THe UFC capped off the PPV calendar last weekend with the incredible UFC 269 card, seeing an upset for the ages and wild back and forth matches. Continuing on that success, the final UFC card of the year has arrived, and boy, do we have a banger in store.
UFC Vegas 45 is currently slated for fourteen bouts at time of writing, with five ranked clashes set to go down. In the main event, Heavyweight knockout artists will slug it out when Derrick Lewis takes on the surging Chris Daukaus. In the co-main event, Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson seeks to get back on the winning track opposite Belal Muhammad.
Derrick Lewis vs. Chris Daukaus (HW)
Following his title shot defeat to Daniel Cormier and a subsequent loss to JDS, Derrick Lewis (24-8, 15-6 UFC) scored two decision victories, showing considerable improvements in his grappling and cardio. From there, “The Black Beast” went on to finish Alexey Oleinik in the second round to tie the all-time KO record, then brutally knock out Derrick Lewis to take the record. This set up an August clash with Ciryl Gane for the interim title, though Gane dominated the fight en route to a third round knockout. Lewis is one of the few fighters on the UFC roster who cuts to the 266-pound limit and is shown through his style. He hits incredibly hard and while he is a slower fighter without much of a ground game, he can end the fight with one good shot. Just ask Alexander Volkov, who was dominating their UFC 229 fight until the very last minute of their fight.
After claiming gold in the CFFC, Chris Daukaus (12-3, 4-0 UFC) got the call up to the UFC over last summer. He wasted no time after joining the world’s premier organization, bursting onto the scene like a wrecking ball. Three straight first round knockouts set up a UFC 266 clash opposite Shamil Abdurakhimov, who Daukaus knocked out in the second round to extend his win streak to five. Typically weighing in around 230 pounds with the full knowledge he could make the LHW limit, Daukaus prefers to have the speed and movement advantage against most plodding Heavyweights. Having finished all but one win including eight by knockout, Daukaus is primarily a striker with solid takedown defense, but can be caught in the pocket when he opens up on combinations.
Daukaus has looked like a legit prospect since joining the UFC, but this is a massive step up in competition for the Philadelphia native. Though Lewis is coming off a one-side beating at the hands of Gane, he sparked top contender Curtis Blaydes in just February. He has the one-punch power to change a fight at any moment, and planning to engage in a slugfest with Lewis is not a safe method of action. While Daukaus does bring home the edge in speed and cardio, Lewis has his own advantages in sheer size and power, and most importantly, experience opposite top level competition. I expect Daukaus to bring the fight to Lewis, but get caught by a counter in the early rounds.
My Pick: Derrick Lewis via Knockout
Stephen Thompson vs. Belal Muhammad (WW)
Stephen Thompson (15-5-1, 9-5-1 UFC) rebounded from his first career knockout loss with two decision wins to put his name back in the title picture. Matched up with GIlbert Burns, he came out on the wrong end of a decision, with Burns successfully controlling Thompson on the mat. “Wonderboy” is a karate specialist with a fantastic kickboxing background as well as holding seven knockout wins in his professional MMA career. His skillful kicks and quick footwork allow him to excel at kickboxing range, keeping a distance with low hands so that he can throw strikes from odd angles. Wonderboy has expert takedown defense and is able to keep the fight in his wheelhouse where his supreme technique and unusual style give him an immense edge. Though Thompson is getting up there at 37 years of age, his speed and precision were on full display in his most recent bout last December, putting a technical striking clinic on Geoff Neal.
An eye poke from Leon Edwards turned their bout to a no contest, giving Belal Muhammad (19-3-(1), 10-3-(1) UFC) a less than definitive result In his first main event showcase. Prior to that, he had a four-fight winning streak interrupted by top-notch prospect Geoff Neal, but turned it around with four straight victories, including his first career submission over Japanese powerhouse Takashi Sato. He kicked it back into gear in June, defeating jiu-jitsu ace Demian Maia by decision. “Remember the Name” comes in with a wrestling background, but is rarely in a boring fight because of his pace. Belal is set apart by his cardio and relentless output, pressuring forward with technical striking to secure the takedown. Though he only sports five career stoppages, his wrestling and aggressive pace are incredibly aggravating against elite striker or even ground-savvy opponents.
This is a fun Welterweight clash that will offer Belal Muhammad a chance to surge into the top of the division. Thompson is a seasoned striker with the clear technical advantages. Muhammad does bring in a frenetic pace, though the sharp counters and range management of Wonderboy will make it hard for Muhammad to enter the pocket and elt his hands go. Muhammad has a massive advantage in offensive wrestling, however, I expect the rock solid takedown defense of Wonderboy to keep him rooted. I see Thompson picking apart Muhammad in a vintage performance for a knockout victory.
My Pick: Stephen Thompson via Knockout
Amanda Lemos vs. Angela Hill (SW)
This bout is a shoe-in for a Fight of the Night candidate, as both fighters sling power shots in every exchange. Since coming back from her USADA suspension, Amanda Lemos has been a certifiable wrecking ball, with one-shot power and slick grappling skills. Hill has competed with this best of them, and has time and time again shown off her crisp Muay Thai. However, I think her sub-par defensive grappling will be her downfall here, with Lemos securing a ground and pound TKO or submission finish.
My Pick: Amanda Lemos via Knockout
Raphael Assuncao vs. Ricky Simon (BW)
I keep going back and forth on this pick, and I believe it is much closer than the lines indicate. While Assuncao is certainly older and is on the wrong side of a rough losing streak, his jiu-jitsu remains his bread and butter, and few have been able to repeatedly take him down with success. Simon is a workhorse with constant pressure and takedowns, and some slick submission skills to boot. While his chin is a concern, he marches forward, always willing to sling fire. I expect this fight to be close on the judges’ scorecards, with Assuncao edging the victory through volume striking and his defensive submission threats and reversals.
My Pick: Raphael Assuncao via Decision
Diego Ferreira vs. Mateusz Gamrot (LW)
My Pick: Mateusz Gamrot via Decision
Darren Elkins vs. Cub Swanson (FTW)
My Pick: Cub Swanson via Decision
The prelims for this card start at 7 PM EST, with the main card going down at 10 PM EST, all on ESPN+!
Categories: UFC Predictions