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Even though the monumental UFC 269 gala could have served as the year-end extravaganza, the Ultimate Fighting Championship has one more round in the chamber to close out 2021. A fairly decent, chock-full-of-action UFC Fight Night offering—one crammed with interesting divisional matchups and fun style clashes—will wrap up the Las Vegas-based promotion’s year on Saturday at the UFC Apex. The UFC Fight Night 199 edition of Prime Picks will bring plus money in three of four options, while a prop recently at even money rounds out what could be a profitable night of fights.
Derrick Lewis (+120)
The bad news for Lewis after his deflating non-performance against Ciryl Gane for the interim strap is that he is leagues away from championship opportunities again. This may not be the worst thing for “The Black Beast,” who can perform without the added pressure of trying to win a title in his home city. The achievement of most knockouts in UFC history (12)—tied with Vitor Belfort and Matt Brown—can never be taken from him, no matter if he has a lackluster showing or two. This battle against Chris Daukaus in the main event, however, is one in which he can flourish, as he will undoubtedly meet his Philadelphia-based foe in the center of the cage and bang it out. “Swangin’ and Bangin’” is a Lewis specialty, and the pairing at plus odds is one that should not be missed.
Daukaus has impressed since joining the roster in 2020, with deceptively quick hands and speed for his otherwise milquetoast heavyweight frame. This has led to four speedy knockouts over increasingly impressive opposition, with names like Shamil Abdurakhimov and Alexey Oleynik key in his progression through the division. The former police officer is not simply a one-dimensional boxer but a slugger who is more than willing to mix knees and elbows when up close. Daukaus has yet to be seriously tested since his 2019 loss to Azunna Anyanwu, and while he has cruised through aging competition or found the chin of those younger than him, the jump in level of competition from Abdurakhimov to Lewis might be a step too far.
If one were to simply hear the accolade that Lewis holds the most knockouts in UFC history, a mental picture may form about a laser-accurate striker who throws hammers until someone falls down. This is only partially true, as Lewis has historically never provided much in terms of volume. What “The Black Beast” lacks in speed, he makes up for in power, and he is the truest embodiment of the phrase “it only takes one in the heavyweight division.” Practically the opposite of the competitors in the co-main event, Lewis throws points out the window and goes after home run shots, sometimes to his own detriment. There is no accident to Lewis’ numbers, bolstered at least in part by his clever rope-a-dope tendency to shell up when absorbing strikes and back against the fence so he can unleash a bomb when his opponent least expects it.
The idea of Daukaus continuing his stretch of knockouts and putting away the New Orleans native is not completely unheard of. Daukaus does not rely on single blows to render his opponent unconscious and instead can strike hard and fast like a sudden bolt of lightning. The wild significant strike average after four UFC outings of 9.03 per minute is slightly off-kilter due to his not yet fighting beyond the 6:23 mark inside the Octagon, and there are serious questions about what happens when Daukaus cannot get the quick finish he seeks. For the past couple weeks, Daukaus has become a full-time fighter, leaving the Philadelphia Police Department altogether when he was not allowed to take a leave of absence. Barring a blitzing of Lewis early on—something that has not happened in many years—momentum will grow in the favor of “The Black Beast” each minute that passes. With five rounds to work, Lewis can find that single opening he desires when Daukaus takes his foot off the gas and begins to get defensively porous with fatigue creeping in.
Stephen Thompson Wins by Decision (-125)
Even at the age of 38 and climbing, the man still known as “Wonderboy” remains at the top echelon of the welterweight division. Thompson comfortably sits in the Top 5 in weight category where those attempting to break through need to amass astounding win streaks, but he can still show up against top competition. To the karateka’s credit, his lone loss in the last two years came against former title challenger Gilbert Burns, who found his way inside and dragged Thompson down to the mat to control him in the first and third rounds and get his hand raised. This approach seems easy enough to emulate, but Belal Muhammad is not that kind of fighter. Instead, Muhammad is a blood-and-guts grinder who will have to navigate the treacherous distance of Thompson’s kicking range, and he is a master of distance who can stave off such threats.
