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Guide to UFC on ESPN+ 57: Lewis vs. Daukaus

Getting prepared for UFC action this coming Saturday? Here is everything you need to know about the event with our Guide to UFC on ESPN+ 57: Lewis vs. Daukaus.

UFC on ESPN+ 57

Date: December 18, 2021

Location: UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada

Main Card

Start Time: 7:00 p.m. ET, 4:00 p.m. PT

Where to watch: ESPN+

Heavyweights: #3 Derrick Lewis vs. #7 Chris Daukaus

Overall Records: Lewis 25-8 1 NC, Daukaus 12-3

UFC Records: Lewis 16-6, Daukaus 4-0

Last Fight: Gane def. Lewis (title fight)–R3 TKO–UFC 265 (8/7/21), Daukaus def. Abdurakhimov–R2 TKO–UFC 266 (9/25/21)

Last five fights: Lewis 4-1, Daukaus 5-0

Betting odds: Lewis +115, Daukaus -140

Background: The main event is a solid heavyweight match-up between a long-time veteran who has been in the position several times going against an opponent on a nice run that has translated into his first main event. Lewis will be entering his ninth UFC main event looking to start another run at getting a title shot. He came up short in going for the Interim UFC Heavyweight Championship, as he was finished by Ciryl Gane in the third round at UFC 265 in August. That ended a four-fight win streak for the popular heavyweight, who has scored 80% for his wins by knockout. Daukaus comes into his first headline slot as one of the hottest fighters in the heavyweight division, as he’s quickly risen up the heavyweight rankings in 2021. He started the year un-ranked despite winning his first two UFC bouts in 2020, but knockout wins over ranked opponents Aleksei Oleinik and Shamil Abdurakhimov have gotten him up to seventh in the division. Daukaus has won five straight, with his last four inside the Octagon, all coming by knockout, with three coming inside the first round.

How they match up: Both men are knockout artists, and you know what you’re going to get from Lewis. He’s tough and durable, but he can be finished if pressure is put upon him. You also don’t want to necessarily engage in a fire fight with him, because it can end in bad results. He’s not going to land with high volume, and he’ll mix in the leg kicks while occasionally throwing some crazy jumping switch kick. Daukaus has been a high-volume striker in his four UFC bouts, and he’s been able to show off his power in big ways. We’ve yet to really see him in any sort of trouble, though the early stages of the first round against Shamil Abdurakhimov saw Daukaus needing a bit to get going. We have yet to see how Daukaus truly takes a hard shot from an opponent, and two of his three pre-UFC losses saw him lose by knockout. Despite being a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, we have yet to see much of a ground game from Daukaus. He could take Lewis down, but Lewis does have this crazy ability to somehow get out from the bottom when he’s in trouble. It’s going to come down to the battle on the feet and whether Daukaus can handle the power that Lewis is going to bring.

What’s at stake: This is a big fight for both men for several reasons. For Lewis, a win would show he’s not ready to slide down the heavyweight rankings and would keep him in that title picture, and hopefully help ease the loss to Gane. However, a loss would likely put him in that gatekeeper role that many feel he’s already in, as the loss to Gane was his second shot at winning UFC gold, and he’s looked bad both times. Daukaus has been extremely impressive thus far during his UFC career, and a win here would not only be the biggest of his career, but would put him possibly inside the top four at heavyweight, and likely put him in at least a title eliminator bout. This is a pivotal fight for both men.

Pick: Lewis

Welterweights: #5 Stephen Thompson vs. #10 Belal Muhammad

Overall Records: Thompson 16-5-1, Muhammad 19-3 1 NC

UFC Records: Thompson 11-5-1, Muhammad 10-3 1 NC

Last Fight: Burns def. Thompson–UDec–UFC 264 (7/10/21), Muhammad def. Maia–UDec–UFC 263 (6/12/21)

Last five fights: Thompson 2-3, Muhammad 4-0 1 NC

Betting odds: Thompson -225, Muhammad +180

Background: A welterweight bout between a pair of top-ten fighters takes the co-main event slot, and it’s a strong fight that could’ve headlined shows early next year as Thompson takes on Muhammad in an interesting match-up. Thompson comes into this bout with a brand new UFC contract, but he’s also looking to get back into the win column after dropping a decision to Gilbert Burns in July. That ended a two-fight win streak, and a win over Burns likely would’ve put him next in line to challenge for the UFC Welterweight Championship. He remains ranked fifth in the division, and with Kamaru Usman cleaning the top-ranked foes out right now, a couple of wins could put Thompson right back in that mix. Muhammad is trying to get himself into that title mix as he looks to score his second straight win after scoring a decision win over Demian Maia at UFC 263 in August. Muhammad is actually unbeaten in his last six, as he has a no contest with Leon Edwards in there, and he has just one loss in his eleven fights dating back to the start of 2017.

