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UFC Vegas 16 preview, ‘Hermansson vs Vettori’ predictions

UFC Fight Night Eye v Calvillo Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

Despite losing two separate headliners in quick succession, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has put together a strong main event atop a quality card this Sat. (Dec. 5, 2020) evening on ESPN+ and ESPN2.

The UFC APEX will see middleweight mixed martial arts (MMA) menace Jack “The Joker” Hermansson look for his sixth win in seven fights against late replacement Marvin “The Italian Dream” Vettori, who was yanked from a planned clash with “Jacare” Souza when Darren Till and Kevin Holland were forced out.

Before all that, light heavyweight stalwart Ovince Saint Preux will attempt to halt the rise of undefeated Contender Series product Jamahal Hill. Both men are coming off of impressive knockouts and could make a big leap up the rankings with an eye-catching win.

Our usual main card guy is still in a Thanksgiving food coma, so the task falls to me once again. As always, you can find our “Prelims” duology here and here, the odds and betting lines here, and Andrew Richardson’s expert main card analysis right here.

Let’s get cracking.

185 lbs.: Jack Hermansson vs. Marvin Vettori

Jack “The Joker” Hermansson

Record: 21-5 | Age: 32 | Betting line: +120
Wins: 11 KO/TKO, 6 SUB, 4 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 6’1“ | Reach: 77.5” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 5.08 | Striking accuracy: 48%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.52 | Striking Defense: 56%
Takedown Average: 2.19 (35% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 73%
Current Ranking: No. 14 | Last fight: Submission win over Kelvin Gastelum

Marvin “The Italian Dream” Vettori

Record: 15-4-1 | Age: 27 | Betting line: -140
Wins: 2 KO/TKO, 9 SUB, 4 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 4 DEC
Height: 6’0“ | Reach: 74” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.33 | Striking accuracy: 43%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.76 | Striking Defense: 67%
Takedown Average: 1.67 (47% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 80%
Current Ranking: No. 13 | Last fight: Submission win over Karl Roberson

Here’s an amusing factoid: on 5Dimes, Hermansson opened as a -155 favorite. Within 10 minutes, he was down to +115. Even with the late notice, people are high on Vettori, and for good reason. Kings MMA has mastered the art of taking southpaw grapplers and adding vicious pressure striking to their arsenals, as seen in Rafael Dos Anjos, Beneil Dariush, and now the 27-year-old Vettori, who’s taken to the style like a violent, loudmouthed duck to water.

That said, there’s a difference between Jack Hermansson and the likes of Andrew Sanchez and Karl Roberson. The disparate elements of “The Joker’s” game are finally showing some real synergy, allowing him to use his offbeat striking and murderous ground game to their fullest. Between his length, fluidity, and killer guillotine, he unquestionably has the tools to punish Vettori’s relentless advance.

However, while Vettori’s toolbox may not be quite as deep, it’s every bit as potent. Hermansson’s defense and durability have failed him in the past, to the point where even a totally gassed Jacare was able to land some vicious punches in the later rounds. Vettori isn’t remotely likely to slow down like that, and critically, Hermansson won’t be able to use his wrestling as an escape hatch if things get hairy on the feet; Vettori’s own wrestling chops are sufficient to keep it standing and take Hermansson’s best weapon, his ground-and-pound, out of the equation.

On top of all that, Vettori is incredibly difficult to finish, making it unlikely that Hermansson can sidestep a war of attrition with an early finish. Unless Vettori voluntarily sticks his head in Hermansson’s guillotine, he’ll keep the heat on for the full 25.

Barring unexpected cardio issues from preparing for three rounds instead of five, Vettori should be able to keep Hermansson on the back foot all night, landing punches and threatening takedowns to take a comfortable decision.

Prediction: Vettori def. Hermansson unanimous decision

205 lbs.: Ovince Saint Preux vs. Jamahal Hill

Ovince “OSP” Saint Preux

Record: 25-14 | Age: 37 | Betting line: +140
Wins: 12 KO/TKO, 8 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 9 DEC
Height: 6’3“ | Reach: 80” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 2.64 | Striking accuracy: 46%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.88 | Striking Defense: 45%
Takedown Average: 1.23 (40% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 66%
Current Ranking: No. 15 | Last fight: Knockout win over Alonzo Menifield

Jamahal “Sweet Dreams” Hill

Record: 7-0 | Age: 29 | Betting line: -160
Wins: 3 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 4 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 6’4“ | Reach: 79” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 7.90 | Striking accuracy: 52%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.81 | Striking Defense: 48%
Takedown Average: 0 (0% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 53%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: No Contest against Klidson Abreu

Saint Preux has some impressive staying power, if nothing else. The guy’s been a fixture of the division since 2013, and every time it looks like he’s finally done, he pulls a Von Flue or brutal knockout out of nowhere to stay in the running.

He’ll need another miracle here, as Hill, the rare Light Heavyweight with comparable dimensions to “OSP”, is the faster, smoother, and above all busier striker. He landed more significant strikes in the second round of his win over Darko Stosic than Saint Preux has in any fight since his 2017 split decision loss to Volkan Oezdemir. Saint Preux’s anemic output simply won’t work here when he doesn’t have a significant length advantage to exploit; he needs a one-punch finish to win this on the feet, and he doesn’t throw enough to make that feasible against a kickboxer of this caliber.

The question, then, is whether Hill can keep it there; Saint Preux has come back from rough starts against the likes of Marcos Rogerio de Lima and Michal Oleksiejczuk by bringing it to the mat, and while he’s not the best wrestler in the world, he doesn’t need to spend much time on top to ruin your day. Takedown defense was Hill’s major weakness coming into the Octagon and he surrendered six takedowns to Darko Stosic, giving Saint Preux a ray of hope.

To Hill’s credit, however, he’s proven extremely difficult to hold down, and his constant movement should make it extremely difficult for Saint Preux to get a good grip. Even if Saint Preux does manage to drag him down, I can’t imagine him accomplishing much before Hill works his way back to the feet and pays him back with a few dozen clean strikes.

Hill already looked impressive on the Contender Series, and he’s shown constant improvement during his time in the Octagon. He’s too young, too fast, and too versatile for the aging Saint Preux, so expect either a dominant decision or mid-round knockout.

Prediction: Hill def. Saint Preux via unanimous decision

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 16 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+/ESPN2 “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+/ESPN2 10 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 16 news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here. For the complete UFC Vegas 16 fight card and ESPN+ lineup click here.

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