After an incredible event at UFC 277 in Dallas last weekend, the UFC returns to their headquarters in Las Vegas for an event at the UFC Apex on Saturday, Aug. 6. the main event of UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Hall pits heavy-handed sluggers Thiago Santos and Jamahal Hill against one another in a top-10 light heavyweight clash.
Santos has just one win over his last five bouts, edging out Johnny Walker in a lackluster affair back in Oct. 2021. Hill also recently faced Walker, but his results were far different. It took just under three minutes for Hill to land a fight-ending punch and crumble Johnny Walker.
The co-main event takes place in the welterweight division as Vicente Luque looks to get back on track when he takes on Geoff Neal. Luque had his eyes on a title shot heading into his last bout, before his momentum was derailed by Belal Muhammad. His opponent, Neal, is looking to make it two straight wins after squeaking by Santiago Ponzinibbio the last time he saw the Octagon. A win by either man could put them on the short list to challenge for the welterweight title in the near future.
Also on the main card are a pair of finales from the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter. Mohammed Usman, brother of welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, meets Zac Pauga in the heavyweight division, and Brogan Walker will square off against Juliana Miller in the women’s flyweight final.
The event airs live in its entirety on both ESPN+ and ESPN starting at 7 p.m. ET. The main card follows the preliminary card at 10 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Andrew Sumian and Matt Petela preview the action in this week’s edition of Toe-to-Toe.
Jamahal Hill has only gone the distance once since joining the UFC; does Thiago Santos push “Sweet Dreams” for the full five rounds in their headlining bout?
Sumian: Thiago Santos has not been the same fighter since blowing both of his knees against Jon Jones three years ago. In that title fight, Santos provided Jones with one of the most difficult title defenses of his career. Since then, Santos has compiled a 1-3 record, and his only victory comes at the expense of Johnny Walker.
Coincidentally, Jamahal Hill’s most recent victory was against Johnny Walker. He delivered a vicious first-round knockout that resulted in Walker simply crumbling to the mat after taking a big shot from Hill’s fist. Hill’s only loss inside the Octagon is to Paul Craig, and he has since compiled a two-fight winning streak since then, both by way of knockout.
Both fighters are power punchers, and the pair combines for 21 victories by way of knockout. Thus, it is safe to assume that fight will primarily take place on the feet and should result in heavy exchanges when they get close. Santos certainly has the advantage when it comes to experience and facing stiffer competition. However, he has taken significant damage while competing against the best light heavyweights in the world and is 38 years old. Hill will likely have both the speed and power advantages given his youth and athleticism.
If this fight goes to scorecards, expect Santos to win a split-decision victory by utilizing a more calculated pace and Octagon control. However, this will not be the case. Hill will want to make a statement, and that is exactly what he will do. He will clip the Brazilian with some powerful punches and eventually finish him by strikes in the third round. This win will earn him the seventh spot in the light heavyweight rankings and match him up with a top-five light heavyweight before the end of the year.
Petela: For two weeks in a row, I have to begrudgingly agree with my colleague on how this main event will play out. Just a few short years ago, Thiago Santos was one of the most fearsome fighters in the promotion, regardless of weight class. Those days are unfortunately gone, and he is really only slightly more than a shell of his former self. Those knee injuries he suffered in the title fight against Jon Jones forever changed him as a fighter. This bout with Hill will be a real passing of the torch. The aging veteran in Santos will be overwhelmed by the rising star in Hill.
The only blemish on Hill’s resume is his TKO loss to Paul Craig. That fight was brutal to watch, as Craig had already dislocated Hill’s elbow with an armbar before the TKO finish. Since then, he has knocked out his last two opponents, and they have been particularly devastating knockouts. Both of those wins, over Jimmy Crute and Johnny Walker, came in the first round and so will this knockout of Thiago Santos. Hill will announce himself as a legitimate threat to the title by becoming the first person since David Branch to knock out Thiago Santos.
Vicente Luque had a four-fight winning streak snapped in his last fight; does he get back on track against Geoff Neal this weekend?
Petela: This could either be one heck of a fight or a total snoozefest. Both of these men have devastating power in their hands and combine for a total of 19 career knockouts. There’s also the possibility that, out of respect for their opponent’s power, these fighters lull each into a technical battle with sparse heavy leather being thrown. If that happens, Luque should get the nod, but I doubt it will, and, therefore, favor Geoff Neal in this contest. Luque is the superior grappler, but Neal will be able to stuff takedowns early and not wanting to exhaust himself, Luque will choose to stand and trade with “Hands of Steel” for most of the fight. That is when the tide will turn, and Neal will land the heavier blows. After a close first couple rounds, Neal will pick up a TKO stoppage in Round 3 after catching Luque with a big right hand and following up with a few shots on the ground to close the show.