How they match up: This match-up seems tailor-made for the style of Thompson. His karate style relies on being able to counter opponents who come forward and are volume strikers. Thompson shines against those types of foes. Muhammad does tend to late slightly more significant strikes per minute, but he also gets hit more than Thompson does. Thompson likes to mix in all sorts of various attacks on the feet, with all sorts of kicks, and he also has an extremely effective jab. Muhammad is going to have to keep walking Thompson down and stay inside the pocket, and he could look to mix in his wrestling. Thompson does have strong takedown defense and is good at getting up off his back. This just feels like a fight where all of the craftiness that Thompson brings will be on full display, and Muhammad will likely be fighting from behind throughout.

What’s at stake: There are definite title shot implications on the line in this one. Leon Edwards appears to be next for Kamaru Usman, and Vicente Luque is also in the mix. After that, the door is wide open. Luque has fought both- he’s beaten Muhammad but lost to Thompson. Thompson winning would likely put him in possibly a rematch with Luque, or perhaps a shot against Colby Covington, but he’ll still be in big fights. Plus, with his new UFC deal, he’ll be around for quite some time. This is Muhammad’s big shot at joining the elite at 170 lbs., as a win could vault him all the way to the top-five of the division. He’s also got a bit of a personality, which could go a long way in the division. This fight is very big for both.

Pick: Thompson

Women’s Strawweights: #11 Amanda Lemos vs. #12 Angela Hill

Overall Records: Lemos 10-1-1, Hill 13-10

UFC Records: Lemos 4-1, Hill 8-10

Last Fight: Lemos def. Conejo–R1 TKO–UFC On ESPN 26 (7/17/21), Torres def. Hill–UDec–UFC 265 (8/7/21)

Last five fights: Lemos 4-1, Hill 2-3

Betting odds: Lemos -300, Hill +250

Background: A strawweight bout that wasn’t the originally scheduled fight for this event sees a pair of fighters just outside of the top ten at 115 lbs. square off in what could be an exciting fight. Lemos comes into this fight riding quite the wave of momentum. She started her UFC career off as a bantamweight, losing to Leslie Smith in her debut. She was then suspended by USADA for two years, and used that time off to transition to the strawweight division. Since she’s come back, she’s won all four of her fights at 115 lbs., with three of the wins coming via a finish inside the first round. She’s coming off a 35-second knockout win over Montserrat Conejo in July. Hill takes this fight on just over a month’s notice as a replacement for Nina Nunes, and Hill has never been afraid to take a tough fight. Hill comes into this bout trying to erase a rough patch that has seen her lose three of her last four fights. She’s coming off a decision loss to Tecia Torres at UFC 265 in August.

How they match up: This should be an interesting fight on the feet. Hill is probably the more talented striker, but Lemos has lots of power in her fists and is capable of putting any opponent away. Both land at a high volume, with both being pretty accurate. Both also tend to get hit quite often, though Hill is a better defender on the feet. Hill moves around a lot on her feet and has really strong Muay Thai skills, and has more variety on the feet, as she mixes in kicks, knees to the body, and has sharp elbows inside the clinch. She’s also fought a lot stiffer competition, so this may not be an easy fight for Lemos like several have been of late. Lemos is really athletic and intense on the feet, as she has a lot of toughness and durability, and Hill is capable of getting out of rhythm and being bullied by stronger opponents. This should be a fun fight while it lasts.

What’s at stake: We’ve seen almost all of Hill’s career inside the Octagon, and she’s definitely improved, but she seems to be stuck at a point where she can beat those ranked lower than her, but can’t beat those ranked above her. Lemos falls in the line of those ranked above her, and a win should line Lemos up for a top-ranked opponent next. Lemos has been hyped as a future champion by those around her, and this is a big showcase for her to try and step into that next level. Hill isn’t going to make it easy for her, and a win from Hill would qualify as quite the upset.

