Preview: UFC 300 ‘Pereira vs. Hill’

Pereira vs. Hill

UFC 300 has arrived. UFC 100 and UFC 200 were among the most stacked events the Ultimate Fighting Championship has put on, and that trend continues here, both in terms of the prelims and the main card. Two title fights headline the affair this Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, and both are interesting matchups. Alex Pereira defends his newly won light heavyweight title against former champion Jamahal Hill in a striker’s delight, while Weili Zhang and Xiaonan Yan make some history in the first all-Chinese title fight for the women’s strawweight belt. However, the depth beyond the main event and co-main event is where this card truly sings. Justin Gaethje faces Max Holloway in what is nearly guaranteed to be five rounds of high-level violence, and a showdown pairing Charles Oliveira with Arman Tsarukyan represents another potential barnburner that could crown the next title challenger at lightweight. While an opener featuring top middleweight prospect Bo Nickal against Cody Brundage is the least immediately relevant bout on the bill, it still serves as an interesting test for one of the sport's top rising talents.

Now to the UFC 300 “Pereira vs. Hill” preview:


UFC Light Heavyweight Championship

#4 P4P | Alex Pereira (9-2, 6-1 UFC) vs. #1 LHW | Jamahal Hill (12-1, 6-1 UFC)

ODDS: Pereira (-130), Hill (+110)

Most of the discussion around this fight has centered around its last-minute booking as the headliner for the biggest card of the year, but even if it is a bit disappointing relative to the hype, this is still an excellently matched title fight that should provide some violence. It is still less than two and a half years removed from Pereira’s UFC debut, and it’s still a bit shocking how well things have gone for “Poatan” in mixed martial arts, as he has now become a champion in two weight classes. A kickboxing convert, Pereira’s move to the sport was almost entirely predicated on his history with then-middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. Pereira had won both kickboxing matches between the two, handing Adesanya his lone knockout loss in the rematch. Given the stakes and Pereira’s one-dimensional game, the UFC did well to move him up the ladder against advantageous stylistic matchups. Once Pereira obliterated Sean Strickland for a first-round knockout, the Adesanya-Pereira title fight was on. Somewhat amusingly, the script in mixed martial arts followed a similar one to their second kickboxing match. Adesanya was handily getting the better of things in a go-everywhere fight up until the point that Pereira scored a knockout in the final round. Despite now having three wins over Adesanya against zero losses, an immediate rematch was the obvious fight to make from a marketability standpoint, and that was where things were finally flipped. This time, it was Pereira who was winning the balance of the fight up until Adesanya scored the cathartic comeback, ending their rivalry for the time being. Pereira has the frame of most heavyweights, so it was understandable that with Adesanya now in the rearview mirror, he would want to quit draining himself and move up to light heavyweight. It took all of two fights for the Brazilian to reign in his new weight class. Pereira’s shored up his wrestling and grappling defense just enough to be passable, which allowed him to skate by Jan Blachowicz and earn a fight for the vacant light heavyweight title against Jiri Prochazka; and while Prochazka had his moments, Pereira picked him apart on the feet rather handily before elbowing the Czech into unconsciousness when the former champion attempted a takedown. Now it is time for Pereira and Hill to settle some grudges. Hill looks to regain the title that he never lost, while Pereira looks to avenge his challenger’s title win over Glover Teixeira—the Brazilian’s mixed martial arts mentor.

It took a series of low-percentage events for Hill to even beat Teixeira for the title early in 2022, but “Sweet Dreams” did well to rise to the occasion when he got the opportunity. Hill came to the UFC in 2019 through Dana White’s Contender Series and looked like a high-ceiling prospect that would require some seasoning. A lanky striker, Hill could eventually lay a beating on an opponent but needed to warm up as his fights went on. Hill fixed those issues in short order, eventually becoming a knockout threat from the jump, and as a result, he quickly became one of the more potent strikers in the division. Yet questions persisted about what would happen if opponents could take Hill out of his game, especially when Paul Craig outclassed him on the ground to hand him his lone professional loss. Hill rebounded from that defeat with quick wins over Jimmy Crute and Johnny Walker, but his victory over Thiago Santos—which, as it turns out, earned Hill his title shot—continued those questions about how he would fare against elite competition. Hill got the late stoppage, but Santos, despite being clearly past his prime, landed both some hard shots and some consistent takedowns, even if he was not able to turn that wrestling advantage into much actual offense. It was a showing that normally would have left Hill a win or two short of a title shot, but things aligned in fairly ridiculous fashion. Prochazka was forced to vacate the title due to injury; a bout between Blachowicz and Magomed Ankalaev ended in a draw to leave the belt vacant; and the UFC was so unhappy with the result that they scrambled to book two top light heavyweights as quickly as possible, which wound up being Teixeira and Hill. Teixeira’s wrestling and grappling—still among the best in the division at an advanced age—figured to be a clear advantage for the Brazilian, but Hill countered that with the best performance of his career. He was forced to survive on the mat at many moments but managed to do so, and he was as diverse as ever on the feet in picking Teixeira apart for a dominant decision win. However, whatever curse began with Prochazka continued with Hill, as he was soon forced to vacate the belt himself due to injury, leaving the opening for Pereira to become the new light heavyweight champ. Upon his return, Hill gets an absolutely fascinating matchup, particularly since wrestling does not figure to be much of a factor. Adding to the intrigue is that both men should be effective from range. Hill’s approach has typically seen him consistently plug away at opponents with his boxing—he did show a much-improved kicking game against Teixeira—and while Pereira is typically more patient and reliant on big counters, his win over Prochazka did see him land some brutal leg kicks that paid off in near-immediate fashion. Hill does seem to have the durability edge, as Pereira occasionally gets rocked when opponents can break through his defenses, but it is also unclear if that will matter. Hill has faced some hard hitters, but Pereira’s power is a whole other proposition. That is really the bet, as while Hill does not get over-aggressive in terms of overall approach, he does get over his skis at times in a way that will leave him defensively open. As a result, while Hill might be able to come out ahead in a war of attrition, there should be enough missteps for Pereira to get the opportunity to end this fight in one blow. If Hill can survive those moments of offense, he could take the decision—or even eventually get the ball rolling to a knockout of Pereira himself—but betting against the Brazilian’s power seems like a fool’s errand at this point. The pick is Pereira via second-round knockout.

Continue Reading »
Pereira vs. Hill
Zhang vs. Yan
Gaethje vs. Holloway
Tsarukyan vs. Oliveira
Nickal vs. Brundage
The Prelims
More Fight Odds

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Johan Ghazali