The final UFC event of 2021 is upon us and will be headlined by heavyweight bangers in Derrick Lewis and Chris Daukaus at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
The two are at different ends of their career realistically and are fighting to carry the torch of the division into 2022.
In the co-main we’ll see welterweight contender Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson enter the last chance saloon for title contention when he takes on Belal Muhammad, who is looking to break into the top five of the rankings for the first time.
Last time out at UFC 269 we went 9/14 on the night in a fantastic card to move to 500/779 (64.18%) with 211 perfect picks (42.2%).
Cub Swanson (27-12) vs Darren Elkins (27-9) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A very fun featherweight fight between two vetereans of the fight game. Swanson earned a big KO win over Daniel Pineda at UFC 256 before getting smoked by Giga Chikhadze last time out at UFC Vegas 25. Elkins on the other hand has won his last two-in-a-row with a submission against Luiz Garagorri at UFC Vegas 13 before a knockout against Darrick Minner at UFC Vegas 32.
Swanson is a fantastic jiu-jitsu fighter with great power in his hands and plenty of experience to his name with 15 stoppage wins in his career. Elkins on the other hand is a pressure fighter with plenty of strikes and great wrestling in his weaponry. This will be an interesting fight because they are both well matched up and well-rounded.
Both of these guys will come forward and continue to pressure as usual, but I think Swanson has the edge on the feet and has enough about him to see off any wrestling attacks or submission threats and ultimately earn a judges decision.
PICK – Cub Swanson via Decision
Diego Ferreira (17-4) vs Mateusz Gamrot (19-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A very fun lightweight bout here as the veteran Ferreira takes on the very hot prospect in Gamrot. Ferreira has lost his last two against Beneil Dariush via decision at UFC Vegas 18 and then Gregor Gillespie at UFC Vegas 26 when he got KO’d. Gamrot on the other hand bounced back from the first defeat of his career in his debut at UFC Fight Island 6 by earning wins over Scott Holtzmann at UFC Vegas 22 and then a submission over Jeremy Stephens at UFC Vegas 31.
Ferreira is a very good grappler, with great jiu-jitsu skills and some decent striking too earning him seven submission wins from ten stoppages in his career. Gamrot on the other hand is a machine when it comes to the wrestling, earning multiple takedowns and then using position to land solid ground-and-pound and threaten with submissions too to earn 11 stoppage wins in his career.
Gamrot is the physically bigger fighter and he seems stronger, which plays into his advantage in the grappling game. Ferreira is probably the better striker of the two, but he doesn’t really have the power to put Gamrot off coming forward. If ‘Gamer’ gets hold of him he should be able to take him down and control him, and I think his relentless pace earns him a ground and pound finish.
PICK – Mateusz Gamrot via Knockout, Round 2
Raphael Assuncao (27-8) vs Ricky Simon (18-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An interesting bantamweight fight between two guys on very different trajectories in their career. Assuncao has lost the last three fights he’s had, with a KO on the buzzer against Cody Garbrandt at UFC 250 in his last outing. Simon on the other hand has won three-in-a-row, earning a decision over Ray Borg before submitting Gaetano Pirrello at UFC Fight Island 8 and claiming another decision against Brian Kelleher at UFC 258.
Assuncao is a powerful striker with a great pace and some solid leg kicks, but he comes into this one aged 39 and on the decline big time. Simon on the other hand is a pure wrestling specialist who looks to secure positions on the ground and dominate from there on to usually grind out decisions. Assuncao has got great submission skills, claiming ten wins via tap-out in his career but Simon isn’t a scrub in the grappling.
Simon has got the ability to go into the octagon and wrestle for as long as is needed, whether that be 15 minutes, 25 minutes or an hour. He’s also a pretty good striker and can use that to set up his takedowns in this one, against a dangerous opponent. In the end though, Simon should be able to get the fight down and I back him to defend himself from top position to earn a victory.
PICK – Ricky Simon via Decision
Amanda Lemos (10-1-1) vs Angela Hill (13-10) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
An interesting strawweight clash between two wannabe contenders gets a high slot on this card. Lemos is on a four-fight win streak, including back-to-back knockout wins over Livinha Souza at UFC 259 and then Montserrat Ruiz at UFC Vegas 31. Hill on the other hand has lost three of her last four but has turned in great performances in every one, dropping decisions to Claudia Gadelha, Michelle Waterson at UFC Vegas 10 and Tecia Torres at UFC 265 with a win against Ashley Yoder at UFC Vegas 21 pausing the rot.
Lemos is a very powerful striker, with seven knockout victories in her career and some good defensive wrestling on her side too. Hill is a pressure fighter who can mix up her game really well, using kickboxing skills to mix in takedowns and a decent ground game too. Lemos will walk forward in this fight looking to land power shots, knowing that Hill isn’t powerful at all.
Hill will likely use her speed to step away, but Lemos will likely look to throw a hard low kick to stop that movement from being so effective and use that power to earn her a judges decision.
PICK – Amanda Lemos via Decision
Stephen Thompson (16-5-1) vs Belal Muhammad (19-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Ranked welterweights go head-to-head in the co-main event here. ‘Wonderboy’ saw a two-fight win streak snapped recently, after his win over Geoff Neal at UFC Vegas 17 was countered by a dominant decision loss against Gilbert Burns at UFC 264. Belal Muhammad is unbeaten in six, having battered Dhiego Lima at UFC 258 before his no contest against Leon Edwards. He then returned to dominate against Demian Maia at UFC 263.
Thompson is as pure a striker as you will find in the UFC, with his karate game making him an expert in movement, range control and kicking as well as his brilliant counter striking. Muhammad is a well-rounded fighter, who can mix volume and pressure with some good wrestling too to figure out his opponents. This is by far the highest level striker he has ever fought though and it’s going to be tough for Muhammad to get that wrestling going.
Muhammad will look to set up takedowns with his boxing skills, but he isn’t as good a striker as Thompson and ‘Wonderboy’ has got brilliant takedown defence regardless of Burns’ success last time out. I like Muhammad, but this is too big a step up and stylistically it stinks for him. ‘Wonderboy’ will move around for 15 minutes and land big enough shots without taking damage to earn a decision win.
PICK – Stephen Thompson via Decision
Derrick Lewis (25-8) vs Chris Daukaus (12-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Main event time and it’s a banger at heavyweight. Derrick Lewis was on a four-fight win streak with KO’s against Alexei Oleinik at UFC Vegas 6 and Curtis Blaydes at UFC Vegas 19 before he was beaten by Ciryl Gane at UFC 265 in an interim title fight. Daukaus on the other hand is on a five-fight win streak with all knockouts, with his most recent one coming impressively against Shamil Abdurakhimov at UFC 266 after he stopped Oleinik on the Blaydes-Lewis card.
Lewis is a one-shot killer, with ridiculous power in both hands and explosive power that can shut out anyones lights in an instant. Daukaus is a super powerful striker too with tremendous hand speed, but it’s the jiu-jitsu black belt that makes this extra intriguing. If Daukaus looks to take this fight to the ground, Lewis will throw uppercuts and knees before trying to explode to his feet. If they go on the feet, Daukaus will look to use volume and speed like Gane did before going for a killshot.
This is hard to predict, because a fighter with the power of Lewis is impossible to write off. But with Daukaus’ speed advantage, solid power himself and grappling expertise he has far more routes to victory and I think that ultimately he will be able to shake up the heavyweight division by claiming a knockout win.
PICK – Chris Daukaus via Knockout, Round 3