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UFC Vegas 48 preview, ‘Walker vs Hill’ predictions

UFC Fight Night Assuncao v Moraes 2: Ultimate Media Day Photo by Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) makes its not-so-triumphant return to the APEX facility this Sat. night (Feb. 19, 2022) for a reworked UFC Vegas 48 fight card, topped by the light heavyweight showdown between Johnny Walker and Jamahal Hill. The original headliner, Rafael Fiziev vs. Rafael Dos Anjos, was rescheduled for a later date after the Kazakhstan-born “Ataman” was delayed by pesky visa issues.

The show, as they say, must go on.

LIVE! Stream UFC San Antonio On ESPN+

BLOCKBUSTER BANTAMWEIGHT CONTENDERS’ BOUT! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) departs APEX for a special “Fight Night” extravaganza at AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas, on Sat., March 25, 2023, featuring a pair of thrilling 135-pound bouts. Surging No. 4-ranked contender Marlon Vera goes for his fifth consecutive win when he takes on exciting finisher and No. 5-seeded Cory Sandhagen. In UFC San Antonio’s ESPN+-streamed co-main event, former women’s 135-pound champion and current No. 3-ranked Holly Holm battles Yana Santos (No. 4).

Don’t miss a single second of face-punching action!

Before we dive into the main and co-main events, which includes the catchweight showdown between Philadelphian phenom Kyle Daukaus and streaking “Nightwolf” Jamie Pickett, check out Patrick Stumberg’s circumstantiated UFC Vegas 48 preliminary card breakdowns here and here. In addition, resident MMA hero Andrew Richardson did most of the heavy lifting for the rest of the UFC Vegas 48 main card right here.

For the latest “Walker vs. Hill” odds and betting lines courtesy of our fiscal friends over at Draft Kings go here.

Let’s break it down ...

205 lbs.: Johnny Walker vs. Jamahall Hill

Johnny Walker

Record: 18-6 | Age: 29 | Betting line: +200
Wins: 15 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 1 DEC | Losses: 3 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 6’6“ | Reach: 82” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.42 | Striking accuracy: 59%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.81 | Striking Defense: 40%
Takedown Average: 0.24 (100% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 62%
Current Ranking: No. 10 | Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Thiago Santos

Jamahal “Sweet Dreams” Hill

Record: 9-1, 1 NC | Age: 30 | Betting line: -250
Wins: 5 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 4 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 6’4“ | Reach: 79” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 7.45 | Striking accuracy: 51%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.68 | Striking Defense: 45%
Takedown Average: 0.00 (0% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 60%
Current Ranking: No. 12 | Last fight: Knockout win over Jimmy Crute

There was a time in the not-too-distant past when light heavyweight bruiser Johnny Walker was undefeated under the UFC banner and the winner of nine straight fights, including his “Contender Series” bout against Henrique da Silva back in summer 2018. That was good enough to land him at No. 11 in the 205-pound rankings and catch the attention of then-light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Then Walker, who probably forgot what mortality felt like inside the cage, got pounded into the loss column by disgruntled contender Cory Anderson, who eventually cut bait and sailed for the shores of Bellator MMA. If you count his “Overtime” loss, the Brazilian has dropped three of his last four and looked ... well, fairly average. We did catch a glimpse of his abilities against Ryan Spann at UFC Fight Island 4, but it’s worth mentioning that “Superman” has struggled to stay consistent, getting submitted by Anthony Smith at UFC Vegas 37 last September. How much stock you put into Walker’s loss to Thiago Santos largely depends on where you think “Marreta” fits into the current 205-pound title picture.

Jamahal Hill also blasted his way into the promotion by way of Dana White’s “Contender Series,” putting the hurt on Alexander Poppeck during Season 3 back in summer 2019. Since that breakout performance, “Sweet Dreams” has won three of four with a “no contest” against Klidson Abreu. Hill smashed the Brazilian “White Bear” at UFC on ESPN 9 but saw his highlight-reel victory overturned by way of Nevada’s anachronous policy on marijuana. The heavy-handed Michigander would find his way back to the Octagon later that year and made the shopworn Ovince Saint Preux pay for his time off, smashing and trashing “OSP” en route to a violent second-round knockout. Then, in what I’m sure was a delight to the rest of the division, Hall proved he was in fact human, getting bombed by Paul Craig at UFC 263. The good news for “Sweet Dreams” fans is that his first career loss did little to shake his confidence. Hill bounced back at UFC Vegas 44 to beat the brakes off Australian “Brute” Jimmy Crute, improving his record to 9-1 and landing him at No. 12 in the official rankings.

