If it feels like we were just here, two men headlining a pay-per-view event to claim the vacant light heavyweight crown. Don’t worry, you’re not crazy – we were. But after Jan Blachowicz and Magomed Ankalaev fought to a draw at UFC 282, leaving the 205-pound division without a champion, the powers that be scrambled and made a new vacant title fight between former undisputed champion Glover Teixeira and rising contender Jamahal Hill.
It’s a clash of both styles and generations, and it all takes place as the main event for the UFC’s first trip to Brazil in three years, so let’s take a look at what each man needs to do to win this marquee matchup and ultimately what will happen on Saturday night.
Paths to Victory for Glover Teixeira at UFC 283
I don’t think we appreciate Glover Teixeira enough.
At 43 years of age, it’s easy to write off Teixeira’s late career run as being the product of a weak division with some overblown competition, and while that may play a role, the truth is, Teixeira is one hell of a technician. Jiri Prochaza is not the greatest fighter we’ve ever seen, but he’s damn good, and for 24 minutes Teixeira gave the younger, faster, and stronger man everything he could handle. Something very similar could be in store on Saturday.
The biggest single reason Teixeira has been able to have such continued success in MMA is that his game is not built around athleticism. Teixeira is a fine athlete, but sound fundamentals in the striking, a solid wrestling game, and suffocating top control never go out of style, and that’s what he brings to the table. That’s good for the former champion, as those specific tools line up extremely well against Hill.
Hill is a striker by trade and a knockout artist, but he’s over-reliant on his power, and the few times we’ve actually seen him on the floor, it has not been impressive. In the simplest terms, Thiago Santos, a man who himself is known as a knockout artist and almost never wrestled, scored six takedowns on Hill. Now, because Santos is not a great grappler, he was unable to hold those positions for very long, but Teixeira should not have any issue in that regard. The most obvious path forward for Teixeira is simply to get his takedowns going, and the rest should be formulaic.
Now, how should he go about doing that? I think there are two primary set ups that can get Teixeira into his spots. The first is doing what he always does by pressuring forward. He is very good at coming forward and making opponents feel his presence — and the threat of the takedown — without overexerting himself or walking into counters. This talent made Anthony Smith incredibly uncomfortable in their fight and ultimately set up opportunities for Teixeira to land some big shots before transitioning to grappling sequences. Santos has similar success against Hill, and if Teixeira can march forward, firing body and leg kicks while working behind a high guard, something should present itself.
The second big opportunity for Teixeira is the reactive single-leg. Hill rides a fine line between being patient in picking his spots, but then selling out whenever he see does see an opening. This creates a situation where Hill can land a good shot or two but then abandons all defensive responsibility to chuck a haymaker, which opens him up for a level change. And again, once this hits the mat, Teixeira should have his way.
The concern for Teixeira is the same one it will be for the rest of his career: MMA is a young man’s game, and he most definitely is not that. At some point, the chin simply stops being able to take the shots that are required to excel at the highest levels of the sport, and particularly when you aren’t the fastest guy, that chin needs to be double tough. That being said, Hill isn’t actually all that fast and while he hits hard, he doesn’t bring the same force to bear as a guy like Prochazka, and Teixeira’s chin held up surprisingly well in that one. Still, the less he gets hit, the better.
Paths to victory for Jamahal Hill at UFC 283
While Glover Teixeira is underrated, Hill is probably exactly properly rated: He’s a dangerous fighter and a decent one, but he’s got some clear limitations. The key for Hill to beat Teixeira and win the light heavyweight title will be to minimize those limitations.
This might be overly simplistic, but the single most important thing for Hill coming into this fight is to keep it standing. Teixeira has some of the best top control in the sport, and so, for all intents and purposes, the floor is lava for him. If he gives up even one takedown, that might be all Teixeira needs to finish the fight. And the best way for him to prevent those takedowns is to win the pressure battle. Much of Teixeira’s success recently has come from being the one to dictate the terms of engagement, which allows him to limit his exposure to opposing offense. It also lets him slowly work opponents to the fence, where he can find takedowns easier. If Hill allows either of these things, the war is already over. Instead, Hill has to be the one pushing Teixeira back, flashing a jab constantly, and keeping the former champion from finding a groove. It’s simply much harder to score takedowns on the back foot and into open space, so Hill has to make this his number one priority.
Second, if Teixeira does score a takedown, do not, under any circumstances, give up the back. We haven’t seen much of Hill on the floor in his UFC career, but what we have seen is pretty concerning. Against Santos, he repeatedly simply gave up his back in an attempt to get back to his feet, and while that worked against Santos, it’s a death sentence against Teixeira. Maybe Hill went to that particular escape against Santos because he knew it wasn’t all that risky, but that’s not the case here. If Teixeira gets Hill down, the man needs to dig underhooks and build back to a base the old fashioned way, even if it takes some time. It’s better to lose a round and survive than it is to get choked out.
Lastly, now that the defensive points are covered, Hill needs to let the hands go. Though Hill is known as this big knockout puncher, the truth is, he isn’t a monstrous hitter, he simply has excellent timing and supreme confidence in himself. Those two qualities can carry someone an awful long way in this sport (just ask Conor McGregor) and they’ve allowed Hill to build a pretty impressive highlight reel in his UFC career, but against Teixeira, they might not be enough. Teixeira is tougher than a coffin nail and it’s going to take more than one well-timed shot to put him down. Hill needs to bring the same high work rate that he did against Thiago Santos and overload Teixeira’s defense.
It’s been said a lot, but I don’t think it can be overstated: This is the first UFC event in Brazil in three years, and the crowd is going to be ON ONE. Brazilian crowds have long been the gold-standard for hometown advantage, and for this particular fight card, that feels like it could be doubly true. 15,000 people chanting “UH VAI MORRER” (you’re going to die) is enough to rattle anyone, and for that to be Hill’s first fight outside of the U.S. and his first time fighting for the title, that is a lot of pressure we’ve never seen him deal with before.
This fight lines up exceedingly well for Teixeira. His strengths coincide with Hill’s known weaknesses, and Hill isn’t even in a great position to exploit Teixeira’s shortcomings. We could dive in a little more critically, but it’s not really necessary. At the end of the day, Hill was repeatedly taken down by Thiago Santos, and Teixeira is a much better wrestler with a much more dangerous top game than Santos. If this fight wasn’t on semi-short notice, maybe I could see Hill putting in enough wrestling specific work to keep things upright, but with only a few weeks to prepare, it’s seems unlikely. Teixeira is simply the better, more diverse fighter, and on Saturday I expect him to show it.
Glover Teixeira submits Jamahal Hill in Round 2.
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