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UFC Vegas 45 Main Card On ESPN+ (7 p.m. ET):

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265 lbs.: Derrick Lewis vs. Chris Daukaus – This is a great fight and one in which the judges can take off. Both men are sluggers who more often than not, have ended their fights inside the distance. Given this is a main event, they will have an extra ten minute should fifteen not be enough. However, in my opinion, they won’t need it. Derrick Lewis is a powerful striker, who has legitimate bombs in his hands. With twelve knockouts in the UFC, Lewis is tied with Matt Brown for the most all-time. While hesitant to throw and not one that has technique, Lewis has shown that if he can’t land a clean shot, he could be picked apart. It’s what happened in the majority of Lewis’ defeats. However, he carries that x-factor of power from start to finish. As for Chris Daukaus, he too is a striker. A more technical and volume-based one at that. Landing a ridiculous 9.03 significant strikes per minute, Daukaus looks to engulf opponents and put them out. Given that he has won eleven of his twelve victories via knockout, more often than not, he has succeeded in such.

As for a prediction, I have Lewis winning. This is a tough one to pick because Daukaus has the skill set that has so often defeated Lewis. However, if Daukaus can’t put away Lewis early, I’m not entirely sure where his cardio lies. He has fought to only one decision in fifteen fights and that was five years ago. With that unknown cardio and having fought four opponents that aren’t known for knockout power, I believe that Lewis will put a halt to the rise of Daukaus. So with that said, I predict that Lewis will win via knockout.

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170 lbs.: Belal Muhammad vs. Stephen Thompson – This is an exciting and important fight in the Welterweight division. Stephen Thompson, while falling flat in his most recent fight to Gilbert Burns, has been a perennial contender for the last five years. One of the best strikers in the UFC, Thompson is a phenomenal kickboxer who utilizes the karate stance like no other. Staying light on his feet, Thompson has shown an ability to either counter foes who engage or burst at them with combinations. One not to brawl, Thompson does an excellent job of hitting and then getting out. The one knock on Thompson has been his takedown defense, which was exploited by Gilbert Burns and will be tested against Belal Muhammad. A wrestler who is well versed in the striking department, Muhammad is a high IQ and gameplan type fighter. Always looking to exploit fighters weaknesses, Muhammad will look to takedown a striker or keep the fight upright against a wrestler. With ten wins in thirteen UFC fights, Muhammad is flat out a winner.

As for a prediction, I’m going with Thompson. While I could definitely see Muhammad pushing Thompson against the cage and constantly attempting to take him down, I feel that Thompson will be better prepared for that this time around. Whether it’s better takedown defense, movement or making Muhammad pay when he gets close, I believe Thompson will have made the necessary adjustments to keep this fight upright. From there, Muhammad can bring forth the volume, but the technique and cleaner shots will come from Thompson. So with that said, I predict that Thompson will win via decision.

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115 lbs.: Angela Hill vs. Amanda Lemos – This is an excellent fight and one in which the winner will find themselves in the top ten. Amanda Lemos is currently on an excellent streak and is legitimately laying waste to her opponents. Primarily a striker, Lemos has shown a real understanding of range and distance control. Landing 6.32 significant strikes per minute and at an accuracy of 63%, Lemos has done an excellent job at getting off her offense. With legitimate power, the sky’s the limit at Strawweight for the Brazilian. As for Hill, she too is primarily a striker who looks to keep distance and land at range. Often one to mix her attacks up, Hill doesn’t discriminate between the head, body and legs. With excellent durability and combinations, Hill is never one to be totally shutout in a striking match.

As for a prediction, I’m going with Hill. Despite being the biggest underdog on the card, Hill is one of the more durable and game fighters on the roster. Even if Lemos proves victorious, I don’t see the fight being as one sided as the odds indicate. Having fought four mediocre Strawweight’s in a row, Hill represents Lemos’ toughest fight since her debut defeat to Leslie Smith. While I do believe Lemos looks good early, I believe Hill will adapt and outlast the Brazilian in a three-round scrap. So with that said, I predict that Hill wins via decision.

