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X-Factor! Some UFC Vegas 45 main card predictions

UFC 258: Simon v Kelleher Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

This weekend (Sat., Dec. 18, 2021), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will return to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 45. After last week’s excellent pay-per-view (PPV), the promotion will return to the convenience of its own facility for one final “Fight Night” event. It’s perhaps not the greatest event of all time, but what fan would miss a Derrick Lewis-led main event?

Before the big men throw down, let’s take a closer look at these main card donnybrooks:

LIVE! Stream UFC Orlando On ESPN+

EXCITING WELTERWEIGHT TILT! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., for the first time in more than four years with an intriguing Welterweight scrap that will see No. 7-ranked contender, Stephen Thompson, battle Kevin Holland. In UFC Orlando’s co-main event, Heavyweight knockout artists collide when No. 4-seeded contender, Tai Tuivasa, locks horns with No. 5-ranked Sergei Pavlovich.

Don’t miss a single second of face-punching action!

Women’s Strawweight: Amanda Lemos vs. Angela Hill

Best Win for Lemos? Mizuki Inoue For Hill? Loma Lookboonmee
Current Streak: Lemos has won four straight, whereas Hill came up short last time out
X-Factor: Hill has much more experience vs. high-level opponents
How these two match up: One of the division’s hottest up-and-comers squares off against its most active veteran.

Lemos is on fire. Since dropping to 115 pounds, she’s won four straight fights, stopping three of her opponents in the process. Really, what separates Lemos from her peers is pure athleticism and physicality; the Brazilian cracks with a different level of intensity.

After breaking into the title mix with a string of strong performances, Hill has now come up short in three of her last four trips to the Octagon. Despite the recent struggles, Hill has still looked quite sharp on the feet with her movement and Muay Thai, and her grappling has come a long way.

Skill-for-skill, Hill is likely the better fighter. She’s a bit more varied in her offense and subtle with her movement. What’s not subtle is Lemos’ power advantage, which really jumps off the page and will surely influence the judges ... if the bout lasts that long. In order to outpoint Lemos, Hill will have to double up on her opponent’s strikes, and that level of volume might get Hill hurt in the process.

In general, Hill is a fighter who thrives because of her own athletic gifts, but that’s a problem vs. a more athletic opponent.

Prediction: Lemos via decision

Bantamweight: Ricky Simon vs. Raphael Assuncao

Best Win for Simon? Merab Dvalishvili For Assuncao? Rob Font
Current Streak: Simon has won three straight, while Assuncao has lost three in a row
X-Factor: Assuncao is nearly 40 years of age
How these two match up: These two are opposites in terms of styles and recent results, but it should be a great fight nevertheless.

Simon is not a complicated fighter to understand, but he plays his role well. A relentless wrestler with a mullet, Simon is as tough as advertised, has a deep gas tank, and can put together ripping combinations too. He’s an athlete that tends to thrive in the second half of fights, when his pace and grit have worn opponent’s down.

Conversely, Assuncao is one of the most veteran fighters on the roster. A professional since 2004, Assuncao earns his paycheck via craftiness. His kickboxing timing is off-beat, as he lands counter rights that really surprise opponents, and he’s an excellent wrestler and grappler to boot.

Were this match up to take place even 18 months ago, I would have confidently sided with the Brazilian. He’s the far sharper striker, and trying to wrestle with Assuncao has historically been a fool’s errand. Over the years, Assuncao has kicked the ass of many up-and-coming wrestlers in the Simon mold.

Unfortunately, this is Bantamweight, where it’s damn hard to survive at 39 years of age. Assuncao may be better early on, but Simon is tough enough to avoid getting finished, and he’s not going to take his foot off the gas at any point.

Prediction: Simon via decision

Lightweight: Mateusz Gamrot vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira

Best Win for Gamrot? Jeremy Stephens For Ferreira? Anthony Pettis
Current Streak: Gamrot has won two in a row, while Ferreira has lost his last two. I’m sensing a pattern!
X-Factor: It’s a big step up in competition for Gamrot
How these two match up: Lightweight excellence on display.

Gamrot entered UFC with a lot of hype, and though he stumbled in his debut, the Polish “Gamer” has rebounded in style. He’s one hell of a technician: an ultra slick wrestler, decorated jiu-jitsu black belt, and genuine knockout threat.

Still, he’s never fought anyone quite like Ferreira. The third-degree jiu-jitsu black is well-rounded himself, but he has the added benefit of many years of competition against elite Lightweights. Ferreira may not have broken into the title mix, but he came pretty damn close before coming up short vs. Beneil Dariush earlier this year.

This is a gigantic task for Gamrot. He’s not going to grab an early finish; this will be hard-fought every step of the way. Hell, several of Ferreira’s best wins — i.e. Rustam Khabilov — came when the Brazilian turned his opponent’s takedown attempts against them and also beat them up in the process.

That could happen here. If Gamrot takes a bad shot or is lazy in a scramble, he’ll be punished. At the same time, Ferreira has been out-hustled by top-tier grapplers in his last two bouts. The outcome of this bout will essentially prove whether or not Gamrot belongs to that elite class, and thus is a genuine contender for Lightweight gold.

One way or another, we’ll find out.

Prediction: Gamrot via decision

Featherweight: Cub Swanson vs. Darren Elkins

Best Win for Swanson? Dustin Poirier For Elkins? Mirsad Bektic
Current Streak: Swanson lost his last bout, whereas Elkins has won two straight
X-Factor: Both fighters have been through a lot of wars
How these two match up: This should be a really fun fight!

Swanson is now 38 years of age and recently returning from a complete ACL tear, but “Killer Cub” doesn’t seem to have slowed his roll just yet! Swanson has only really lost to top contenders in recent years, and he’s picked up some solid wins also. Even this deep in the game, Swanson is a powerful and tricky striker.

Meanwhile, “The Damage” is a legendary grinder. Elkins has no concern for his opponent’s offense, as he’ll take their best shots to keep his wrestling game going. When it comes to a battle of wills, Elkins has never been outmatched.

This is a pretty clear striker vs. grappler match up. With both men in their late 30s, a wrestling slog seems more likely than a continually crisp technical battle. In general, Elkins does an excellent job of forcing opponents into his style of grueling grappling match, even if it’s in their best interest to do something else.

He’ll likely take some shots in the process, but once Elkins gains top position, he’ll stay there.

Prediction: Elkins via decision

‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2021: 35-23-2 (1)

Remember that 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.

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