Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will stage its final event of 2021 later tonight (Sat., Dec. 18, 2021) as UFC Vegas 45 goes down from inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. Headlining the ESPN+-streamed event will be a heavyweight fight between former two-time title contender Derrick Lewis taking on up-and-coming big man, Chris Daukaus. In the co-main event, Belal Muhammad will face Stephen Thompson in a pivotal welterweight showdown.
Derrick Lewis came up short in his second attempt to win UFC gold in his previous outing against Ciryl Gane, which also ruined his chance to get another, more convincing win over current division king Francis Ngannou. But the bruising big man is determined to keep chugging along because after all, winning belts was never really his main objective, collecting the bag is. He will be in line for another nice payday later tonight when he faces off against surging big man Chris Daukaus, winner of five straight.
We know Lewis can get back in the championship mix in the blink of an eye, and in the heavyweight division, it’s sometimes much quicker than that. Lewis has the power to shut down anyone's lights, that’s been proven repeatedly, but Daukaus is no slouch when it comes to landing fight-ending bombs. In fact, 11 of his 12 wins have come via knockout, eight of them in the very first round. Since making his UFC debut in mid-2020, Daukaus has won all four of his fights via strikes, three in the first five minutes. Trading punches against “Black Beast” is not a game for the wise — just ask Curtis Blaydes — but Daukaus is a proven knockout artist who isn’t afraid of taking risks. But against Lewis, standing toe-to-toe could be risking it all. Don’t expect this fight to see the judges’ scorecards.
I hate matchups with a fighter on a losing streak getting paired with one that's on a roll. While there are a few exceptions, like a fighter coming off a championship loss or even a high-ranked foe, the Carlos Diego Ferreira vs. Mateusz Gamrot bout is a bit of a head-scratcher. Sure, Gamrot isn’t a UFC fan favorite at the moment since he only has three fights inside the Octagon, but the former KSW lightweight champion of the world is a killer, winning two straight fights for the promotion and 19 of 21 overall with only one loss on his record. So pairing him up against Carlos Diego Ferriera, who is on a two-fight losing streak, to me, doesn’t make all that much sense.
It’s not like Ferreira is the biggest name out there or even ranked, so for Gamrot to be even offered this fight is a bit of an insult since he is coming off a “Performance of the Night” win over Jeremy Stephens, his third straight post-fight bonus. Don’t get me wrong, the fight could be bananas, but I would have liked to see Gamrot take on someone who is on a decent win streak, as well. In the long run, my rant doesn’t matter one bit because he signed on the dotted line.
Original Card vs Actual Card:
Nina Nunes was in line to face Amanda Lemos but was replaced by Angela Hill after she bowed out for undisclosed reasons. Hill has always been as dependable as they come, answering the call when it comes in. She hasn’t had the best of luck over the last few years, losing three of four including her most recent defeat at the hands of Tecia Torres. Lemos, on the other hand, is on a four-fight win streak. Furthermore, Victor Henry stepped in to replace Trevin Jones against Raoni Barcelos after Jones withdrew from the fight for undisclosed reasons.
Julia Avila was set to bang it out with former women’s bantamweight title challenger Raquel Pennington before she was forced out of the fight with an undisclosed injury. Macy Chiasson will now step in to face “Rocky,” who has won her last two fights. As for Chiasson, she has also won two in a row over Shanna Young and Marion Reneau.
Victor Henry agreed to step in and make his UFC debut against Raoni Barcelos after Trevin Jones was bounced from the event. While facing an experienced veteran such as Barcelos on short notice isn’t ideal when you're a young fighter and UFC calls, you answer. Henry has won nine of his last 10 fights and has been fighting professionally for a decade now in promotions like RIZIN, Pancrase, and King of the Cage (KOTC), so his call-up is long overdue. As for Barcelos, he had his five-fight UFC win streak snapped in his last outing against Timur Valiev, so is he looking for a statement win.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
Gerald Meerschaert will attempt to pick up his first three-fight win streak inside the Octagon when he faces off against Dustin Stoltzfus, the loser of two in a row, in a middleweight affair.
Sijara Eubanks -- who missed weight again -- went from contender to “Prelims” fighter in the blink of an eye, it seems. She recently snapped her two-fight skid so that will help her long, slow trek back to the championship mix. Taking out undefeated Melissa Gatto will also help her cause. Gatto is 7-0-2, winning her UFC debut against Victoria Leonardo a few months ago.
Andre Ewell has had a hot and cold (mostly cold) run so far under the UFC banner. He hasn’t been too consistent when it comes to racking up wins, earning a 4-4 record, losing his last two bouts. He will attempt to get out of his funk against Charles Jourdain, who is coming off a tough loss to Julian Erosa.