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135 lbs.: Raphael Assuncao vs. Ricky Simon – Raphael Assuncao is a staple in the Bantamweight division, but it feels like of late, he is wilting at the hands of father time. At 39 years old and a loser of three straight, two in which he was finished in, this could be the Brazilian’s last stand. A well rounded fighter, Assuncao has shown a capability of winning fights on the feet or with grappling. Often known for throwing leg kicks, Assuncao looks to slow down opponents’ movement and then get off his offense. With wins over T.J. Dillashaw, Aljamain Sterling, Marlon Moraes, Rob Font and Pedro Munhoz, Assuncao has proven that is skilled enough to defeat some of the best. As for Simon, the gritty wrestler is one of the more frustrating fighters to fight. Relentless in his attack, Simon will look to takedown his opponent from start to finish. In Simon’s last four fights, he has landed a total of twenty-six takedowns. Over his eight-fight UFC career, that number jumps up to thirty-nine.

As for a prediction, I have Simon winning. While Assuncao has been a perennial contender for much of his career, it seems like those days are long over. Simon is just too good at his strength and while Assuncao has been known to have stout takedown defense, he’s yet to face anyone who is as relentless in his pursuit to get the fight down to the mat as Simon is. So with that said, I predict that Simon will wear on Assuncao and eventually submit the veteran later in the fight.

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155 lbs.: Diego Ferreira vs. Mateusz Gamrot – This is an excellent fight, as it pits a rising star in Mateusz Gamrot against a ranked veteran in Diego Ferreira. A prospect coming into the UFC, Gamrot has certainly been living up to the hype in his last two fights. A talented fighter, Gamrot is an excellent wrestler and grappler. While his striking has evolved, it’s the mat where he truly shines. With pressure, strength and the ability to chain wrestle, Gamrot can often be relentless in his pursuit to ground fighters. As for Diego Ferreira, he is a BJJ black belt who mainly profiles as a striker. Landing 4.7 significant strikes per minute, Ferreira does an excellent job landing with volume. While Ferreira has some power, it comes more from accumulation than one punch.

As for a prediction, I have Gamrot winning. The Pole is just an excellent talent who I believe has the abilities to become a contender in this division. While Ferreira has often been underrated, in his last two fights, two strong grapplers were able to control him for long periods of time. Given Gamrot’s wrestling, grappling and overall strength, I don’t see anything changing for Ferreira this time around. So with that said, I predict that Gamrot wins via TKO.

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145 lbs.: Darren Elkins vs. Cub Swanson – This is a fun fight to open the main card, as it features two staples of the Featherweight division against each other. With no title shot likely in either’s future, Darren Elkins and Cub Swanson make for excellent matchmaking. Darren Elkins is the epitome of a fighter. With some of the best durability, Elkins has eaten many of opponents best shots and continued to come forward. Gritty as can be, Elkins looks to wear down opponents with his wrestling or by eating punches. If there is one thing you can say about Elkins, never count him out regardless how bad it may look. As for Swanson, he is mainly a striker who can absolutely overwhelm opponents with volume. In fact, in three of Swanson’s last four victories, he landed over 111 significant strikes. Despite his most recent loss, Swanson has excellent durability. With cardio and high fight IQ, Swanson is a tough out for any opponent.

As for a prediction, I have Darren Elkins winning. While Swanson should have plenty of success on the feet, it’s the wrestling and grind that Elkins will implement that I’m not sure Swanson can escape from. Boasting a mediocre 60% takedown defense and having not fought a wrestler like Elkins since Tatsuya Kawajiri, I foresee a tough night at the office for Swanson. So with that said, I predict that Elkins wins via decision.

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UFC Vegas 45 Preliminary Card On ESPN+ (4 p.m. ET):

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185 lbs.: Gerald Meerschaert vs. Dustin Stoltzfus – This is a tough go for Dustin Stoltzfus, who can’t afford to go 0-3 inside the octagon. Having seen two opponents more on par with him fall out, he is now tasked with fighting a seasoned veteran in Gerald Meerschaert. A dangerous grappler and submission artist, Meerschaert has made a living off off submitting foes. In fact, all eight of Meerchaert’s wins in the have come via submission. While Meerschaert’s durability has failed him sometimes, more often than not, he has proven that he can withstand any initial storm and comeback. As for Stoltzfus, he is mainly a wrestler with good grappling abilities. However, having fought two excellent grapplers in back-to-back fights, Stoltzfus has yet to showcase his abilities. Considering a third strong grappler in Meerschaert is in the wings, it should be interesting to see how Stoltzfus fares this time around.

