UFC Fight Night may crown the next UFC heavyweight title challenger when Derrick Lewis and Chris Daukaus stomp into the Octagon at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. A win over Lewis will catapult Daukaus into the shortlist of viable title contenders, but that is a tall order for most heavyweights on the planet.
Lewis shook off the first losing streak of his pro career between 2018 and 2019 with four consecutive wins, including a knockout of perennial contender Curtis Blaydes, on his way to an interim heavyweight title fight against Ciryl Gane at UFC 265 in August. "The Black Beast" was thoroughly outclassed by Gane before being stopped in the third round. That fight is a testament to Gane's caliber (after all, he's a pick'em against champion Francis Ngannou) than a drop in Lewis' ability. Lewis (25-8, 1 NC) has fallen short of UFC gold on two occasions -- the other being a submission loss to Daniel Cormier at UFC 230 -- but he's a tall, and thick, order for most heavyweights. Daukaus' adventure into Francis Ngannou's dungeon of terrors runs through a path guarded by Lewis, who actually owns a win over Ngannou from 2018.
Daukaus (12-3) has looked as impressive as any UFC debutant in a division where one punch spells disaster on the regular. The former police offer has starched his first four UFC opponents, punctuated by finishes of Shamil Abdurakhimov and Alexey Oleynik in 2021. He throws punches in volume and is quickly establishing himself as one of the best boxers at heavyweight. Daukaus may not possess Lewis' freakish power, but he might punch his ticket to the world title if he can pick apart his opponent. Stipe Miocic has a hot-and-cold relationship with the UFC and Jon Jones' heavyweight debut is in on the rocks. Daukaus might just go from unsigned to UFC champion in two years if the cards fall in place.
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Saturday's co-main event has important implications in the wide-open welterweight title picture. Leon Edwards continues to be one big moment away from his title shot, Vicente Luque is the fop five's most exciting challenger, and the shadow of Khamzat Chimaev is beginning to engulf the division. A match-up that could further complicate welterweight's shaky foundation is Stephen Thompson vs. Belal Muhammad. "Wonderboy" looks to rebuild his case for UFC gold after falling just short to Gilbert Burns (No. 2) and Muhammad looks to cement himself as a legitimate contender with a nearly three-year-long undefeated streak. Both men have a tendency to deliver a close fight to judges, so expect a 15-minute nail biter.
"I know he is a tough opponent and he's fairly good everywhere," Thompson said to CBS Sports. "Wherever the fight goes I'm going to be ready for it, but being a little bit more aggressive and keeping my opponent on his heels will play a big part in this fight."
"He's a legend of the sport," Muhammad said. "He's the best striker in the division and the most elusive and the hardest match-up, where most people say 'no' to fighting a guy like this. I know this win will put me over the edge. This will be bigger than any of Leon [Edwards'] wins. This will put me ahead of him, honestly, in my book for the next title shot."
The card also features some big-name veterans returning to action in key battles for their careers as they near the end. Featherweights Cub Swanson and Darren Elkins are set to meet in the main card opener with the two combining for 75 career pro bouts. Swanson, 38, saw his two-fight win streak ended in May when he was stopped by Giga Chikadze. He's 2-5 since December 2017 with all of those defeats coming against elite opposition. Elkins, meanwhile, is on a two-fight win streak after dropping four in a row between July 2018 and May 2020.
Here's the fight card for UFC Fight Night with the latest odds from Caesars Sportsbook.
UFC Fight Night card, odds
Chris Daukaus -150
Derrick Lewis +125
Stephen Thompson -210
Belal Muhammad +175
Amanda Lemos -310
Angela Hill +250
Ricky Simon -300
Raphael Assuncao +240
Mateusz Gamrot -220
Diego Ferreira +180
|Cub Swanson -165||Darren Elkins +140||Featherweight|
UFC Fight Night viewing information
Date: Dec. 18 | Start time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: UFC Apex -- Las Vegas, Nevada
Derrick Lewis vs. Chris Daukaus: Daukaus is one of the most exciting boxers in heavyweight MMA. He slips in and out of range well, throws combinations in volume and lands more often than not. It's understandable that oddsmakers have Daukaus as slight favorite after finishing his first four UFC fights in under seven minutes. Lewis has disturbing power that carries late, something Daukaus has acknowledged in previous interviews. "The Black Beast" looked renewed on his recent campaign to the UFC heavyweight title. Don't let his one-sided loss to Gane fool you. Lewis is the measuring stick to being considered a serious UFC heavyweight title contender. If Daukaus wins, he's on the shortlist to fight the winner of Ngannou vs. Gane. Unfortunately for him, Lewis' power might get the better of Daukaus as the two trade fists. Pick: Derrick Lewis via KO2
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