Pick: Lemos

Bantamweights: #12 Raphael Assuncao vs. Ricky Simon

Overall Records: Assuncao 27-8, Simon 18-3

UFC Records: Assuncao 11-5, Simon 6-2

Last Fight: Garbrandt def. Assuncao–R2 KO–UFC 250 (6/6/20), Simon def. Kelleher–UDec–UFC 258 (2/13/21)

Last five fights: Assuncao 2-3, Simon 3-2

Betting odds: Assuncao +220, Simon -275

Background: A battle of solid bantamweight fighters takes place here as long-time veteran of the sport Assuncao returns from a lengthy layoff to take on rising prospect Simon. Assuncao fights for the first time since June 2020, as he’s missed time over the past 18 months due to injury and a bout dealing with COVID-19. He’s looking to end a three-fight losing skid, which has seen him drop fights to Marlon Moraes, Cory Sandhagen and Cody Garbrandt. Prior to this skid, Assuncao had gone 11-1 over the span of twelve fights to get himself in the title picture, and he’ll look to start a new run here. Simon comes into this fight riding a three-fight win streak, as he’s scored wins over Ray Borg, Gaetano Pirrello and Brian Kelleher during his streak. Simon is the last fighter to defeat Merab Dvalishvili, but he’s also lost to Rob Font and Urijah Faber inside the Octagon.

How they match up: If you’ve seen Simon fight before, you should know what to expect from him, and that is constant takedowns. He’s scored takedowns in seven of his eight UFC bouts, with the only one he didn’t land one being a 46-second loss to Urijah Faber. In those seven fights, Simon has scored 37 takedowns, and an additional 14 on his appearance on the Contender Series. He completes 54% of his takedown attempts, and he also defends 72% of takedowns attempted on him. Now, taking Assuncao down is going to prove to be a difficult task. He defends 80% of takedowns attempted on him, and has only been taken down once in a fight in the last five years. He’s also a far better striker, landing more often than Simon while also getting hit far less. The big question is whether the layoff and age has caught up to Assuncao. Simon has a big gas tank and tends to come on strong in the latter stages of fights. This one looks like it’s going to be an ultra-tight contest.

What’s at stake: Assuncao needs a win if he’s going to make a run at the bantamweight title. He’s 39, so he’s reaching the latter stages of his career, and this is a chance for him to show that he’s still got gas left in the tank. A win would also keep him inside the bantamweight rankings. Simon wants to break into the bantamweight rankings, and a win her would definitely do that. It would also mean four straight wins, and would set Simon up for another highly-ranked opponent for his next fight. This will be a big indicator of the future of both men.

Pick: Simon

Lightweights: #12 Diego Ferreira vs. Mateusz Gamrot

Overall Records: Ferreira 17-4, Gamrot 19-1 1 NC

UFC Records: Ferreira 8-4, Gamrot 2-1

Last Fight: Gillespie def. Ferreira–R2 TKO–UFC On ESPN 24 (5/8/21), Gamrot def. Stephens–R1 SUB–UFC On ESPN 26 (7/17/21)

Last five fights: Ferreira 3-2, Gamrot 4-1

Betting odds: Ferreira +155, Gamrot -190

Background: An exciting match-up takes place here in the lightweight division as Ferreira looks to get back on track against the surging Gamrot in a potential Fight Of The Night contender. Ferreira looks to break back into a win column here. At one point, he was on a six-fight win streak that had him inside the top ten and on the cusp of a title shot. However, he’s since dropped two straight, losing to Beneil Dariush and Gregor Gillespie. Worse for him, he’s missed weight in two of his last five bouts, including by four-and-a-half pounds against Gillespie, and had to pull out of another fight on weigh-in day due to weight cutting complications. It’s a surprise he’s getting another fight at 155 lbs. after his last mishap. Gamrot signed his UFC deal in 2020 with a lot of hype, coming into the promotion undefeated in his first 18 fights and as a two-division champion in KSW. He had a disappointing split decision loss to Guram Kutateladze in his debut, but has scored finishes over Scott Holtzman and Jeremy Stephens, with the Stephens finish coming in 65 seconds, in his last two fights.

