The UFC closed out 2021 on a high note with UFC Vegas 45 and the biggest winners on the card were the men who triumphed in the top two fights.
In the main event, Derrick Lewis showed the upstarts in the UFC’s heavyweight division that it’s going to take a little more than four knockouts against unranked or aging opponents to boot him from the top of the heavyweight rankings. While in the co-main event, Belal Muhammad continued his rise up the welterweight rankings with a dominant win over former two-time title challenger Stephen Thompson.
Read on for the complete list of winners and losers from UFC Vegas 45, which took place at UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
Derrick Lewis: I was a bit baffled by the fact that Derrick Lewis was the underdog in the main event. Yes, Chris Daukaus had four knockouts in four fights in the UFC and had shown an ability to throw a lot of strikes in a short amount of time, but as far as being tested against top-notch striking competition? Daukaus had not faced that until Saturday night. Daukaus didn’t wilt against Lewis, but he got stopped and with the KO win, Lewis stands alone as the UFC knockout king.
Lewis may never win the UFC heavyweight title, but from all the evidence we have, it’s going to take a very special fighter to remove him from the of the UFC rankings. As a reminder of that fact, recall that the one man who has a win over Lewis in his past six outings is Ciryl Gane.
Belal Muhammad: Belal Muhammad was the No. 10 ranked welterweight heading into UFC Vegas 45. Expect him to make a pretty big jump up the official 170 pound UFC rankings when they get updated post-event.
Muhammad had a clear game plan against former title challenger Stephen Thompson, but every fighter (should) have a clear game plan. What counted was that Muhammad implemented that game plan and dominated the fight.
With his win, Muhammad is unbeaten in seven straight outings and 10-1 (one no contest) since 2017. Muhammad deserves that rematch against Leon Edwards if the UFC doesn’t book Edwards in a title fight.
Ricky Simon: Ricky Simon’s first three-fight UFC winning streak ended with back-to-back losses to Urijah Faber and Rob Font. He bounced back from that skid with another three straight wins. On Saturday, Simon made it four in a row with a knockout win over Raphael Assuncao, who despite a three-fight losing skid, was the No. 12 ranked UFC bantamweight ahead of UFC Vegas 45.
Simon’s wrestling carried the first round of this contest, but it was his striking that got things done. Simon used speed, power, cage control and shot selection to send Assuncao to defeat.
Diego Ferreira vs. Mateusz Gamrot: This was an incredibly entertaining fight. Both fighters showed nice striking skills and fast-paced scrambling skills when the fight went to the mat. I liked Mateusz Gamrot’s ability to find openings for some heavy ground strikes when there was a pause in the grappling. As for the finish, that knee to the seemed to have the perfect mix of power and accuracy. This was a great fight and it should give Gamrot, who is now on a three-fight winning streak, a big jump in competition as Diego Ferreira was the No. 12 ranked lightweight entering this matchup.
Cub Swanson: Cub Swanson might not be the fighter he once was. Hey, the man is 38 and he’s been with the WEC/UFC since 2007, but on Saturday he showed he is still a force to be reckoned with. Swanson disposed of the always tough and always game Darren Elkins with ease via a first-round knockout.
Justin Tafa: Justin Tafa knocked out Harry Hunsucker with a (head) kick that Hunsucker blocked with both his forearms. I repeat, Justin Tafa knocked out Harry Hunsucker with a kick that Hunsucker blocked with both his forearms. That is incredible. Now, about missing weight as a heavyweight.
Melissa Gatto: Melissa Gatto struggled a bit with the overall skill set of her opponent, Sijara Eubanks, over the first two rounds of their bout, but with Eubanks looking a bit tired in the third stanza, Gatto found her opportunity and made the most of it.
Gatto finished the fight with a nasty body kick that shut down Eubanks. That’s two finishes in two UFC fights for the 25-year-old Gatto.
Charles Jourdain: Charles Jourdain had the opportunity to renew his UFC contract before UFC Vegas 45, however, the 26-year-old Canadian decided he did not want to negotiate coming off a loss. Was that a risk? Sure it was, but it looks as if Jourdain will have some bargaining strength when he does sit down with the UFC brass. Jourdain started out a little slower than his opponent, Andrew Ewell, in this scrap, but once he found his groove, the young Canadian dominated the fight via an excellent mix of striking techniques and targets.
