Derrick Lewis vs. Rodrigo Nascimento prediction, pick: Will ‘The Black Beast’ add to his knockout record?

MMA Junkie analyst Dan Tom goes in depth to break down the biggest fights in the UFC. Today, he takes a closer look at the UFC on ESPN 56 main event between former heavyweight title challenger Derrick Lewis and rising contender Rodrigo Nascimento.

Derrick Lewis UFC on ESPN 56 preview

Jul 29, 2023; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Derrick Lewis (red gloves) reacts to defeating Marcos Rogerio De Lima (blue gloves) during UFC 291 at Delta Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’3″ Age: 39 Weight: 265 lbs. Reach: 79″

  • Last fight: Decision loss to Jailton Almeida (Nov. 4, 2023)

  • Camp: Main Street Boxing & Muay Thai (Texas)

  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing

  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ Legacy FC heavyweight title
+ Regional MMA accolades
+ 22 KO victories
+ 1 submission win
+ 9 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Dangerous overhands and uppercuts
+ Underrated kicks and knees
+ Strong inside the clinch
^ Strikes well off the breaks
+ Shows improved wrestling
+ Deceptive scrambling/getup ability
+ Devastating ground striker

Rodrigo Nascimento UFC on ESPN 56 preview

Rodrigo Nascimento

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’2″ Age: 31 Weight: 264 lbs. Reach: 80″

  • Last fight: Decision win over Don’Tale Mayes (Nov. 4, 2023)

  • Camp: American Top Team (Florida)

  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing

  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt
+ Grappling tournament experience
+ 2 KO victories
+ 6 submission wins
+ 6 first-round finishes
+ Shows improved overall striking
^ Variates looks and levels
+ Accurate jabs and uppercuts
+ Deceptively quick kicks
+ Serviceable wrestling ability
^ Defensively and offensively
+ Solid transitional grappler
+ Diverse submission acumen

Derrick Lewis vs. Rodrigo Nascimento point of interest: Heavyweight hands

Feb 12, 2022; Houston, Texas, UNITED STATES; Derrick Lewis (red gloves) fights Tai Tuivasa (blue gloves) during UFC 271 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The main event in St. Louis features a heavyweight showdown between Lewis and Nascimento.

Stepping onto the scene as an unabashed brawler, Lewis has shown some signs of improvement underneath the scary destructions that often take place in his fights. An athletic mover for his size, Lewis can throw accurate knees and head kicks with little signs of struggle.


A downright scary distance closer when he chooses to be, Lewis can force his opponents into the fence whether or not he lands on them, almost in a juggernaut-like fashion. With a frame that is hard to control in close, the 39-year-old slugger does his best work when striking off the breaks, maintaining a dangerous potency in small spaces that go deep into the fight.

Lewis also has an appetite for the counter, showing that he’s not beyond setting traps and playing possum in order to draw his opponents into his uncanny power. That said, Lewis will still need to respect what is coming his way this Saturday.

Enter Nascimento.

A natural heavyweight by many metrics, Nascimento moves deceptively well for a man of his size.

Working diligently on his boxing since signing with the UFC, Nascimento does a decent job with his fundamental striking form. Whether Nascimento is utilizing economical punching mechanics or keeping his weight over his feet, the 31-year-old Brazilian will work his way into space off his lead hand, all while keeping his patent right uppercut at the ready.

When feeling in stride, Nascimento will punctuate his combinations with kicks, showing a sneaky switch-kick off his lead side.

Nevertheless, Nascimento will need to be careful about crowding his work into the clinch – an area where Lewis can stage comebacks.

Derrick Lewis vs. Rodrigo Nascimento breakdown: Potential grappling threats

Jul 29, 2023; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Derrick Lewis (red gloves) fights Marcos Rogerio De Lima (blue gloves) during UFC 291 at Delta Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Considering the high potential for chaos on the feet, no one should be shocked if this party hits the floor.

Despite Lewis showing a surprising ability to hit inside trips in recent fights, I suspect that Nascimento will be the more eager man in the takedown department given his on-paper edge.

A Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt who has experience in grappling competitions, Nascimento has shown a serviceable wrestling ability since working stateside with American Top Team in South Florida.

Whether Nascimento is working from the clinch or looking to change his level for a double-leg along the cage, the 12-year pro displays some sneaky savvy when looking to shift his intensity level and look for a takedown. That said, taking down someone like Lewis is easier said than done.

Traditionally dealing with fighters who are trying to grapple him, Lewis wields deceptively effective counter-grappling tactics. Whether he’s hoisting his opponent up with a whizzer or shucking someone off with an underhook, Lewis has been hard to take down along the fence, as single legs or outside trips in open space seem to be what gets him grounded most.

Even when successfully taken down, Lewis still offers a lot of sneaky static in regard to stymying submission attempts and strikes.

Like a sand shark lying in wait, Lewis plays a conservative game when put on his back, keeping his arms in tight for safety while waiting for the right moment to explode (usually timing his opposition when they’re in transition). Once allowed the smallest of space for momentum, Lewis will force his way to his base, turtling to a tripod position to stand.

As someone who is a fan of this style of get-up, I can tell you that it can be a nightmare to encounter when executed properly. For example, Lewis – while keeping his base firmly beneath him – will maintain an angle on his back that resembles a steep ski slope.

Although this tripod position invites back-takes to the naked eye, the downward slope Lewis keeps serves as a trap, making eager back takers ultimately slide forward and lose position (all while allowing the Texas native to stand back up). And if Lewis is able to end up on top via swimming for underhooks and shucking, then we could see a drastic shift in this matchup’s momentum given the hellfire of ground-and-pound he provides.

Derrick Lewis vs. Rodrigo Nascimento odds

The oddsmakers and the public are favoring the American, listing Lewis -172 and Nascimento +138 via FanDuel. Lewis has been an underdog in his last four fights, from near-even money all the way up to +370 in his last bout against Almeida. Meanwhile, Nascimento has been a favorite in each of his six UFC bouts thus far, except one – a fight he won against Tanner Boser in 2022.

Derrick Lewis vs. Rodrigo Nascimento prediction, pick

Outside of a literal select few (Daniel Cormier, Serghei Spivac and Jailton Almeida), fighters who try to grapple Lewis generally end up with their consciousness stripped from their body. And when it comes to fighters who have successfully stood with Lewis, undeniable knockout power and athleticism appear to be crucial parts of the equation that I’m not sure Nascimento has.

Whether we’re talking one-shot stopping power or explosive finishes to takedown shots, Nascimento does not appear to be a standout in those key categories despite generally having the right idea in fights.

Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of ways for a heavyweight fight to get to the ground, and Nascimento demonstrated in his first fight with Don’Tale Mayes that he is one of the handful of big men who can competently take a back in transition.

But if the Brazilian fails and ends up on the bottom, then I believe that this fight will turn in the blink of an eye given the susceptibility to ground strikes that Nascimento has shown in the past.

Although Nascimento’s propensity to eat left-sided strikes won’t be as prominent against a right-hand happy fighter like Lewis, I see punches off the break sparking off a finish for the Texan that’s likely finalized on the floor.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see either a feeling-out period or grapple-fest from Nascimento early, so I’ll officially pick Lewis to score a second-round knockout.

Prediction: Lewis inside the distance

Derrick Lewis vs. Rodrigo Nascimento start time, where to watch

Lewis and Nascimento are expected to make their walks to the octagon at approximately 10:15 p.m. ET (7:15 p.m. PT). The fight broadcasts live on ESPN and streams on ESPN+.

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC on ESPN 56.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie