The world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion ends a ludicrous 2021 this Saturday (Dec. 18, 2021) when Derrick Lewis meets Chris Daukaus inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. The ESPN+-streamed card will also see Stephen Thompson square off with fellow Welterweight contender Belal Muhammad and Strawweight knockout artist Amanda Lemos look for a career-best win against Angela Hill.
UFC Vegas 45 features eight “Prelims” undercard bouts to set the stage this time. Let’s slice off a chunk and have a look at the early batch ...
145 lbs.: Charles Jourdain vs. Andre Ewell
An upset of Doo Ho Choi highlighted Charles Jourdain’s (11-4-1) 1-2-1 UFC start, which also featured both a split decision loss and a split draw. He kept the judges out of the equation in his subsequent war with Marcelo Rojo, but succumbed to a comeback d’arce choke from Julian Erosa six months later.
He’s ended all 11 of his wins inside the distance, eight of them via knockout.
Andre Ewell (17-8) claimed victory in four of his first six Octagon appearances, most notably edging out Renan Barao in his debut and doing the same to Jonathan Martinez 1.5 years later. “Highlight” now finds himself in the midst of a two-fight skid, most recently suffering a standing technical knockout loss to Julio Arce.
Despite moving up from Bantamweight, he sports a six-inch reach advantage.
I really did have high hopes for Ewell, but to say he hasn’t panned out is an understatement. Three of his four UFC wins came by split decision, including ones against the completely shot Barao and a man in Irwin Rivera who gave up seven inches of reach. Moving up to Featherweight isn’t going to cure what ails him.
While Jourdain is plenty flawed in his own right, his size and power look like more than Ewell can handle, especially since he’s far more used to fighting 145ers. A perfect Ewell performance could see him eke out a decision with long-range boxing, but we’re almost nine fights into his UFC career and I’ve yet to see a perfect Ewell performance. Jourdain chops him down for a late finish.
Prediction: Jourdain via third-round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Raquel Pennington vs. Macy Chiasson
An unsuccessful title shot against Amanda Nunes kicked off a 1-3 skid for Raquel Pennington (12-8), capped off by a unanimous decision loss to Holly Holm at UFC 246. She got back on track with a decision over Marion Reneau five months later, then ended a 15-month layoff by snapping Pannie Kianzad’s four-fight winning streak in Sept. 2021.
She stands four inches shorter than Macy Chiasson (7-1), who will also enjoy a 4.5-inch reach advantage.
Chiasson followed her dominant run on the Contender Series with three straight finishes in the Octagon, though a surprisingly strong effort from Lina Lansberg soon knocked her from the ranks of the unbeaten. She’s since assembled a fresh two-fight winning streak, though she’s needed to go the distance to do so.
She steps in for the injured Julia Avila on just under two weeks’ notice.
This might be wishful thinking on my part due to Pennington’s unappealing style and reality-defying assertions that her opponents are the ones who turn her fights into clinch slogs, but I do think Chiasson has a real shot here. She showed some really solid clinchwork last time out against Marion Reneau, constantly making room for strikes while avoiding getting flattened against the fence. Between her punching power, her knees, and her elbows, she’s also a fair bit more destructive than Pennington on the inside.
Chiasson’s height and reach almost certainly give her the edge at range, while her aforementioned size, strength, and technical ability should let her keep up in Pennington’s wheelhouse. Eye-catching shots carry her to a narrow decision win.
Prediction: Chiasson via unanimous decision
265 lbs.: Don’Tale Mayes vs. Josh Parisian
The third time proved the charm for Don’Tale Mayes (8-4) on “Contender Series,” where he knocked out Ricardo Prasel to finally secure a contract in July 2019. Stoppage losses to Ciryl Gane and Rodrigo Nascimento followed, though he managed to turn aside a late surge and score a decision over Roque Martinez in his most recent effort.
He’ll have two inches of height and reach on Josh Parisian (14-4).
Two years after a spinning backfist knockout on the Contender Series sent him to The Ultimate fighter, Parisian pounded out Chad Johnson to earn a proper UFC contract. His Octagon run has seen him drop a decision to Parker Porter and subsequently escape with a split decision against Roque Martinez.
He has scored 10 pro knockouts and two submissions.
Mayes still has a long way to go towards maximizing the benefits of his massive frame and raw power, but he should be too much for Parisian. He’s certainly the better of the two at managing distance, as seen when the squat Martinez simply walked into the pocket against a fresh Parisian, and though he’s less fanciful with his kicks, he has the speed and power to keep up with Parisian at the latter’s preferred range.
Not that he really has to, since as established, Parisian will back himself into the fence and let you tee off with the slightest pressure.
Neither of the two is a particularly adept takedown artist, so their lacking ground games shouldn’t play a factor. With free rein to strike to their hearts’ content, Mayes’ physical advantages and relative lack of glaring defensive flaws figure to win the day.
Prediction: Mayes via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Jordan Leavitt vs. Matt Sayles
Jordan Leavitt (8-1) tapped Luke Flores to graduate from the Contender Series, then needed just 22 seconds to turn Matt Wiman’s lights out with a vicious slam in his UFC debut. “The Monkey King” didn’t do quite as well against Claudio Puelles, who dominated the latter two rounds to hand Leavitt his first-ever defeat.
His professional finishes are split 5/1 between submissions and knockouts.
Matt Sayles (8-3) — owner of five previous knockouts — flashed his power once again by smashing Yazan Hajeh in a contract-winning “Contender Series” bout. He has since gone 1-2 in the Octagon, a submission win over Kyle Nelson sandwiched between losses to Sheymon Moraes and Bryce Mitchell.
This marks “Robo’s” first fight in two years and just the second Lightweight bout of his pro career.
While I do think Sayles is better than his 1-2 Octagon record would suggest, this is a hell of a rough return to action. His defensive grappling has long been a weakness, and for all the red flags Leavitt showed against Puelles, he’s certainly got the wrestling and submission skills to ruin Sayles’ day. There’s also the size to consider, as Sayles has fought almost exclusively at Featherweight since his 2014 pro debut.
Sayles is still plenty talented and young enough to have made some big strides during his time away, but I can’t back him against a larger, stronger grappler, even one who fell apart after the first round last time. Leavitt drags him down for a quick submission finish.
Prediction: Leavitt via first-round submission
Four more UFC Vegas 45 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including a Heavyweight slugfest and the return of Raoni Barcelos. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 45 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 45: “Lewis vs. Daukaus” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.