Jamahal Hill could be the injection of fresh blood that the light heavyweight title image was looking for.
Having made his professional debut in 2017, Hill is the least experienced competitor with a number (14) next to his name in MMA Fighting World Rankingbut he could also be much closer to a championship opportunity than some of his more seasoned peers. Aleksandar Rakic (7) and Anthony Smith (8) face uncertain timelines for their comebacks as they recover from injury, Ozdemir Volcano (11) only recently broke a losing streak, and Hill’s UFC Vegas 59 main event opponent Thiago Santos (12) is closer to leaving the ranking than to climbing it.
This is all a moot point for Santos to regain some of their former glory on Saturday. The man who was one dash away from beating Jon Jones has only won once since that close call and he’s struggled to put up the kind of performances that previously made him one of the most feared knockout threats at 205 and 185 pounds. On paper, he has the startling skills to cause Hill trouble; in reality, Father Time could send a message to the 32-fight veteran.
In another main card action, Vincent Luque defends his spot in the welterweight rankings in the face of a resurgence Geoff Neal, The Ultimate Fighter 30 the finals end with Mohammad Ousman (the younger brother of the UFC champion Kamaru Usman) to fight Zac Pauga at heavyweight and Invicta FC veteran Brogan walker struggle Juliana Miller for Flyweight Tournament Crown, Veteran Heavyweight Auguste Sakai fight the succession Sergei Spivacand Ariane Lipski take Priscilla Cachoeira in the flyweight opener.
What: UFC Vegas 59
Where: UFC APEX in Las Vegas
Thiago Santos (12) vs. Mount Jamahal (14)
It hurts to say it: Thiago Santos is simply no longer the fighter he was.
Blame it on age (he turned 38 last January), blame it on the knee injuries Santos suffered in his near-contrary to Jon Jones, or blame it on the competition he has. had to face as an elite light heavyweight (his losses after the Jones fight was against Magomed Anklaev, Aleksandar Rakic and Glover Teixeira), but the results just haven’t been there for “Marreta”. Even his victory Johnny Walker was forgettable, to put it mildly.
So everything is in place for Jamahal Hill to have another showcase performance. After consecutive first-round finishes, he was given a name that still has enough luster to elevate him, but most likely not enough in the tank to threaten him. As long as he respects Santos’ shot, Hill won’t find himself in too much danger. He’s bigger and faster and at this point in their career he’s more of a knockout threat than Santos.
Forward and upward. Hill by KO.
Vicente Luque (9) against Geoff Neal
If the main event is meant to be a showcase for Hill, the co-main event is anything but Vicente Luque. It has the makings of a trap game.
Luque should be the pick against all but the best at 170 pounds (his most recent losses? Belal Muhammad, Stephen Thompsonand Leon Edwards). How you view this fight depends on how high you view Neal’s ceiling. At his best he showed the same kind of explosive finishing ability as Luque, he just doesn’t have Luque’s track record. Still.
One of Neal’s biggest concerns is the wrestling gap. Luque likes to stand and punch, but he’s such an all-around finisher and if he manages to knock this one down, Neal is toast. It’s this aspect of Luque’s game that makes the difference in this fight, as a stand-up contest could be a draw, even given Luque’s reputation as an assassin on the feet.
I expect an exciting start to this one with Luque eventually either defeating Neal or getting the better of a jamming situation and then winning via submission.
Mohammad Usman vs. Zac Pauga
Brogan Walker vs. Juliana Miller
Ah yes, now we can discuss the real main event(s).
Don’t let the company’s hashtag fool you, it’s not just UFC Vegas, it’s THE #TUF30Finale. It’s true, we have two Ultimate Fighter 30 finals on Saturday, starting with flyweights Brogan Walker and Juliana Miller, followed by heavyweights Mohammed Usman and Zac Pauga.
Let’s start with the big boys.
Yes, Mohammed Usman is the younger brother of Kamaru Usman. No, he doesn’t fight like Kamaru at all. Yeah, there’s a reason he’s the underdog in this one. Those familiar with Usman may recall last seeing him submitted by Brandon Sayles in the PLF. He bounced back quite well in the TUFF home with a pair of decision wins, but his semi-final win was a tight nod to Eduardo Perez that could have gone either way. Usman has the tools and the training but rarely puts it all together on fight night.
It’s not going to fly against Zac Pauga, one of the best attackers of the season. He has strong fundamentals, good takedown defense and the kind of laid back attitude that will serve him well going forward in the UFC heavyweight division. And he will move on after winning a convincing decision over Usman.
Walker versus Miller is a tougher call. Miller was arguably the star of TUF 30, a talented newcomer who wears her heart on her sleeve and fights like a demon in the cage. She only had three fights before TUFFbut on the show, she avenged her only professional loss by pointing out Claire Guthrie in one of the best fights of the season, then showed off his powerful submission game against Kaytlin Neil to book a ticket for the final.
That said, it’s hard for me to argue against Walker’s experience. She has a great victory over Miranda Maverick on his resume and has fought a higher level of competition than Miller thus far. It’s possible that Miller is an unknown gem like her TUFF coach Julianna Pena was when she topped her own season, but it’s just too early to tell. Walker has the advantage on the feet and I will be very impressed if Miller can dominate her on the ground.
I understand the hype around Miller. Give me Walker for the upset.
Take: Pauga and Walker
Augusto Sakai vs. Sergei Spivac
I’m high on the chances of Sergei Spivac joining the likes of Tom Aspinal, Alexander Romanovand Sergei Pavlovich in the discussion about the best prospects, but it hasn’t been easy here. Even though Sakai is mired in a brutal knockout losing streak, he is hard on his feet and I’m sure he looks like he keeps finding himself on the wrong side of the heavyweight draw.
Let’s simplify it and call it an attacking versus grappler matchup because I think Sakai’s muay thai skills give him the edge on the feet, while Spivac’s aggressive grappling gives him the edge on the mat. Whoever can get their tools running first is your winner.
Do you know what bothers me? Spivac comes out of a victory Greg Hardy. Greg Hardy is no good. Now he has to recalibrate and face a top 25 heavyweight? This must mess up your system. This fight is funny to me.
Sakai sprawls and fights to win by decision.
Ariane Lipski against. Priscilla Cachoeira
Unhappy weight loss, there is no reason to lose faith in Ariane Lipski in this game. She’s a better technical attacker than Priscila Cachoeira and she should be able to defeat Cachoeira at will. Cachoeira presents a challenge to anyone who agrees to a fight with her, but even then, it’s not like she’s an attacker at such volume that she can just overwhelm Lipski.
The other nod I will give Cachoeira is that she has legit power for a 125er, which Lipski should be aware of. Lipski isn’t used to getting rocked on her feet, so look for her to avoid Cachoeira’s tedders and separate her with counters or put her on her back if Cachoeira starts having success with her hands .
Cachoeira escaped UFC APEX with a decision win in her last outing, but Lipski will knock the judges out of the equation on Saturday when she earns a submission victory.