Heavy-handed slugger, Jamahal Hill, will take on former champion, Glover Teixeira, this Saturday (Jan. 21, 2023) at UFC 283 inside Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
There is a simple, one word explanation for Hill’s recent success, his three-fight knockout streak: confidence. Hill has been a strong athlete who hits damn hard for his entire UFC career, and without trying to spoil the rest of this article, there isn’t some incredible amount of depth to his game.
However, Hill genuinely believes he’s the baddest dude on the planet. He steps into the pocket with complete confidence that he can take his opponent’s shots, and they cannot handle his left hand. Each time he’s proven correct, his confidence grows, and Hill only grows more likely to achieve the title.
Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:
Hill stands 6’4” with a 79-inch reach. He fights from the Southpaw stance, and his left hand could stop a horse. As a result of all these attributes, Hill doesn’t have to do anything complicated to absolutely maul opponents.
Still, while strength, size and toughness are great attributes, they alone 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).
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.
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.
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.
In his last two matches against Johnny Walker and Thiago Santos, Hill again applied a fundamental principle to brilliant results: he crowded the kicker. Both Walker and Santos like to hang back and blast kicks, capitalizing when their opponent overextends to cover that distance.
Hill did not rush, but he applied consistent pressure. He was always advancing, and as mentioned previously, did well to answer kicks with strikes of his own. Against Walker, this produced an early knockout when a Hill left hand connected cleanly in the very first round. Santos proved a more difficult nut to crack, but the end result was the same. Consistent pressure, body shots, and general aggression really fatigued the Brazilian, who wound up crumbling under Hill’s onslaught late in the fight (GIF).
Hill has yet to score a takedown inside the Octagon.
Defensively, Hill has was first 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. There was a similar dynamic against Santos, who wall wrestled to score his own half-dozen takedowns. Like Stosic, however, Santos could never really. maintain control. In truth, he exhausted himself repeatedly driving for takedowns as Hill routinely stood up without getting hurt or controlled in the process.
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.
It will be interesting to see if Teixeira’s excellent jiu-jitsu can punish Hill’s habit of scrambling out of takedowns.
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. 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.
With an experienced and deadly submission fighter like Craig, the margin for error is thin.
Hill is not a technician. When he found himself in this title match up in unexpected fashion, a lot of fans expressed doubt that “Sweet Dreams” was ready for a title shot. Maybe his overall technical game is round around the edges, but it still only takes a single left hand to make him world champion.
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.
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