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UFC Vegas 45 preview, ‘Lewis vs Daukaus’ predictions

UFC Fight Night Las Vegas: Hendricks vs Thompson Photo by Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Longtime UFC title contender and hot balls houser Derrick Lewis will battle red-hot up-and-coming heavyweight bruiser Chris Daukaus for the right to stay alive in the 265-pound title chase, courtesy of the UFC Vegas 45 main event this Sat. night (Dec. 18, 2021) inside the promotion’s APEX facility in Las Vegas, Nevada. And like every UFC fight card — both good and bad — we’re here to help decide who wins and who loses tomorrow night in “Sin City.”

UFC 220: Kattar v Burgos

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 46 On ESPN+

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) kicks off the New Year with a thrilling Featherweight contenders’ bout that will see No. 5-ranked Calvin Kattar take on No. 8-seeded Giga Chikadze inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Jan. 15, 2022. UFC Vegas 46’s reworked co-main event will feature a Heavyweight slobberknocker between Octagon veterans Jake Collier and Chase Sherman.

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

Before we dive into the main and co-main events, which includes the welterweight showdown between Stephen Thompson and Belal Muhammad, check out Patrick Stumberg’s sagacious UFC Vegas 45 preliminary card breakdowns here and here, which have a current street value of 1,500 mBTC.

While we’re on the topic of expensive commodities, resident MMA hero Andrew Richardson did most of the heavy lifting for the rest of the UFC Vegas 45 main card right here. For the latest “Lewis vs. Daukaus” odds and betting lines — where “The Black Beast” looks to rebound from his crushing loss to Ciryl Gane — go here.

Let’s break it down ...

265 lbs.: Derrick Lewis vs. Chris Daukaus

Derrick “Black Beast” Lewis

Record: 25-8, 1 NC | Age: 36 | Betting line: +115
Wins: 20 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 4 DEC | Losses: 5 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 6’3“ | Reach: 79” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 2.49 | Striking accuracy: 50%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.48 | Striking Defense: 41%
Takedown Average: 0.49 (25% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 55%
Current Ranking: No. 3 | Last fight: Technical knockout loss to Ciryl Gane

Chris Daukaus

Record: 12-3 | Age: 32 | Betting line: -135
Wins: 11 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 1 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 6’3“ | Reach: 76” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 9.03 | Striking accuracy: 53%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.40 | Striking Defense: 64%
Takedown Average: 0.00 (0% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 100%
Current Ranking: No. 7 | Last fight: Technical knockout win over Shamil Abdurakhimov

Heavyweight fan favorite Derrick Lewis returns to the cage this weekend in “Sin City” and this might be the quietest fight week we’ve ever had featuring a “Black Beast” main event. I would assume Lewis is keeping a low profile because he was completely dismantled in a lopsided loss to Ciryl Gane at UFC 265 last August. You can’t really say he was “exposed” because I think we all understood at this stage of the game that Lewis was a heavy-handed power puncher ... and not much else. That said, it sure was fun to see how far he could go with his one-liners and Hail Marys. Whether or not Lewis remains a gatekeeper or becomes yesterday’s news all depends on tomorrow night’s performance. It’s hard to feel optimistic when you consider the Texan turns 37 in February and sports a well-documented history of back problems. We also don’t know what kind of mental toll the “Bon Gamin” loss took on “The Black Beast” — if any — though I can say that a motivated Lewis with something to prove is one of the most dangerous heavyweights on the roster.

I would imagine that’s the version of Lewis that Chris Daukaus and his team have been training for, because you don’t get to 20 career knockouts by accident. Unlike his younger brother Kyle, who’s been inconsistent in his short stint with UFC, the elder Daukaus is the winner of five straight — four under the UFC banner — with all five bouts ending by way of knockout. I don’t want to get too excited for finishes over the likes of Alexey Oleynik and Shamil Abdurakhimov, who are both in their forties, At the same time, those are the types of opponents you have to get through when working your way up the 265-pound ladder and to date, Daukaus has been aces. I think the most impressive part of his current streak is that he did it with zero wrestling, which is great news for Lewis — and UFC fans. Daukaus is most comfortable on his feet and so is his opponent, so we can expect a bomb-dropping performance that is unlikely to last all five rounds, unless both fighters show a little too much respect on the feet. Possible? Yes. Plausible? Probably not.