Part of what makes Walker so dangerous — and exciting — is his unpredictability inside the cage. Jumping knees, spinning elbows, all the stuff that made Jones famous is on the menu when the Brazilian takes center stage. In addition, his height (6’6”) and reach (82”) are the kind of stats you would expect in the heavyweight division and have proven to be massive obstacles to overcome for all of his opponents. On the flip side, style is a not a substitute for substance and you can argue that when the glitz and glamor are stripped away, Walker has a very rudimentary offense, fundamentally speaking. That's how challengers like Anderson and Santos, unfazed and unbefuddled by his intimidating aura, were able to prevail. I don’t expect Hill to be overwhelmed by Walker’s attack and that’s both good and bad. Not being weary of the “spinning shit” allows you to press forward and stick to the gameplan — but also leaves you susceptible to it. I know there’s more to MMA than just striking, I just don’t see a need to cover the grappling aspect since neither Walker nor Hill have ever scored a takedown in a UFC fight. That should come as a surprise when you consider they’ve seen action 12 times (combined), but it probably doesn’t in this era of combat sports, when the knockout (and post-fight bonus) have become more important than strategy and execution. I don’t expect that to change this weekend in “Sin City.”

Prediction: Hill def. Walker by knockout

195 lbs.: Kyle Daukaus vs. Jamie Pickett

Kyle Daukaus

Record: 10-2, 1 NC | Age: 28 | Betting line: -180
Wins: 0 KO/TKO, 8 SUB, 2 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 6’3“ | Reach: 76” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.19 | Striking accuracy: 53%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.61 | Striking Defense: 40%
Takedown Average: 1.88 (27% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 85%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: No Contest against Kevin Holland

Jamie “Nightwolf” Pickett

Record: 13-6 | Age: 33 | Betting line: +155
Wins: 8 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 4 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 3 DEC
Height: 6’2“ | Reach: 80” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.02 | Striking accuracy: 50%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 4.17 | Striking Defense: 46%
Takedown Average: 1.68 (50% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 68%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Joseph Holmes

Kyle Daukaus makes his first appearance since his bizarre “No Contest” against Kevin Holland back in October, a bout “Trail Blazer” freely admits he lost, despite the official ruling. Unfortunately for the Philadelphian, this weekend’s showdown will also come with an asterisk as Jamie Pickett steps in for Julian Marquez, who was pulled from the event roughly 10 days ago for undisclosed reasons. That’s the third opponent Daukaus has lost since last November and under normal circumstances it might rattle a fighter who is forced to adjust preparations over and over again. Then again, Daukaus came into the promotion as a short-notice fighter opposite Brendan Allen so this is probably just another day at the office for the former heavyweight. The running gag is that Daukaus, a kickboxing instructor at Martinez BJJ in Philly, has eight wins by submission but zero knockouts. Whether or not that changes against Pickett remains to be seen, though it’s hard to feel confident in a “Nightwolf” pick since the 33 year-old slugger is making such a quick turnaround.

What we’ve seen thus far from Pickett has been mediocre, at best. I’m sure the promotion had high hopes for the North Carolinian after watching him destroy Jhonoven Pati at Dana White’s “Contender Series” back in summer 2020, but in the months that followed, Pickett is just 2-2 with both wins coming by way of unanimous decision. In addition, “Nightwolf” was put away by Jordan Wright at UFC 262 last May, casting some doubt on his ability to evolve into a major player at 185 pounds. Let’s also give credit where credit is due. Pickett was a high school dropout with no collegiate athletic experience and was able to blast his way into the big leagues with nothing more than a degree from the School of Hard Knocks. Pickett has an 80-inch reach and is one of the few fighters who knows how to use it and was able to find his composure after a rough start to his UFC stint. Daukaus feels like the right test for “Nightwolf” at this stage of his career and we’ll find out which one of these middleweights belongs in the Top 15 conversation. As much as I like the momentum from Pickett, I think Daukaus is too refined both on the feet and on the ground to get lured into a slugfest, or get baited by the fadeaway jab. Look for a competitive opening frame that leads to Daukaus making the necessary adjustments before coming out and dominating in round two.

Prediction: Daukaus def. Pickett by technical knockout

Remember, the rest of the UFC Vegas 48 main card predictions are RIGHT HERE. will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 48 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ preliminary card bouts at 4 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time at 7 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 48 news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive here. For the updated and finalized “Walker vs. Hill” fight card and ESPN+ lineup click here.

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