How they match up: Ferreira is going to be a big test for Gamrot, as he’s a well-rounded fighter who is good at everything, and great at several things. Gamrot is also well-rounded, but his competition level has been lower than Ferreira’s. Both men are black belts in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, with Ferreira being a third-degree black belt. They both hit hard, but Gamrot has more of the one-shot knockout power. Gamrot appears to be the better pure wrestler of the two, but that is not to discredit Ferreira’s wrestling game. In fact, some of his best wins have come against opponents who had strong wrestling bases that he was able to negate. However, Ferreira’s last two losses have seen him lose handily in the wrestling department, as he was taken down nine times between the two fights. Ferreira’s weight will also be a key here, and if he misses again, he could end up looking sluggish like he did in his fight against Gillespie. This does appear to be a potential breakout fight for Gamrot.

What’s at stake: A spot in the top 15 of the lightweight rankings looks to be at stake here. Ferreira has been inside the top ten before, but his last two losses have put him at 12th coming into this bout, and a third straight loss could see him outside of the rankings. Who would replace him should he lose? That would seem to be Gamrot, who has had the two impressive wins, and if he gets another here, especially by finish, he’d be ranked and in line for a high-profile match-up next. Gamrot is yet another exciting addition to the lightweight division, arguably the strongest division in the company.

Pick: Gamrot

Featherweights: Cub Swanson vs. Darren Elkins

Overall Records: Swanson 26-12, Elkins 26-9

UFC Records: Swanson 11-8, Elkins 16-8

Last Fight: Chikadze def. Swanson–R1 TKO–UFC On ESPN 23 (5/1/21), Elkins def. Minner–R2 TKO–UFC On ESPN 27 (7/24/21)

Last five fights: Swanson 2-3, Elkins 2-3

Betting odds: Swanson -200, Elkins +160

Background: A battle of long-time veterans of Zuffa, who have surprisingly never been matched up before, sees UFC and WEC veteran Swanson in his 29th bout between the two promotions going against Elkins in his 25th UFC bout. Swanson comes into this fight looking to bounce back from a disappointing loss in his last fight, where he was finished by Giga Chikadze in 63 seconds. That ended a two-fight win streak Swanson was on, and he looks to get a new streak going and show he has lots of fight left in him. Elkins has had a strange and streaky journey during his UFC career. He split his first two fights, then won five straight, then lost three of five, then won six straight, then lost four straight, and has now won two straight coming into this fight. He’s known for his toughness and the fact he bleeds early-and-often, and also his never-give-up attitude.

How they match up: Even with all of the wars and injuries, Swanson still only seems to lose to the top-tier of the featherweight division. He still has plenty of power in his hands and still mixes in solid calf kicks on offense. It’s not really a matter of if, but when, Elkins starts to bleed in this one. Elkins is not afraid to get hit while applying his constant pressure, and he will be looking to test how much Swanson wants to get in a grind of a fight. Swanson does have good takedown defense and is enough of a veteran to know what to expect from Elkins. Elkins isn’t going to put Swanson in a spot he hasn’t been in before, but that statement also goes the other way. There’s going to be blood spilt in this one, and it’s going to be a brawl. Swanson is just too good on the feet to see this not going his way as long as it stays standing.

What’s at stake: There’s no title shots or divisional rankings up for grabs in this one, but this should be just a hard-nosed battle that shows what both have left to offer when they step inside the Octagon. Both might be in the twilight of their careers, as Swanson is 38 and Elkins is 37, but they’ve both left it inside the Octagon every time they’ve fought, and this should be no different. Neither guy is going to be cut by losing, and neither is going to get a title shot, which should take the pressure off of both as they just go for the post-fight bonus.

Pick: Swanson

Preliminary Card

Start Time: 4:00 p.m. ET, 1:00 p.m. PT

Where to watch: ESPN+

Middleweights: Dustin Stoltzfus vs. Gerald Meerschaert

Overall Records: Stoltzfus 13-3, Meerschaert 32-14

UFC Records: Stoltzfus 0-2, Meerschaert 8-6

Last Fight: Vieira def. Stoltzfus–R3 SUB–UFC On ESPN 26 (7/17/21), Meerschaert def. Muradov–R2 SUB–UFC On ESPN 30 (8/28/21)

Last five fights: Stoltzfus 3-2, Meerschaert 3-2

Betting odds: Stoltzfus +185, Meerschaert -225

Background: A bout that wasn’t even slated for the card until about two weeks ago takes place in the middleweight division as Meerschaert looks to keep his win streak going, while Stoltzfus looks to end a losing skid. Meerschaert comes into this fight having won two straight, picking up post-fight bonuses along the way. He started his UFC career off 4–1, then went 2–5 over his next seven, but the win streak has himself established as a threat in the division as he tries to move up the rankings. Stoltzfus is on his third different opponent, as bouts against Anthony Hernandez and Caio Borralho fell apart, while Meerschaert’s original fight against Abusupiyan Magomedov went by the way side. Stoltzfus is going for his first UFC win while trying to end a two-fight losing skid, as he’s dropped fights to Kyle Daukaus and Rodolfo Vieira in his first two appearances.

