UFC Vegas 45 Predictions, Late “Prelims” Undercard Preview | Lewis vs. Daukaus
Lethal Heavyweight forwards take center stage this Saturday (December 18, 2021) when rising contender Chris Daukaus seeks to topple venerable Derrick Lewis at UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. UFC Vegas 45 also features a welterweight battle between Stephen Thompson and Belal Muhammad and what could be Raphael Assuncao’s last chance against Ricky Simon.
We still have four UFC Vegas 45 “Prelims” undercard fights to review (check out the first batch here). Let’s go?
185 lbs: Dustin Stoltzfus vs. Gerald Meerschaert
Dustin Stoltzfus (13-3) capped a 10-game winning streak with a slam from Joseph Pyfer on “Contender Series”, winning a UFC contract in the process. He has yet to taste victory in the Octagon himself, as he has lost back-to-back fights to Kyle Daukaus and Rodolfo Vieira.
Anthony Hernandez and Caio Borralho both had to withdraw from fights with Stoltzfus, leaving him to intervene when Abusupiyan Magomedov withdrew from his clash with Gerald Meerschaert (33-14).
Despite a two-game losing streak with a guillotine winning Bartosz Fabinski, Meerschaert started his August 2021 battle with top prospect Makhmud Muradov as a massive underdog. In a vintage performance, “GM3” survived a rough start to smother “Mach” in the second round and claim another performance bonus.
Its 31 professional stops include 26 submissions.
Meerschaert’s chin may not be as indestructible as it used to be, but Muradov’s fight has shown he is not yet completely knocked down. This is really bad news for Stoltzfus, who needs a knockout if he is to win. “GM3” ‘s punchy volume and venomous submission play feel both like more than Stoltzfus can handle, and they seem to get more and more overwhelming as the towers progress.
You have to feel Stoltzfus, who has faced only dangerous finishers during his brief tenure in the Octagon. Hopefully the UFC brass find enough mercy in their hearts to give him a more reasonable game after Meerschaert burns him out for a midterm finish.
Prediction: Meerschaert via second round submission
135 lbs: Raoni barcelos against Victor Henry
Raoni Barcelos (16-2) entered the UFC as the FRG featherweight champion, and he lived up to his credentials by winning his first five in the Octagon. This sparked a clash with Timur Valiev, who survived a near-knockout to narrowly edged Barcelos by majority decision.
He took out eight professional enemies and subdued two more.
Victor Henry (21-5) – a sidekick of the great Josh Barnett – has made a name for himself with impressive success on the Japanese circuit. That success includes his current 8-1 run, which recently saw him return to the United States to smother Albert Morales in an LXF title fight.
“La Mangosta” replaces Trevin Jones with less than two weeks’ notice.
Even with a relatively recent loss to Denis Lavrentyev marring his record, it’s hard to argue that Henry didn’t deserve his place in the Octagon. Having said that, he’s screwed up here. I hate to use the expression “best everywhere”, but it really does seem to be; Henry was retouched by attackers inferior to Barcelos, shot down by inferior wrestlers, and foiled by inferior field performers.
The bigger question for me is whether Henry, 34, will finally suffer his first stoppage loss in 11 years as a professional. Considering how many guns the Brazilian uses, it would certainly be a feat in itself if he managed to hold the full 15 minutes. Unfortunately, I see Barcelos icing it with a perfectly timed counter or hammering it from the top.
Prediction: Barcelos via technical knockout in the second round
265 lbs: Justin tafa vs. Harry hunsucker (7-4)
Australian Justin Tafa (4-3) rebounded from a brutal knockout loss on his UFC debut by beating Juan Adams to submit four months later. Then came a controversial decision loss to Carlos Felipe, followed by a “Fight of the Night” war with Jared Vanderaa who saw “The Mountain” beat Tafa in three rounds.
His four professional victories have come by knockout.
Harry Hunsucker (7-4) led a five-fight, five-game winning streak in the Contender Series, where he touched up Vanderaa early on before succumbing to the ground and the pound. Two fights later, he stepped in on short notice to face Tai Tuivasa, who gave Hunsucker the fourth knockout (technical) loss of his professional career just 49 seconds into the first round.
I am not yet ready to deregister Tafa, 27. He certainly has the physical tools to be a threat, and I had him beat Felipe while he’s still a newbie in the sport. Only if he loses to Hunsucker will I cut the bait. That’s because “The Hurricane” ‘s botched offense and lack of defense make him the biggest gift of Tafa’s tenure in the Octagon. Tafa might not be on par with fellow Aussie Tuivasa, but he doesn’t have to be to knock Hunsucker out the same way.
While Hunsucker deserves props for answering the call against “Bam Bam” and subsequently signing up to face another big hitter, all the props in the world can’t make up for a shaky and often unprotected chin. Tafa propels him into oblivion from the first few minutes.
Prediction: Tafa via KO in the first round
125 pounds: Sijara Eubanks vs. Melissa Gatto
After a series of weight loss issues chased her out of the UFC’s Flyweight division, Sijara Eubanks (7-6) returned to bantamweight, where she managed a 2-4 run. Her return to 125 pounds in July 2021 proved triumphant, beating Octagon newcomer Elise Reed for her first pro stoppage since 2016.
She gives up an inch of height and two inches of reach to Melissa Gatto (7-0-2).
Gatto originally intended to make his UFC debut in 2019, purely for injuries and travel restrictions to cancel four consecutive fights. However, she made up for lost time in August 2021, towering over Victoria Leonardo en route to a second-round injury save.
The victory marked her first by knockout (technical), although she scored four submissions as a professional.
There’s so much you can glean from Eubanks’ victory over Reed, a longtime strawweight and former atomic weight who took combat in the short term, but at least there weren’t any flags. red. Eubanks looked strong and was admirably determined in her pursuit of teardown instead of having fun on her feet. That mindset seems to serve her well here, as Gatto’s much-improved boxing outclasses the powerful but rudimentary “Sarj” stand-up.
As long as Eubanks has the drive and engine to keep Gatto on the back foot, it shouldn’t have too much trouble dragging her down and dominating her from above while Gatto vainly pursues submissions. If she gives way and lets Gatto control the pace and distance, she’ll find herself stranded. The first seems a little more likely than the second.
Prediction: Eubanks via unanimous decision
What better way to end this ridiculous year than two gigantic guys fighting the tar? I’m up for it, at least. See you on Saturday, Maniacs.
Current UFC “Prelims” prediction record for 2021: 182-89-2 (2 NC)
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide live, turn-based, blow-by-blow coverage of the set UFC Vegas 45 fight card on the right here, starting with the ESPN + ‘Preliminary’ matches, which are scheduled to start at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining primary card balance (also on ESPN +) at 7 p.m. ET.
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