Lewis lives and dies by the sword. That’s why he’s been knocked out by UFC castaways like Shawn Jordan and Matt Mitrione. Ancient history? Maybe, but he was also boxed up and put out by the past-his-prime Junior dos Santos in early 2019. “The Black Beast” has been known to register his share of stinkers, like his back-to-back snoozefests against Blagoy Ivanov and Ilir Latifi. It’s still not enough to have me picking Daukaus, though the unimpressed bookies have the Philadelphian sitting as the slight favorite. Even with his inconsistency, Lewis has faced — and beaten — much tougher competition. Daukaus has only faced one Top 10 fighter in UFC (Abdurakhimov) and was knocked out twice on the regional circuit by guys you’ve never heard of and couldn’t pick out of a lineup. I don’t want to take away from anything Daukaus has done in UFC, because he’s done it perfectly, but you know the old saying about levels and games.

Prediction: Lewis def. Daukaus by knockout

170 lbs.: Stephen Thompson vs. Belal Muhammad

Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson

Record: 16-5-1 | Age: 38 | Betting line: -220
Wins: 7 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 8 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 4 DEC
Height: 6’0“ | Reach: 75” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.06 | Striking accuracy: 43%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.75 | Striking Defense: 58%
Takedown Average: 0.30 (45% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 73%
Current Ranking: No. 5 | Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Gilbert Burns

Belal “Remember the Name” Muhammad

Record: 19-3, 1 NC | Age: 33 | Betting line: +180
Wins: 4 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 14 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 5’11“ | Reach: 72” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.61 | Striking accuracy: 42%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.80 | Striking Defense: 60%
Takedown Average: 1.80 (28% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 91%
Current Ranking: No. 10 | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Demian Maia

Stephen Thompson is a mediocre 3-3 dating back to his championship loss to Tyron Woodley at UFC 209, but has somehow managed to retain his spot in the Top 5 of the 170-pound rankings. That probably has more to do with the state of the welterweight division, which is why Kamaru Usman has only faced three different people in his last five title fights. You can argue that “Wonderboy” has earned his ranking — in spite of his recent losses — because he holds victories over Vicente Luque (No. 4) and Jorge Masvidal (No. 6), it’s just hard to get excited about some of the tepid performances we’ve seen from the former kickboxer. In fact, Thompson hasn’t finished a fight since folding a bloated Johny Hendricks back at UFC Fight Night 82, a span of nearly six years. Some of the blame can be passed to his level of competition, though I think it’s not outrageous to suggest Thompson is content to keep his distance, play welterweight whack-a-mole, and hope the judges don't fuck it up.

Yawn.

Not that I’m breaking out a six-pack and calling the bro-squad to come over and watch Belal Muhammad. After getting starched by Vicente Luque at UFC 205, the former Bellator bruiser racked up a whopping nine decisions in 11 fights. The flip side to that is “Remember the Name” has also taken the “W” in nine of his last 11, so it’s hard to knock a strategy that keeps working. At the same time, nobody is going to be storming the UFC headquarters with pitchforks and torches, demanding a Muhammad title shot. Simply put, he needs to start putting together memorable performances that warrant his nickname or risk ending up in the Leon Edwards phantom zone. It would also help his cause if he beat someone who was actually ranked in the Top 15. Without looking it up, can you name Muhammad’s most impressive victory? His “No Contest” against the aforementioned Edwards was unfortunate because it would have given Muhammad a chance to prove he belongs in the upper echelon of the division. The good news is that “Remember the Name” will have the same opportunity against Thompson this weekend in Las Vegas.

Thompson is roughly a 2-to-1 favorite heading into this bout and those are fairly accurate odds. Muhammad only has four knockouts in 23 professional fights and hasn’t scored one in over five years. Let’s face it, he’s not winning the standup exchanges and his team knows it, so Muhammad will have to spam takedowns for all three rounds and hope he can keep the action grounded. Thompson has come a long way with his wrestling defense but we haven’t seen much of it in recent years. Burns was successful in three of six attempts but prior to that, “Wonderboy” went four straight fights without facing a single takedown. Muhammad has a decent chance of pulling off the upset if he’s not afraid to eat some shots on the way in, but the more likely scenario is that Thompson enjoys yet another 15-minute shooting gallery against one of many outgunned and overmatched opponents.

Prediction: Thompson def. Muhammad by unanimous decision

Remember, the rest of the UFC Vegas 45 main card predictions are RIGHT HERE.

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+ preliminary card bouts at 4 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time at 7 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 45 news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive here. For the updated and finalized “Lewis vs. Daukaus” fight card and ESPN+ lineup click here. Bet on UFC Vegas 45 at DraftKings Sportsbook.