How they match up: They can’t help but give Stoltzfus match-ups against submission-heavy opponents, but this will be another test for him as Meerschaert is one of the more dangerous ground fighters in the division. Stoltzfus is a well-rounded fighter who had success with his wrestling and grappling on the regional scene, but that hasn’t translated well inside the Octagon due to the massive step up in competition. He has yet to complete a takedown on his ten attempts during his two UFC bouts, and he’s been taken down by both of his opponents. Meerschaert is a solid takedown artist, and has a black belt in jiu-jitsu, and 25 wins by submission. Stoltzfus likely needs a knockout to win this one, and there are questions on the chin of Meerschaert. Outside of that, this is likely a grappling battle, and Meerschaert is just way too proven in that department.

What’s at stake: Meerschaert is on the cusp of fighting ranked opposition, and another win would put him in that type of spot for his next fight. He seemed to be written off following the quick loss to Khamzat Chimaev, but the huge upset he scored over Makhmud Muradov in his last fight easily erased that prior sting. A third straight win would be huge for him. Stoltzfus might be fighting for his UFC life in this one. I do think if he were to lose that they would give him another fight considering the circumstances behind this booking, but he’s still in a must win situation in this one.

Pick: Meerschaert

Bantamweights: Raoni Barcelos vs. Victor Henry

Overall Records: Barcelos 16-2, Henry 21-5

UFC Records: Barcelos 5-1, Henry 0-0

Last Fight: Valiev def. Barcelos–MajDec–UFC On ESPN+ 48 (6/26/21), Henry def. Morales–R2 SUB–LXF 6 (10/30/21)

Last five fights: Barcelos 4-1, Henry 4-1

Betting odds: Barcelos -350, Henry +275

Background: A bout that came together just over a week prior to this card sees a bantamweight battle as Barcelos welcomes Henry to the Octagon. Barcelos is coming off his first UFC loss, as he dropped a decision to Timur Valiev in a Fight Of The Night showing in June. It ended his nine fight win streak, which included a 5–0 run to start his UFC career. Barcelos has scored ten wins via a finish. Henry makes his short-notice debut as a veteran of the sport, having debuted in 2010, fighting for such promotions as Pancrase and RIZIN. He is one of only two people to hold a win over current bantamweight prospect Kyler Phillips, and he makes his UFC debut having won nine of his last ten fights. Henry has 14 wins by a finish.

How they match up: Barcelos is going to be looking to do something to Henry that’s never been done, and that is to finish him. Henry is getting a tall task for his Octagon debut, but with 26 career fights under his belt, he is a far more experienced debuting fighter than most. Barcelos can’t take him lightly, even if he fights like he normally does in taking his time to wear down his opponent. Barcelos also has powerful striking and a great grappling game to go along with excellent durability. Henry is best on the mat, and has some decent power in his hands, but a short-notice fight against an opponent the caliber of Barcelos is going to be a tall task. We’ve seen some upsets this year, and this would be another big one should Henry pull it off.

What’s at stake: Barcelos was on the cusp of being inside the top-15 of the bantamweight rankings prior to the loss to Valiev, and he was having trouble getting fights against ranked opposition due to how dangerous he is. The loss to Valiev showed he can be beaten, but a win here, especially in impressive fashion, would get him right back on track to fighting ranked opponents. For Henry, the call for a UFC debut came at a time when it looked like it might not ever come. He’s looking to be like two other fighters who were in similar positions to him, Chris Curtis and Chris Barnett, who have come in and made a quick impression. A win over a solid and tough veteran like Barcelos would do exactly that.