As for a prediction, I have Meerschaert winning. Durability aside, this is perhaps his most favorable fight since fighting Ryan Janes. Often an underdog or fighting a Russian, Meerschaert will get to showcase his superior grappling and dangerous submissions against someone who has struggled against fellow grapplers. While I don’t want to dismiss Stoltzfus, it’s hard to see how he fends off Meerschaert. So with that said, I predict that Meerschaert wins via submission.

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135 lbs.: Raoni Barcelos vs. Victor Henry – Despite dropping his first fight in seven years, I consider Raoni Barcelos as one of the dark horses in the Bantamweight division. A former wrestler for the Brazil national team, a BJJ black belt and an evolving striking, Barcelos is a complete fighter. Often doing an excellent job mixing up his attack, Barcelos is not only landing 5.39 significant strikes per minute, but nearly two takedowns per fifteen minutes. Dangerous wherever, Barcelos has won ten of his sixteen victories via stoppage. This fight however won’t be easy, as Victor Henry brings in a wealth of success and experience. Fighting for promotions such as DEEP, RIZIN, Pancrase, KOTC and BAMMA, Henry has been able to fight some of the best around the world. With wins over Masakatsu Ueda, Yuki Montaya, Anderson dos Santos and Albert Morales, Henry has proven that he is ready to take on the best the UFC offers.

As for a prediction, I’m siding with Barcelos. Despite being high on Henry, I believe that Barcelos is not only the better striker, but his grappling should be able to neutralize La Mangosta’s excellent grappling. The one real concern I have in this fight, is if Henry pressures and brings forth a hard pace, we could see a defensively lax and tired Barcelos in the later rounds. Then again, Barcelos 6-1 in decisions, two of which went twenty-five minutes. So with that said, I predict that Barcelos gets it done via decision.

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265 lbs.: Harry Hunsucker vs. Justin Tafa – This should be an exciting fight, as both men are strikers. Coming from a kickboxing background, Justin Tafa is excellent at blending his strikes with kicks. Often throwing hooks and uppercuts, as well as a devastating liver kick, Tafa can light you up like a Christmas tree if you decide not to pressure him. With legitimate power, Tafa has won all four of his victories via knockout. As for Hunsucker, he is mainly a striker with decent wrestling. While he mixes up strikes, brings forth pressure and throws volume, Hunsucker is often wild and always swinging with power shots. A game that truly holds no secret, Hunsucker has yet to make it to the second round in eleven professional fights, win or lose.

As for a prediction, I have Tafa winning. There is always a puncher’s chance, especially in the Heavyweight division. However, I can’t back someone who is solely a one round fighter and isn’t even strong in his general strength of striking. Perhaps Hunsucker’s wildness and power shots stun Tafa, but the more likely outcome is that the Australian kickboxer pieces him up. So with that said, I predict that Tafa wins via knockout.

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125 lbs.: Sijara Eubanks vs. Melissa Gatto – This is a solid fight in the Women’s Flyweight division, as it pits a veteran in Sijara Eubanks looking to revive her career against a rising talent in Melissa Gatto. A veteran of nine UFC fights, Eubanks has yet to find her footing inside the octagon. Going 2-4 at Bantamweight, Eubanks clearly needed a change. One in which was a return to Flyweight, a division where Eubanks is 2-0 in the UFC and if not for a missed weight cut, she would be 3-0. A fairly well rounded fighter, Eubanks is at her best when she can implement her wrestling. With heavy top control and good ground-and-pound, Eubanks can be tough to deal with. Melissa Gatto though won’t make it easy for Eubanks, as she is a grappler and submission threat. In her UFC debut, Gatto showed that grappling off, throwing up several submissions. The one glaring weakness of Gatto is her standup. Other than a jab, Gatto isn’t a threat at all.

As for a prediction, I have Gatto winning. While Eubanks should have her way on the feet with Gatto, at some point, I expect this fight to hit the mat. Eubanks is a fast starter who fades the later the fight goes. As long as Gatto can survive the early storm, when Eubanks tires or initiates the grappling, Gatto is going to take advantage. In what should be an entertaining fight, I predict that Gatto stays unbeaten, winning via late submission.