If there is a recent knock against Thompson, it is that his killer instinct has dissipated over the years. He may still possess the one-shot power with a spinning kick that can get the job done in a blink, but his approach has resembled more of a point fighter for the last five years. Muhammad will need to make the fight dirty, accepting his fate of taking a side kick to the liver or quick foot to the face as he charges in so that he can get his hands on his opponent. Few adversaries have pinned “Wonderboy” down for long, and Muhammad could add his name to that short list, but to do so would require perfect execution for three full rounds. Thompson will easily play the matador to Muhammad’s bull, sniping him as he closes the distance and leaving “Remember the Name” having to remember a different strategy. Because of Muhammad’s granite chin, which has only crumbled once due to a gorgeous intercepting left hand from a Vicente Luque, Thompson’s clearest path to victory is by staying at his preferred range and doing what he does best.
Macy Chiasson (+152)
Of the two fighters involved in this unexpected short-notice billing, it is the underdog who may have benefited more from it. Why? The fight has been scheduled at featherweight, likely so that Chiasson would not have to cut a dangerous amount of weight on less than two weeks’ notice. The Louisiana-born Chiasson won her season of “The Ultimate Fighter” in this division, while Raquel Pennington is a career bantamweight who might not acclimate as well up 10 pounds. The size advantage, in stature and in practically every metric, will be clear and distinct for Chiasson. It may go without saying that Pennington’s best course to victory is to embrace the grind, and with Chiasson likely possessing a clear advantage in strength for as long as her gas tank lasts, she is perhaps one of the most live underdogs on the whole fight card.
The matchup itself, on paper, should favor “Rocky,” who prefers to get her hands on her opponents and throw them around in some fashion. Playing the bully has so far been the tactic to give Chiasson fits, as Lina Lansberg frustrated her with nearly 15 minutes of clinches and a few takedowns mixed in for good measure. “The Ultimate Fighter” winner is susceptible to being controlled for swaths of a match, giving up rounds while Fortis MMA empresario Sayif Saud shouts himself hoarse with unfollowed advice. No matter which fighter you think will get her hand raised, adding in Fight Goes to Decision at -250 as a two-piece parlay would work wonders. This bout may largely be contested against the fence, and it might not be the most thrilling encounter. With that said, Chiasson should have the physical tools to keep an advantage for enough of the fight to score a decision.
Josh Parisian (+160)
Heavyweights hunting for their second wins in the Octagon will toe the line in a bout that may have been scheduled for the main card on other billings; both men won their last fight by battling Roque Martinez. The career trajectories of the two combatants have seen them work their way up to Dana White’s Contender Series, only to not get signed initially before jumping through an additional hoop to join a talent-hungry 265-pound division. In the case of Don'Tale Mayes, he had to knock out two men to earn a roster spot, even though future seasons of DWCS have seen far lesser achievements get slots. Parisian needed to hit the first spinning backfist in Zuffa heavyweight history—if one can fold DWCS into the Zuffa blanket—then appear on a season of “The Ultimate Fighter” before finally winning by knockout again on another episode of DWCS. As a result of this rumble, one man could have a .500 UFC record, but the line should be far closer than it is now.
The value in Parisian as the underdog stems from his ability, at least in terms of past performances, to win in a variety of ways on the feet. A heavyweight who can pull off spinning strikes, flying strikes and the rest should be a sought-after commodity, but Parker Porter slowed his rise to a crawl when Parisian found himself outgunned with a smaller reserve of cardio. The cage will be tested, as these two will likely clock in at or near the heavyweight limit of 265 pounds; and in Parisian’s case, he needs to prove he has more than one round of energy. It might be a race against the clock for the underdog, who hopes to get the job done in the first round—or at least do enough damage to curry favor on the scorecards should it go further. Mayes will maintain the height and reach advantages on his opponent but not by much. This fight, which will likely take place exclusively on the feet, should present a more even line than the bettors see at the moment.
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