Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight sluggers Derrick Lewis and Chris Daukaus will clash TONIGHT (Sat., Dec. 18, 2021) at UFC Vegas 45 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Lewis is coming off a pretty disastrous interim title opportunity vs. Ciryl Gane, but hey, he’s recovered from ugly losses before. Lewis doesn’t own the Heavyweight knockout record by accident: when the going gets tough, “The Black Beast” bites down on his mouthpiece and wildly fires an overhand at the nearest obstacle in his path. Daukaus currently occupies that position. Undefeated (4-0) since joining UFC’s roster, Daukaus has violently dispatched each of his previous opponents, showing off fast hands and real potential. Already ranked No. 7, Daukaus could become a true contender with a win tonight.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Francis Ngannou (UFC 226), Curtis Blaydes (UFC Vegas 19), Alexander Volkov (UFC 229), Aleksei Oleinik (UFC Vegas 6), Blagoy Ivanov (UFC 244), Marcin Tybura (UFC Fight Night 126), Shamil Abdurakhimov (UFC Fight Night 102)
Key Losses: Ciryl Gane (UFC 265), Daniel Cormier (UFC 230), Junior dos Santos (UFC Fight Night 146), Mark Hunt (UFC Fight Night 110)
Keys to Victory: Lewis is not a complicated fighter to understand. “The Black Beast” throws haymakers, plain and simple. He does so at distance, in the pocket, and up close. Most importantly, he does so when he’s extremely tired and losing fights.
That’s when the haymakers tend to land.
Writing strategy for Lewis is a bit of a fool’s errand, because he always does roughly the same thing. Lewis will attempt some jumping switch kicks then swing big for the finish. Whether he does so while chasing forward or from his backfoot largely depends on Daukaus’ strategy.
It’s too late to expect much change. Still, it would be great to see Lewis stalk his opponent here. Daukaus is the faster man, and his most likely approach here will be to hang back and try to pick Lewis apart. Lewis is guilty of letting opponent’s freely kick the crap out of his legs and torso, which does not improve his odds of landing big.
Press the more inexperienced man, and the knockout is more likely to come.
Key Wins: Shamil Abdurakhimov (UFC 266), Aleksei Oleinik (UFC Vegas 19), Parker Porter (UFC 252), Rodrigo Nascimento (UFC Fight Island 5)
Key Losses: Azunna Anyanwu (CFFC 73)
Keys to Victory: Daukaus is one of those Heavyweights who could maybe make the 205 lbs. limit. However, against the big men, his speed is his defining attribute, and Daukaus has the power to make it count.
All but one of his pro wins come via knockout.
Daukaus has to employ an in-and-out strategy to defeat Lewis. The Philadelphian has a habit of really extending his combinations and rapid firing hooks, but if he does that against Lewis, he might just get clobbered in the pocket.
Instead, Daukaus has to poke Lewis with his low kicks, jab and one-two combination. If and when “The Black Beast” swings big in return, Daukaus has shown a nice ability to pull back and evade shots. Obviously, that’s a fine line to walk with a slim margin for error, but the rewards can be huge. Lewis frequently overcommits to his punches, so if Daukaus does make him miss, he’ll be in perfect position to land really damaging shots.
UFC’s 2021 will end with a knockout.
Lewis has a chance here to rebuild. Whenever a fighter takes a bad loss, the only antidote is a nice string of wins. Daukaus is a reasonable step back in competition for Lewis, a talented but far less experienced Heavyweight — very often the type to fall into Lewis’ traps. Should Lewis return to the win column in classic “Black Beast” style, it will only take one or two more wins to get him another Top Five opponent.
The Francis Ngannou rematch still awaits.
As for Daukaus, Lewis is a major, major test. In the last five years, the only men to defeat Lewis are former or current champions ... and Mark Hunt, a legend in his own right. The vast majority of up-and-comers thrown against Lewis are carried out of the Octagon, so he can really separate himself from the pack by coming out on top here.
At UFC Vegas 45, Derrick Lewis and Chris Daukaus will battle in the main event. Which man earns the victory?
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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