Pick: Barcelos

Heavyweights: Justin Tafa vs. Harry Hunsucker

Overall Records: Tafa 4-3, Hunsucker 7-4

UFC Records: Tafa 1-3, Hunsucker 0-1

Last Fight: Vanderaa def. Tafa–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 46 (5/22/21), Tuivasa def. Hunsucker–R1 TKO–UFC On ESPN 21 (3/20/21)

Last five fights: Tafa 2-3, Hunsucker 3-2

Betting odds: Tafa -350, Hunsucker +260

Background: A pair of heavyweights looking to get back into the win column square off here as Tafa and Hunsucker both look for an early finish. Tafa will be making his fifth appearance inside the Octagon, where he has just a 1-3 record. He’s lost two straight, and is coming off a loss to Jared Vanderaa in May in a fight that won Fight Of The Night. He’s still young in his career, as this will be just his eighth career fight. His four wins have all come by knockout. Hunsucker will be making his second UFC appearance, but this time will be under the guise of a full training camp. He lost in his debut, being on the wrong end of a 49-second knockout from Tai Tuivasa. Hunsucker has scored all seven of his professional wins by stoppage, with two knockouts and five submissions.

How they match up: This is going to be contested on the feet and is going to come down to who scores the knockout. It really doesn’t get much more simple than that. Tafa is sloppy on his feet a lot of the time, but that doesn’t matter as much when he lands, as he has fight-ending power in his right hand. Hunsucker’s durability is a question as is his chin, and his best path to winning is to hope to find a quick knockout of Tafa. Tafa doesn’t have the best defense on the feet, so that’s a hole he needs to shore up in order for sustained success. This feels set up for Tafa to get a bounce back win, but he can’t take Hunsucker lightly at all. It will likely end quickly and violently.

What’s at stake: A spot on the roster may be the ultimate thing at stake in this fight. They could’ve easily let Tafa go after going 1-3 to start his UFC career, but he’s got some potential and looks to be a heavyweight they can count on to have exciting bouts, which will be important when they get back to touring in the coming months. Hunsucker looks to be expendable, and he’s probably at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to the heavyweight division. I could see him getting cut if he loses, but I also could see him getting another fight. Either way, this is pretty much a must-win for both.

Pick: Tafa

Women’s Flyweights: Sijara Eubanks vs. Melissa Gatto

Overall Records: Eubanks 7-6, Gatto 7-0-2

UFC Records: Eubanks 5-4, Gatto 1-0

Last Fight: Eubanks def. Reed–R1 TKO–UFC On ESPN 27 (7/24/21), Gatto def. Leonardo–R2 TKO–UFC 265 (8/7/21)

Last five fights: Eubanks 3-2, Gatto 4-0-1

Betting odds: Eubanks -165, Gatto +135

Background: A women’s flyweight bout between two women looking to move near the rankings takes place here when Eubanks battles Gatto. Eubanks will be fighting for the second time since she made the return to the flyweight division as she’s coming off a first-round finish of Elise Reed in July. She was supposed to fight in October, but was pulled from her fight due to COVID-19 protocols, but is all good to go now. Gatto comes into this fight undefeated in her career, as her first nine fights have seen her score seven wins and go to a draw twice. This will be her second UFC bout, as she finally debuted in August after having three fights cancelled. She scored a stoppage at the end of the second round, as Victoria Leonardo suffered a broken arm in their fight, but it was a fight Gatto was in control of. It was her fifth win via a stoppage.

How they match up: Eubanks looked strong for the flyweight division in her return to it earlier this year, and it’ll be interesting to see if that carries over. Her style could play lots of fits with Gatto here, as she’s not all that great on the feet, but Eubanks likes to control with the wrestling and top control on the ground. Gatto isn’t a strong defensive wrestler, but if she’s prepared enough to be able to defend from the bottom, she has a good shot at wearing Eubanks down on the mat. Any extended time on the feet likely favors Gatto, though both leave lots to be desired on the feet. Eubanks has had a lot tougher competition in her career, and she’s fought some of the best in a weight class above her. Eubanks should look to control the pace of the fight and dominate with her wrestling if she wants the easiest path to victory.

What’s at stake: The winner won’t be ranked, but they will be getting close. The women’s flyweight division is getting kind of robust at the moment, outside of the fact there’s a dominant champion in Valentina Shevchenko. It’s hard to know how long Shevchenko’s reign will last, because, after all, we just saw Amanda Nunes’ reign at bantamweight end. This is a more important fight for Eubanks, as a loss would drop her to 5-5 as a UFC fighter, and that would be losses in three of four, which would be bad news for her roster spot. Gatto would love to remain undefeated, so it’s an important bout for her as well.

