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%).
We’ll look to end the year on a high here and after starting with the early prelims on this 14-fight card, we move onto the rest of the prelims here.
Sijara Eubanks (8-6) vs Melissa Gatto (7-0-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A very intriguing women’s flyweight bout here. Eubanks rebounded from consecutive defeats with a first-round KO win over Elise Reed at UFC Vegas 32, while Gatto won her UFC debut against Victoria Leonardo at UFC 265 due to an arm injury.
Eubanks is a great wrestler with excellent Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills and decent boxing abilities too, while Gatto is a grappler with four submission wins in her career to date. Interestingly, it’s Gatto who probably has the striking advantage on the feet with a two-inch reach advantage and better combinations. On the mat, it really depends who is on top.
The likelihood is that’ll be Eubanks, who has excellent offensive wrestling and her takedowns are often hard to defend against. Gatto is likely to be comfortable on her back chasing submissions, but Eubanks is skilled there and should be able to ride out top control to earn a judge’s decision win.
PICK – Sijara Eubanks via Decision
Justin Tafa (4-3) vs Harry Hunsucker (7-4) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Heavyweights up again, and the likelihood is this one doesn’t last too long. Tafa has lost his last two-in-a-row, dropping decisions to Carlos Felipe at UFC Fight Island 7 and Jared Vanderaa at UFC Vegas 27. Hunsucker on the other hand saw his UFC debut end in unconsciousness thanks to a resurging Tai Tuivasa at UFC Vegas 21.
Both these guys are your traditional heavyweights, who throw one or two strikes at a time with their feet planted and look to take their opponent’s head off. Tafa is quite clearly the more talented of the two here and that’s probably enough to earn him the win.
Hunsucker will come forward with his chin high and with poor defensive qualities and some sloppy offense, it should only take a couple of those big strikes from Tafa to land clean and end this one nice and early.
PICK – Justin Tafa via Knockout, Round 1
Raoni Barcelos (16-2) vs Victor Henry (21-5) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
One of the best fights on the entire card here and my pick for fight of the night. Barcelos saw a nine-fight win streak snapped last time out when Timur Valiev earned a majority decision win at UFC Vegas 30, while Henry makes his UFC debut after winning nine of his last ten fights.
Barcelos is an incredibly well-rounded fighter with brilliant boxing skills, fearsome leg kicks and a brilliant Brazilian jiu-jitsu game on the mat that has earned him ten stoppage wins in his career. Henry on the other hand is a decent wrestler himself with good power in his hands and some fine grappling himself to earn 14 stoppage wins in his career. Unfortunately for him, he’s outmatched everywhere in this fight in all honesty.
Henry has been beaten up on the feet by worse fighters, taken down by worse wrestlers and dominated on the ground by lesser grapplers. Barcelos has never really had a problem with his gas tank and while Henry has never been stopped, but that comes to an end this weekend.
PICK – Raoni Barcelos via Knockout, Round 2
Dustin Stoltzfus (13-3) vs Gerald Meerschaert (33-14) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Prospect vs veteran in the featured prelim bout here. Stoltzfus is on a two-fight losing streak having been pipped to a decision by Kyle Daukaus at UFC 255 before getting submitted by Rodolfo Vieira at UFC Vegas 31. Meerschaert bounced back from his nasty KO against Khamzat Chimaev at UFC Vegas 17 to earn back-to-back submission wins against Bartosz Fabinski at UFC Vegas 24 and then Makhmud Muradov at UFC Vegas 35.
Stoltzfus is a good striker on the feet, using kicks and punches to accumulate volume and eventually put his opponents down. Meerschaert on the other side however is a volume striker too but he uses that to set up his takedowns and jiu-jitsu, with 26 submissions from 31 stoppages in his career. Meerschaert’s chin isn’t what it was, but it’s not totally gone yet. Stoltzfus needs to test it and land clean, hard shots to have a chance because on the mat he’s in big trouble.
Meerschaert will look to close distance, get the fight to the ground and work for submissions early. He will eat a shot to give one though so if Stoltzfus can put him down it won’t be a surprise in the slightest. In the end, I do think Stoltzfus will end up on the ground which is just bad news so it’s hard not to see Meerschaert being successful.
PICK – Gerald Meerschaert via Submission, Round 2