Iowa who was a collegiate wrestling star at the University of Missouri, extended his win streak under the Bellator banner to nine, which is the longest active streak in the promotion. Just eight months removed from dominating Gegard Mousasi to claim the middleweight title, Eblen already had a scenario in mind for his next title defense.
“It looks like Mousasi and [Fabian] Edwards are getting after it in May,” Eblen said. “I’ll take the winner of that.”
CONOR MCGREGOR AND MICHAEL CHANDLER TO COACH THE ULTIMATE FIGHTER SEASON 31
Two mixed martial arts superstars battle it out on The Ultimate Fighter this year, as “The Notorious” Conor McGregor coaches a team of UFC hopefuls for the second time when he is pitted against top lightweight contender Michael Chandler in what should be one of the most explosive seasons of the long-running reality show.
The Ultimate Fighter: Team McGregor vs Team Chandler, premieres on ESPN and ESPN+ on May 30. The two coaches will then square off in the Octagon on a date to be announced.
Fighting out of Dublin, Ireland, McGregor made his name in the Octagon by becoming the first person to hold two UFC divisional titles simultaneously, a feat he accomplished by defeating Jose Aldo for featherweight gold and Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight belt. In the process, “The Notorious” one became an international superstar, with memorable rivalries with Nate Diaz, Dustin Poirier, and Khabib Nurmagomedov making him a must-see for fight fans. In 2015, McGregor traveled to Las Vegas to coach a team of UFC prospects against Urijah Faber, and this year, he’s back to do it again.
One of the most exciting fighters to ever grace the Octagon, “Iron” Michael Chandler has always left the fans on their feet and cheering on fight night, with his memorable outings against Justin Gaethje, Tony Ferguson and Dustin Poirier among the best bouts ever seen in the lightweight division. In 2021, Chandler debuted in the UFC with a first-round knockout of Dan Hooker, kicking off his quest for 155-pound gold. But before that journey resumes this year, he will coach the next generation of UFC stars on The Ultimate Fighter.
Conor McGregor to face Michael Chandler, serve as TUF coach
Conor McGregor’s return has been set, as the former UFC double champion will coach against lightweight star Michael Chandler on the next season of “The Ultimate Fighter” before facing him in the Octagon.
UFC president Dana White announced McGregor and Chandler as the coaches on social media Saturday. No date or location was announced for the McGregor-Chandler fight, which will likely take place at 170 pounds.
Chandler told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto on Saturday the high-stakes bout should take place in September.
“That would make the most sense to me,” said Chandler. “Obviously, Conor is driven by pay-per-view buys. You want to keep that tension [from the reality show] as close to the fight as possible. You start pushing it to the end of the year, other big fights are happening … September would be absolutely perfect.”
The 31st season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” which will air on ESPN and ESPN+, will run from May 30 to Aug. 15.
McGregor, who coached on the reality series in 2015 against Urijah Faber, has not competed since breaking his left leg in a fight with Dustin Poirier in July 2021. Chandler has been calling for a fight with McGregor for more than a year.
McGregor is not currently in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s drug testing pool, the agency said in a statement Saturday. Before he can fight, USADA said McGregor would need to be in the testing pool for at least six months and have two negative tests.
A former UFC lightweight and featherweight champion, McGregor (22-6) was the first fighter to hold two separate weight division titles in UFC concurrently. The Irish-born fighter holds the fastest finish in UFC title fight history, a 13-second knockout of Jose Aldo for the featherweight belt in 2015, but the 34-year-old has dropped two straight and three of his past four.
Chandler (23-8) is a former three-time Bellator lightweight champion. The Missouri native came to UFC as a free agent in 2021 and has already faced some of the best fighters in the promotion’s 155-pound division. The 36-year old is coming off a loss to Poirier at UFC 281 in November and has lost three of his last four bouts with a Knockout of the Year victory in May against Tony Ferguson mixed in.
Chandler vows to take the fight to McGregor, going as far to predict a stoppage in the highly-anticipated clash.
“I’m going to get in his face right away, make him take a backwards step right away,” Chandler told ESPN. “He’s going to feel my presence from the very beginning, and from there it’s wherever the fight takes us. If I want to pick him up and put him down, I’ll pick him up and put him down and put a beating on him and get a sub that way. I believe I get a finish of Conor McGregor in the second round, that’s my ‘Mystic Mike’ prediction.”
Marlon Vera-Cory Sandhagen UFC main event bout moving to March 25
The UFC has shifted a highly anticipated bantamweight main event between Marlon Vera and Cory Sandhagen from Feb. 18 to March 25, officials announced Friday.
The bout was originally scheduled to headline UFC Fight Night later this month at the Apex in Las Vegas, but will now serve as the main event a UFC Fight Night on March 25 at AT&T Center in San Antonio.
A women’s flyweight bout between Taila Santos (19-2) and Erin Blanchfield (10-1) will now headline the UFC Fight Night on Feb. 18, the UFC said. Santos and Blanchfield are ranked the Nos. 2 and 10 flyweights in the UFC, respectively. Santos is coming off a failed title bid against Valentina Shevchenko in June in which she nearly pulled off a massive upset. She ultimately fell short via split decision.
Vera and Sandhagen are the Nos. 4 and 5 ranked bantamweights in the UFC, respectively. Vera (22-7-1) is coming off a terrific 2022 in which he defeated Rob Font and Dominick Cruz in main event appearances. Sandhagen (15-4) is coming off a TKO victory over Yadong Song in September, which snapped a two-fight skid to TJ Dillashaw and Petr Yan.
Current UFC champion Aljamain Sterling does not have an official date for his next title defense, although he recently said he expects to face formerly retired Henry Cejudo in May.
Brendan Loughnane-Marlon Moraes to kick off 2023 PFL season
The PFL’s 2023 regular season will officially kick off in April, with a three-week series of events at Virgin Hotel in Las Vegas.
The season encompasses six weight classes: heavyweight, light heavyweight, welterweight, lightweight, featherweight and women’s featherweight. The first round of season matchups will take place across three events scheduled on April 1, 7 and 14.
All three main and co-main slots feature the PFL’s returning 2022 champion.
A featherweight bout between Brendan Loughnane (26-4) and former UFC title challenger Marlon Moraes (23-11-1) will headline the first event. In the co-main event, Rob Wilkinson (17-2) will meet another former UFC title challenger in Thiago Santos (22-11).
On April 7, heavyweight Ante Delija (23-5) will meet Yorgan De Castro (9-3). Larissa Pacheco (19-4), who upset two-time women’s lightweight champion Kayla Harrison in the 2022 finals, will take on former Bellator MMA champion Julia Budd (16-5) in the new women’s featherweight division.
Capping off the first round on April 14, lightweight Olivier Aubin-Mercier (17-5) will take on free agent acquisition Shane Burgos (15-3). Welterweight Sadibou Sy (13-6-2) will face Jarrah Al-Silawi (18-4).
The PFL is the only major MMA promotion to follow a regular-season format, which includes single-elimination playoffs and finals. Additionally, the PFL hosts its Challengers Series for up-and-coming prospects and a recently announced pay-per-view division, which includes professional boxer Jake Paul.