Raquel Pennington: Raquel Pennington extended her winning streak to three straight with a submission win over Macy Chiasson. The victory was Pennington’s first submission win since September 2015. The bout started out as a fun striking battle, but Pennington showed she has good fight IQ as she capitalized on Chiasson leaving her neck open against the cage.
Jordan Leavitt: Following his submission win over Matt Sayles — the third inverted triangle in UFC history — Jordan Leavitt told UFC commentator Michael Bisping that he has striking skills. But I say, why use your secondary skills when your opponent decides they don’t respect your primary skill?
Sayles made things easy on Leavitt on Saturday by engaging him on the mat. Future opponents should note this fight, don’t test Leavitt’s grappling acumen if you don’t have to.
Ricky Simon: Ricky Simon gets props for callout of the night with, “If Sean O’Malley can get Dana White’s permission…” That’s pushing a couple of different buttons. Nice work from Simon.
Paul Felder: Props to Paul Felder for calling out the clown in the crowd who tried to start a “USA” chant during the co-main event fight between two American fighters.
Derrick Lewis: That post-fight interview with Michael Bisping.
Chris Daukaus: Was Chris Daukaus the victim of his own success? Perhaps he was. In hindsight, throwing a relatively inexperienced heavyweight into the octagon against Derrick Lewis might not have been the greatest bit of UFC matchmaking. It’s going to be interesting to see how the UFC handles Daukaus following his knockout loss at UFC Vegas 45.
Stephen Thompson: Stephen Thompson did not quit in his bout against Belal Muhammad, but he had little to offer his opponent. Thompson was simply overwhelmed by the wrestling and top game of Muhammad.
Angela Hill: On Saturday, Angela Hill picked up her fourth UFC split decision loss with her defeat to Amanda Lemos. The “Fight of the Night” bonus the two received might remove some of the sting from the loss — which according to most of the media who scored the contest, went the wrong way — but it’s still another loss on Hill’s record.
Raphael Assuncao: Raphael Assuncao is 39 years old and — after Saturday’s knockout loss to Ricky Simon — is on a four-fight losing skid. Assuncao’s most recent win was a July 2018 decision over Rob Font. Assuncao is the kind of competitor the UFC will find fights for, but those fights are going to resemble the one he got at UFC Vegas 45, against younger competitors the UFC wants to showcase.
Sijara Eubanks: I know Sijara Eubanks thinks she is a UFC flyweight, but history has showed us she isn’t. If Eubanks won’t move up to 135 pounds on her own, the UFC should force her to make that move.
Andre Ewell: Andre Ewell, coming off two straight losses at bantamweight, decided he would move to featherweight at UFC Vegas 45. Ewell looked good for most of the first round of his bout against Charles Jourdain. He showed good movement and displayed some nice combination striking, but he seemed to run out of gas near the end of the first stanza.
Matt Sayles: Matt Sayles made mistakes in this fight. In the first round, he used his striking advantage to get into a grappling battle with Jordan Leavitt. He then spent the rest of the round fighting to Leavitt’s strengths. Sayles learned nothing from his first mistake and went for a takedown in the second round. That error in judgement cost him the fight.
Jason Herzog: Referee Jason Herzog seemed to have a brief conversation with Diego Ferreira after the fighter seemed to wave off his bout following a knee to the body from his opponent, Mateusz Gamrot. That delay in reaction was puzzling and could have resulted in Ferreira taking additional damage. If a fighter signals they are done, the referee’s job is to react to that information and stop the fight without question.
Amanda Lemos: Amanda Lemos won a split decision over Angela Hill. Lemos was the more powerful fighter, but her approach seems to be based on biting down on her mouthpiece and throwing everything with full power. That approach got Lemos into the top-15 of the UFC’s strawweight division, but it will be interesting to see how that works against top-10 opponents who should be able to exploit Lemos’ tendencies.
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