Chris Daukaus on path to title shot
Don’t look now but there’s a heavyweight contender shooting up the ranks in the UFC, and he’s now preparing for the biggest fight of his career and first against a top-five opponent.
A former Philadelphia police officer and current No. 7-ranked UFC Heavyweight, Chris Daukaus is coming off of a big knockout win over No. 8-ranked Shamil Abdurakhimov at UFC 266. The second-round KO — Daukaus’s 11th in 12 career wins as a professional fighter — earned the 32-year-old a main event matchup at UFC Fight Night Dec. 18 against No. 3-ranked Derrick Lewis, who just fought Ciryl Gane for the interim heavyweight title in August.
Per Dana White (@danawhite) … Chris Daukaus, fresh off his win at UFC 266, will face Derrick Lewis at UFC Fight Night on Dec. 18 later this year. Big one at heavyweight …
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) September 28, 2021
Some may consider it a big jump for Daukaus, who has only been fighting in the UFC for a little over a year. But the 6-foot-3, 231-pounder has been able to use his unique quickness and footwork for the division along with some heavy hands to knock out every opponent Dana White has put in front of him so far. Plus, Daukaus made his way to the UFC by knocking out foes in respectable promotions such as CFFC and Ring of Combat.
In his most recent victory, Daukaus showed off his skillful boxing and impressive cardio to overwhelm an opponent who was ranked ahead of him by early in the second round.
Now, Derrick Lewis is a different animal than Abdurakhimov, or anyone Daukaus has ever faced for that matter. They don’t call Lewis the “Black Beast” for nothing. But Daukaus might have a blueprint for getting by Lewis if he just looks toward the Black Beast’s last fight.
In a third-round TKO loss to Gane, Lewis had a hard time landing one of his deadly blows because of Gane’s slick movement, which Daukaus also possesses a good amount of. Like Gane, Daukaus is incredibly agile for a heavyweight and he knows how to use it to his advantage.
Gane used constant movement to evade Lewis while also tiring him out. In conjunction, Gane peppered Lewis with accurate and effective punches, not necessarily fight-enders. But the pace and punishment allowed Gane to soften Lewis up and even take him down a few times, which ultimately led to a ground-and-pound finish.
Gane and Daukaus both have a propensity for knocking out their opponents, but it’s usually with volume and movement. It’s more like a death by a thousand paper cuts rather than one swift, hammering punch such as how Lewis has earned many of his wins.
Through his four-fight UFC career, Daukaus is averaging 11.78 significant strikes landed per minute while only absorbing 3.22 per minute. That’s a much larger margin than Lewis’s 2.59 significant strikes landed and 2.16 significant strikes absorbed per minute.
And while Lewis has nearly double the number of knockout wins as Dauakuas, the Philly native has a knack for getting his opponents out of there quicker with an average fight time of 2:33 compared to Lewis’s 9:32.
Am I saying we should expect Daukaus to pull off what will likely be considered a major upset on Dec. 18? Not necessarily. But aren’t we used to Dana White nurturing his top prospects along until they’re ready to take the throne — or at least compete well for it? It feels like he’s throwing Daukaus to the wolves sooner than usual, but I don’t think it’s because of a lack of confidence in the budding contender.
Lewis is also still fighting at a very high level and is one of White’s biggest non-title-holding draws. Not to mention, he has the type of knockout power that can end any fight at any moment. And while I trust Daukaus’s chin against most fighters, I’m not sure anyone can take a punch from the Black Beast that connects cleanly.
It’s the landing cleanly part that could be a problem for Lewis. While lighter than most heavyweights, Daukaus uses his slighter frame to move like a light heavyweight or even a middleweight.
Will Lewis learn from his loss to Gane and have a better strategy against a quicker opponent or will Daukaus add another win to his UFC resume — a very impressive win?
If Derek Lewis wins, I’m not sure what that does for his career and what’s next for him. But if Chris Daukaus wins, we could be seeing him fight for the heavyweight title in 2022.
Pat Donohue has been covering sports for more than 10 years. He is a former Washington Redskins beat reporter and has been covering the University of Maryland football and basketball recruiting and daily beats for Rivals.com since 2013. Pat graduated from Maryland with his master’s degree in journalism and has received bylines in publications such as USA TODAY Sports, The Philadelphia Inquirer, SB Nation, and Yahoo! Sports. As a wrestler for 13 years in Pennsylvania, Pat has a deep appreciation for MMA and a keen understanding of the sport.