Pick: Eubanks

Featherweights: Charles Jourdain vs. Andre Ewell

Overall Records: Jourdain 11-4-1, Ewell 17-8

UFC Records: Jourdain 2-3-1, Ewell 4-4

Last Fight: Erosa def. Jourdain–R3 SUB–UFC On ESPN+ 49 (9/4/21), Arce def. Ewell–R2 TKO–UFC On ESPN 27 (7/24/21)

Last five fights: Jourdain 2-2-1, Ewell 2-3

Betting odds: Jourdain -190, Ewell +160

Background: An exciting match-up at featherweight takes place here as Jourdain takes on Ewell in what could be an explosive battle. Jourdain is looking to get back in the win column after suffering a submission loss to Julian Erosa in September. Jourdain has struggled to gain momentum during his UFC career, as he’s scored just two wins in his first six UFC bouts. Also struggling to gain momentum is Ewell, who will be making the move up to 145 lbs. for the first time. He’s looking to start fresh and end a two-fight losing skid, which saw him getting finished by Julio Arce in July. Ewell has gone just 4–4 during his UFC career, and holds a win over former champion Renan Barao, but his four wins have all been by decision, with three being a split decision, so he tends to be in close fights.

How they match up: Jourdain should have the size advantage in this one, as he’s a natural featherweight who has fought there his entire career, while Ewell makes the move up. Ewell was big as a bantamweight, but his power wasn’t among the best at the division, and likely only diminishes on the way up. Ewell is still going to have a six-inch reach advantage, and he’s going to need to exploit it well in picking Jourdain apart from the outside. Ewell does have a good long-range boxing game, but Jourdain mixes his strikes up better, coming with all sorts of kicks and some flying attacks. Jourdain has the power to drop Ewell, and he’s scored six knockdowns during his UFC career thus far. If he can push Ewell out of his comfort zone, Ewell becomes an easy target to hit and the damage will be done on the feet.

What’s at stake: It’s quite possible both men could be fighting for their UFC futures. Both tend to have fun fights, especially Jourdain, but at a time when wins matter, they both need one. Jourdain might be held on to even with a loss, but he really can’t afford another one. Ewell could very well be cut with a loss, as that would be three straight, and these are tough and loaded divisions. They both need to win here.

Pick: Jourdain

Women’s Featherweights: #8 WBW Raquel Pennington vs. #10 WBW Macy Chiasson

Overall Records: Pennington 12-8, Chiasson 7-1

UFC Records: Pennington 9-5, Chiasson 5-1

Last Fight: Pennington def. Kianzad–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 50 (9/18/21), Chiasson def. Reneau–UDec–UFC On ESPN 21 (3/20/21)

Last five fights: Pennington 3-2, Chiasson 4-1

Betting odds: Pennington -175, Chiasson +145

Background: A fight that came together pretty recently sees normal bantamweights Pennington and Chiasson square off at 145 lbs. as both look to continue their win streaks. Pennington was originally scheduled to fight Julia Avila in this bout, but Avila was forced out due to injury, and Chiasson steps in on about ten days’ notice. With the late notice, that is why the fight will be in the featherweight division. Pennington is looking to score her third straight win, as she’s coming off a pair of decision wins over Marion Reneau and Pannie Kianzad. She’s fought for a title before, and with a new champion in the division, for now, she’s looking to get another shot. Chiasson should be used to fighting as a featherweight, as she won season 28 of The Ultimate Fighter in the division. She’s fought her post-TUF career at 135 lbs., winning four of five fights, and has won her last two. She hasn’t fought since March, as a pair of scheduled fights against Aspen Ladd fell apart due to an injury to her and weight cutting issues for Ladd.

How they match up: Chiasson is going to have a notable length advantage in this one, as she’ll have four inches in height and five inches in reach on Pennington. Normally that might be bad news for the foes of Chiasson, but Pennington is an opponent who, no matter how much reach she might give up, knows how to get inside the range and make it a clinch battle. Pennington has no problem making fights ugly and grinding them against the fence. Chiasson should be prepared for this, and hopefully she practiced a lot with landing knees and elbows against the fence. Pennington does have fantastic durability, and Chiasson has shown the tendency to tire late in fights where the pace is out of her comfort zone. If she can keep Pennington on the outside, she’ll have great success, as her power and technical ability is the difference for her in this one.

What’s at stake: It’s probably meaningless that a featherweight title shot could be in play here, but never say never, as Norma Dumont might need an opponent, or so could Kayla Harrison should she sign, and the winner here could be in play. As far as what happens at bantamweight, a win would move either one closer to title contention, and the division is wide open for the moment with the new champion in Julianna Pena. It’s a big bout for both women as they look to score an impressive win.