In the heavyweight division, Don’Tale Mayes will face Josh Parisian in what is sure to be a hard-hitting slugfest. Mayes picked up his first UFC win in his last bout against Roque Martinez who — coincidentally enough — was Parisian’s last victim, as well. Both of these rising contenders are trying to scratch and crawl their way to the Top 15, so getting a highlight reel win in “Sin City” would be a big boost for either of them.
In the lightweight division, Jordan Leavitt and Matt Sayles will kick off the action in the first fight of the night. Leavitt is itching to get back in there after he suffered the first loss of his career against Claudio Puelles this past summer. As for Sayles, he is coming off a submission loss (via twister) to Bryce Mithcell, so he, too, wants to get back on track. Both of these rising 155-pounders bring it and have a well-rounded skill set. Unfortunately, one of them will be going home with his second straight loss.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Justin Tafa hasn’t exactly made a splash during his short stint with the promotion, losing three of his first four fights, with his lone win coming against Juan Adams — who is no longer under UFC contract — at UFC 247 via knockout. While the 265-pound division could use all of the depth it can get, Tafa needs to avoid his third straight defeat when he battles Harry Hunsucker on the undercard because it won’t look good for him when it comes time for the promotion to start making its next round of cuts...especially after this history-making debacle.
Interest Level: 6.5/10
Rounding out the main card are several intriguing matchups from bantamweight all the way up to welterweight. In the co-main event, former title contender Stephen Thompson will battle Belal Muhammad. Since 2018, “Wonderboy” hasn’t made a ton of trips to the winner’s circle, earning a 2-3 record after suffering big losses at the hands of Darren Till and Anthony Pettis (see it here). In his last outing, the karate specialist came up short against Gilbert Burns so a win here is of the utmost importance. Muhammad has won five of six since 2019, though he lost a big opportunity to try and slow Leon Edwards’ roll after their fight ended in a No Contest (NC) due to an inadvertent eye poke. If he can get a win over a former title contender like Thompson, Muhammad can see his stock go up quite a bit.
Raphael Assuncao is in desperate need of a win after suffering three straight defeats, which is hard to comprehend seeing as how the longtime UFC veteran once won 11 of 12 inside the Octagon, which includes big victories over the likes of Rob Font, Marlon Moraes, Aljamain Sterling and ex titleholder T.J. Dillashaw. Where it went wrong for him only he knows, but one thing is certain he needs to turn it around in a hurry. He will face off against Ricky Simon, who is on a three-fight win streak. For Simon, having a win over an established veteran like Assuncao isn’t exactly a bad thing and could get him closer to the Top 15 in the stacked 135-pound weight class.
Longtime featherweight contenders Cub Swanson and Darren Elkins will collide in what should be the early “Fight of the Night” favorite. All each man knows how to do is come forward and put on a show. They have 15 post-fight bonus awards between them. Granted, Swanson has 12 of them himself but that doesn’t diminish Elkins’ exciting fighting style one bit. After losing four in a row, Elkins found a way to get back on track and has now won two straight. Swanson’s record hasn’t exactly looked all that great since 2017, going just 2-5 in that span. He is coming off a first-round knockout loss at the hands of Giga Chikadzee, so getting back on track is priority number one for the longtime veteran.
Enjoy the fights!
Full Fight Card:
UFC Vegas 45 Main Event On ESPN+:
265 lbs.: Derrick Lewis vs. Chris Daukaus
UFC Vegas 45 Main Card On ESPN+ (7 p.m. ET):
170 lbs.: Belal Muhammad vs. Stephen Thompson
115 lbs.: Angela Hill vs. Amanda Lemos
135 lbs.: Raphael Assuncao vs. Ricky Simon
155 lbs.: Diego Ferreira vs. Mateusz Gamrot
145 lbs.: Darren Elkins vs. Cub Swanson
UFC Vegas 45 Preliminary Card On ESPN+ (4 p.m. ET):
185 lbs.: Gerald Meerschaert vs. Dustin Stoltzfus
135 lbs.: Raoni Barcelos vs. Victor HenryCANCELED
265 lbs.: Harry Hunsucker vs. Justin Tafa
125 lbs.: Sijara Eubanks vs. Melissa Gatto
145 lbs.: Andre Ewell vs. Charles Jourdain
135 lbs.: Raquel Pennington vs. Macy Chiasson
265 lbs.: Don’Tale Mayes vs. Josh Parisian
155 lbs.: Jordan Leavitt vs. Matt Sayles
*Fight card, bout order and number of fights remain subject to change due to COVID-19.*
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.
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