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Dana White’s Contender Series: Hill v Poppeck Photo by Chris Unger/DWCS LLC

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Fighter on Fighter: Breaking down UFC Vegas 59’s Jamahal Hill

One of the best Contenders Series products yet, Jamahal Hill, will look to continue his winning ways opposite fellow striker, Thiago Santos, this Saturday (Aug. 6, 2022) at UFC Vegas 59 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Paul Craig damaged Jamahal Hill’s arm in June 2021 (watch it here), and it’s probably the best thing that ever happened to “Sweet Dreams.” In his two trips to the Octagon since, Hill has looked absolutely nasty, racking the best wins of his professional career in the very first round. Hill looks to be taking the sport more seriously than ever, and more than that, Hill just seems downright nasty in the cage.

We talk about punching with “bad intentions” often enough, but Hill really swings on his opponents as if they just cursed out his children. It’s straight up violence, exactly what the Light Heavyweight division needs!

Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:

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Striking

Standing 6’4” with a 79-inch reach, Hill has an excellent build to strike at 205 pounds. He’s long and powerful and confident — a dangerous combination that enhances his fundamentals-heavy approach to striking.

Strength, size and toughness are great attributes, but alone, they rarely make a top-tier fighter. In his bout vs. Ovince Saint Preux — an athlete with similar physical gifts, but one whose game is a random mix of dangerous moves — Hill showcased that he’s more than mere physical talent (GIF).

UFC Fight Night: Saint Preux v Hill Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

For much of the fight, Hill operated from the Southpaw stance, whereas “OSP” switched around, but primarily remained Orthodox. Right away, Hill was working to win the foot battle, lining his own left hand up while getting away from Saint Preux’s power. A simple enough concept, but Hill won lots of exchanges because of his foot position.

Another under-appreciated concept Hill applied well involved attacking the mid-section. He swung his cross for the jaw, sure, but Hill dug his left hand into Saint Preux’s torso a dozen times. As he did so, he slipped his head off the center line towards that aforementioned beneficial angle, making himself difficult to hit and helping set up a right hook to the skull afterward.

The final smart, underutilized fundamental concept Hill applied was answering every kick. Saint Preux is a brutal kicker, and he found some success with the snap kick and outside low kick (when he switched back Southpaw). Any time Hill took a kick, he fired back with at least a cross to the body, often answering with three or four punches. Again, that sounds simple, but it isn’t easy to accomplish, and answering kicks ensured that “OSP” didn’t start picking up momentum.

UFC Fight Night: Walker v Hill Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Another interesting insight to be gained from the Saint Preux fight was Hill’s foray into Orthodox in the second round. Immediately, he started firing hard one-two combinations down the center, which seemed to really catch his opponent off-guard. Against Johnny Walker last time out, Hill spent about three continuous minutes trying to take Walker’s head off with his left. Then, he switched Orthodox, and the first right cross he threw absolutely demolished the Brazilian (GIF)!

Switch-hitting with power at 205 pounds? That’s dangerous stuff.

At distance, the right hook is generally a big weapon for Hill, more so than the jab. With his lead hook, Hill will gain the angle to fire his cross. Often, he’ll first look to slap down his foe’s lead hand to land his hook. Against Jimmy Crute, Hill fired the hook on the counter while taking an angle to score an early knockout (GIF). From this check hook, Hill will also use the newly created angle to fire a left kick. Opposite Klidson Abreu, Hill used the right hook to gain an angle and rip a left knee from the clinch, staying in contact with his opponent (GIF).

In general, Hill kicks plenty hard. Against right-handed opponents, Hill likes to snap his kick to the body or throw a round kick upstairs. Alternatively, he’ll dig low kicks vs. fellow Southpaws.

Lastly, Hill has proven to be very powerful in the clinch. After landing big with the left, he’ll often follow up by keeping his hands on his opponent, looking to rip knees and let elbows fly.

Wrestling

Hill has yet to score a takedown inside the Octagon.

Defensively, Hill has only really been tested in his UFC debut, a rather not-so-fun fight versus Darko Stosic. Though Stosic managed to officially score six takedowns, he only racked up a couple minutes on control time in the process, meaning Hill earned the nod as the more effective and active striker.

UFC Fight Night: Hill v Stosic Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

As for his technical takedown defense skill, Hill pretty standardly fits the mold of most other lanky strikers. Most of the time he’s planted on his butt, it’s because he’s caught standing a bit tall or perhaps his opponent managed to snatch up a kick. At the same time, Hill’s length means that he’s difficult to move around in the clinch, and he’s often able to pull his opponents off his legs when able to lean against the fence.

Crute would’ve been a great test to Hill’s takedown defense, but “Sweet Dreams” knocked him out almost immediately!

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Since Hill has yet to even attempt a submission in UFC or finish one on the regional scene, this section is unfortunately going to be dedicated to Paul Craig dislocating his arm.

Craig is not the usual Light Heavyweight. Hill landed about a single punch, which convinced the Scottish fighter it was time to grapple. His shot failed, so Craig pulled guard, which is hardly a reaction a prospect like Hill has seen all that often. As a result, Hill made a big mistake.

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Right away, Craig overhooked both wrists, controlling Hill’s arms. Hill should have fought tooth-and-nail to immediately break those grips, but he relaxed a moment too long, and Crag snapped his arm a moment later.

With an experienced and deadly submission fighter like Craig, the margin for error is thin.

Conclusion

Hill is either going to knockout Santos inside a couple rounds or awaken the dormant beast inside the Brazilian, at which point anything can happen. Either way, he’s one of the most exciting young faces at Light Heavyweight, likely to keep knocking heads for many years to come.


Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.


Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 59 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (on ESPN/ESPN+) at 10 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 59: “Hill vs. Santos” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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