Pick: Chiasson

Heavyweights: Don’Tale Mayes vs. Josh Parisian

Overall Records: Mayes 8-4, Parisian 14-4

UFC Records: Mayes 1-2, Parisian 1-1

Last Fight: Mayes def. Martinez–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 40 (11/14/20), Parisian def. Martinez–SpDec–UFC On ESPN 25 (6/19/21)

Last five fights: Mayes 3-2, Parisian 4-1

Betting odds: Mayes -200, Parisian +165

Background: A heavyweight battle is the second fight on the card as a pair of contract winners from Dana White’s Contender Series square off. Mayes and Parisian both come into this fight off a win over Roque Martinez, as Mayes scored a decision over him in November 2020, while Parisian scored a win over him in June. Mayes hasn’t fought since then, and it was his first UFC win in three bouts, though one of his losses came to Ciryl Gane. He has five wins by stoppage. Parisian once competed on The Ultimate Fighter in addition to two appearances on Contender Series, and he’s gone 1–1 during his first two UFC appearances. He has scored 12 of his 14 wins by stoppage, win ten wins coming by knockout.

How they match up: These are two big heavyweights that have massive size. Both men flirt with the heavyweight weight limit, and Mayes is six-foot-six with an 81-inch reach, while Parisian is six-foot-four with a 79-inch reach. Mayes is an especially impressive specimen, but he doesn’t fight like someone who is physically imposing. He has power, but is very slow on his feet. Parisian knows how to pressure opponents and is the quicker man of the two on the feet. Parisian also likes to fight at range, but his conditioning leaves a lot to be desired. Mayes should opt to be patient on the feet and push Parisian against the fence, wear him down and empty his gas tank. An early finish will probably see Parisian’s hand raised, while a drawn-out fight goes in the favor of Mayes.

What’s at stake: These are lower-level heavyweights, so there isn’t much at stake. There might be for Mayes, as if this is the last fight of his first UFC deal, a loss would put him at 1–3 and he likely wouldn’t be re-signed. Parisian will get another shot win-or-lose, but it obviously would be better for his future if he won. Neither can really afford a loss, so it’s a pivotal fight for both.

Pick: Mayes

Lightweights: Jordan Leavitt vs. Matt Sayles

Overall Records: Leavitt 8-1, Sayles 8-3

UFC Records: Leavitt 1-1, Sayles 1-2

Last Fight: Puelles def. Leavitt–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 47 (6/5/21), Mitchell def. Sayles–R1 SUB–UFC On ESPN 7 (12/7/19)

Last five fights: Leavitt 4-1, Sayles 3-2

Betting odds: Leavitt -125, Sayles +105

Background: A lightweight bout gets the action kicked off inside the UFC APEX as Leavitt welcomes Sayles back after a long layoff. Leavitt is looking to bounce back from the first loss of his career as he dropped a decision to Claudio Puelles in June. Prior to that, he started his career 8–0, including a brutal slam knockout finish of Matt Wiman in his UFC debut. Sayles is making his fourth appearance inside the Octagon, but is fighting for the first time in over two years. He was last seen being submitted by Bryce Mitchell, who got Sayles to tap to a twister, in December 2019. Sayles missed weight for that fight, and during the layoff, he got himself better prepared as he moves up to lightweight for the first time since his UFC signing.

How they match up: Leavitt is a standout grappler who is not going to scare anyone on the feet while Sayles tends to be high-volume on his feet with good movement, and he can hold his own on the mat. Sayles does tend to have strong takedown defense, even though he was finished on the mat by Bryce Mitchell, but the move up in weight should help him defend the slower takedown attempts. Sayles does his best work on the feet when he is counter-punching, but Leavitt doesn’t throw a lot of offense, though he is accurate when he lands on the feet. Leavitt will also have a slight reach advantage. This will come down to where the fight spends the most time. On the feet, it goes to Sayles, while a ground fight goes to Leavitt. It’s a real toss-up bout.

What’s at stake: It’s a fight both need to win, especially Sayles as he enters the pivotal fourth fight of a UFC career. It could be the last time we see him, for now, should he lose, so he’s in a must-win moment here. Leavitt wants to erase the sting of losing for the first time, and he also doesn’t want to be on a two-fight losing skid. Both could really use a win here.

Pick: Sayles

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