Sumian: I can’t see that happening, despite my colleagues’ prowess in MMA knowledge. Luque is the better fighter in almost every regard. Sure, he dropped the ball against Belal Muhammad, but Neal is definitely a step down in competition. Luque will be able to utilize his slick Muay Thai to blast Neal with leg kicks. He will take some powerful shots from Neal, but, ultimately, he will win a 29-28 unanimous decision.
Mohammed Usman, Zac Pauga, Brogan Walker, Juliana Miller and Josh Quinlan — do we need to know these names?
Sumian: The first four names are the finalists for this year’s TUF. I expect all four to earn a UFC contract, but the winners will undoubtedly earn a more significant contract. Mohammed Usman should be able to use his strength, size and wrestling to win a decision victory over Zac Pauga.
Brogan Walker certainly holds an experience advantage over Julianna Miller, but both are still fairly green in their MMA careers. Their potential will become more clear after seeing them in their second UFC fight.
Josh Quinlan is the true newcomer of this card and will face Jason Witt in his UFC debut. Witt has significantly more experience as a pro fighter, but he has compiled a 2-3 record as a UFC welterweight. Quinlan will certainly have the reach and height advantage, but only time will tell if he can compete with the rest of the welterweight division.
Petela:The Ultimate Fighter isn’t the same proving ground for fighters that it once was several years ago. It has been eclipsed by Dana White’s Contender Series as the promotion’s top feeder program. With that in mind, I don’t have high hopes for any of the newcomers that are coming out of this season. They may well prove me wrong, but, in my humble opinion, these fighters will all have short stints within the organization.
I’m much more bullish on Josh Quinlan. The undefeated prospect comes out of the aforementioned DWCS and, prior to that, picked up a trio of wins while fighting under the LFA banner. He will get off to a hot start this weekend by defeating Jason Witt and earn himself a sophomore appearance against a very tough opponent.
What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?
Petela: Miranda Granger. She is 1-2 since joining the UFC and has lost her last two in a row. With all respect, her most recent loss came against Ashley Yoder, who is a notch or two below elite, so, if she drops three straight at the hands of Cory McKenna, another somewhat fledgling prospect, it could be the end of the road for now in the UFC.
Sumian: The only answer that makes sense here is Sam Alvey, given he is 0-1-7 in his last eight UFC fights. Enough said.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Sumian: The middleweight matchup between Sam Alvey and Michał Oleksiejczuk. Yes, Alvey has not won a professional fight since Sept. 2018, but he is certainly not a boring fighter. The two will stand in the middle of the cage exchange until someone goes down.
Petela: Bryan Battle vs. Takashi Sato. Battle has gone 2-0 since joining the promotion and has only gone the distance twice in his professional career. Sato has struggled in his last two bouts, but he fought high-level opponents in those two bouts in Miguel Baeza and Gunnar Nelson. All respect to Battle, but he is a step-down in competition for Sato, and this showdown will make for an exciting fight that could steal the show early on in the evening.
Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?
Petela: Michał Oleksiejczuk. He takes on veteran Sam Alvey, who is winless in his last eight fights. Regardless of his record, Alvey brings the fight to his opponents each and every time, and this fight will be no different. After a few early exchanges with both men connecting, Oleksiejczuk will land a devastating punch that closes the show late in the first round and earns him an extra fifty-thousand dollars for his efforts.
Sumian: Jamahal Hill after a third-round knockout. Hill is the real deal and undoubtedly one of the best prospects in the light heavyweight division. He will prove he is ready to continue moving forward in the main event of Saturday night.
Pair this card with…
Sumian: Plain rice. This is not a bad card, but it is not a good card either. Like plain rice, this card is necessary, given how many events the UFC has to put on for the year. We may be treated to some entertaining fights, but, overall, there is not much to write home about other than the fact that this card is happening.
Petela: This is a fight card that will surprise fans with how many of these under-the-radar fights deliver in a big way. Pair it with a summer staple of hotdogs and hamburgers, but this card will be full of finishes, so just be careful with the condiments, because you don’t want to ruin your shirt as you leap out of your seat watching jaw-dropping finishes.
Main Card (ESPN+/ESPN, 10 p.m. ET)
LHW: Thiago Santos vs. Jamahal Hill
WW: Vicente Luque vs. Geoff Neal
HW: Mohammed Usman vs. Zac Pauga
Women’s FlyW: Brogan Walker vs. Juliana Miller
HW: Augusto Sakai vs. Serghei Spivac
Women’s FlyW: Ariane Lipski vs. Priscila Cachoeira
Preliminary Card (ESPN+/ESPN, 7 p.m. ET)
MW: Sam Alvey vs. Michał Oleksiejczuk
WW: Bryan Battle vs. Takashi Sato
LW: Terrance McKinney vs. Erick Gonzalez
WW: Jason Witt vs. Josh Quinlan
Women’s StrawW: Cory McKenna vs. Miranda Granger
Women’s BW: Mayra Bueno Silva vs. Stephanie Egger
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