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145 lbs.: Andre Ewell vs. Charles Jourdain – This should be an entertaining fight, as both men profile as strikers. Moving up from Bantamweight, Andre Ewell will look to rejuvenate his career. A technical striker who fights at range, Ewell looks to pump his jab early and often. A fast starter, Ewell tends to look sharp early and fade the later the fight goes. With three of his four wins in the UFC coming via split decision, Ewell has yet to really separate himself in a fight. As for Charles Jourdain, he is technical, yet not afraid to throw caution to the wind. With an arsenal on the feet, Jourdain meshes his strikes and kicks very well. Landing 5.07 significant strikes per minute, Jourdain engulfs opponents with volume before putting them away with power shots as evidenced by his eight knockouts in eleven victories.

As for a prediction, I have Charles Jourdain winning. While Ewell will sport a six inch reach advantage, I don’t think it will matter against the more diverse striker in Jourdain. Ewell, while talented on the feet, has yet to put together a complete performance. Given he has already fought eight times inside the octagon and is moving up a weight class, I don’t see the ninth time being the charm. So with that said, I predict that Jourdain wins via late TKO.

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135 lbs.: Raquel Pennington vs. Macy Chiasson – Despite the fact that Raquel Pennington was originally scheduled to fight Julia Avila, rankings-wise, this fight does more for her and Macy Chiasson. With both respectively sitting at eight and tenth in the Bantamweight division, there is a real chance that the winner could find themselves in a title eliminator next. Pennington is a pressure boxer who boasts excellent durability. Always game to scrap, Pennington never shies away from a brawl. With solid dirty boxing from inside the clinch and some wrestling chops, Pennington can beat you in several ways. As for Chiasson, she is primarily a striker who is solid in the clinch. With devastating knees and elbows to go along with power, fighting inside the pocket with her can be the undoing of her opponent.

As for a prediction, I’m siding with Pennington. While Chiasson does present issues for Pennington on the feet, and will have a four inch height and five inch reach advantage, I believe that Pennington’s ability to pressure and wrestle gives her the slight edge in this fight. Chiasson may ward off Pennington with knees from inside, but her iffy takedown and ground woes do give me concern. Throw in the fact that she is taking this fight on two weeks’ notice and cardio could be a factor in the later rounds. So with all that said, I predict that Pennington wins via decision.

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265 lbs.: Don’Tale Mayes vs. Josh Parisian – This is an interesting fight, as you have two bottom of the barrel Heavyweights who have won their first UFC fight against the same opponent. Don’Tale Mayes is a striker who has power, is diverse in his attack and has good footwork. While his takedown defense and cardio remains concerning, he did go a full fifteen in his most recent fight. As for Josh Parisian, he too is a striker. A high output one at that, as Parisian, in two UFC fights, is averaging 6.43 significant strikes per minute. A workhorse, Parisian looks to use his cardio and pace to outlast opponents. With twelve of his fourteen wins coming via finish, more often than not, Parisian is doing just that.

As for a prediction, I have Parisian winning. While Mayes is the more explosive and powerful striker, he lacks the volume necessary to keep up with Parisian should he fail to put him away early. With cardio concerns thrown into the mix, I could very well see Parisian wearing on Mayes as the fight wanes. In the end, I trust the durability of Parisian to survive the early storm and then takeover in the later rounds. I’m not certain of the finish, so I’ll predict that Parisian wins via decision.

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155 lbs.: Jordan Leavitt vs. Matt Sayles – This is an intriguing fight to open the card, as Matt Sayles returns to the octagon for the first time in two years and will be moving up to Lightweight. A division in which he has only fought once in his eleven professional fights. Having fought as low as Bantamweight, there is some concern that Sayles may be at a size disadvantage. Primarily a striker who lands with volume, Sayles looks to break opponents with and put them out. With six knockouts in eight victories, Sayles isn’t one to stand in front of. As for Jordan Leavitt, despite falling flat in his most recent fight, he is a solid grappler and submission artist. With five submissions in eight wins, more often than not, being on the ground with Leavitt isn’t the smartest of choices.

As for a prediction, I’m siding with Leavitt. While his last fight was concerning and his striking is as well, the combination of his size advantage and grappling edge should ultimately aid him in getting this fight to the mat. A place where he holds a significant edge. So with that said, I predict that Leavitt wins via submission.

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