UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Hill Predictions
Thiago Santos vs. Jamahal Hill
Two heavyweights at contrasting points in their careers here with Santos having lost four of his last five fights, while Hill has only been defeated once in his six UFC bouts to date and is coming off back-to-back KO victories.
Santos hasn’t really seemed like the same fighter since he suffered multiple knee injuries during a split-decision loss to Jon Jones back in 2019. His run leading into that title fight had demonstrated his devastating muay thai striking ability, with heavy kicks and powerful punches having led to a long list of KO and TKO finishes.
However, after almost 18 months out following double-knee surgery, Santos can still be dangerous in flashes, but for the most part has lacked that same potency and dynamic kicking game in his fights since.
The fact that Santos is also now 38-years-old means he’s in real need of a big win to prove he’s still got what it takes at the highest level, but that might be easier said than done against an up-and-coming force like Hill. The 31-year-old has a long, rangey and technical striking style on the feet, and he’ll benefit from a 2″ height and 3″ reach advantage here to deliver his high-volume attacks, and he has proven finishing power in his strikes.
I expect the younger, fresher Hill to come out as the more energetic fighter here, pushing the pace with his crisp strikes from range and I think Santos will struggle to match his energy levels and intensity as the fight goes on, leading Hill to a third round TKO stoppage win.
Prediction: Jamahal Hill to win by TKO in Rd3.
Vicente Luque vs. Geoff Neal
Luque’s four-fight winning streak came to an end last time out with a decision loss to Belal Muhammad, while Neal put aside back-to-back losses when he picked up a split-decision win against Santiago Ponzininbbio.
This should be an entertaining battle between these two hard-hitting strikers. Luque is the type of fighter who is constantly in pursuit of a finish, whether it’s on the feet or on the mat. He has concussive power in his punches, but also has heavy kicks and possesses a strong chin too, which can save him at times when he’s caught while going straight-ahead on the offensive. Meanwhile his submission game is also sharpened to a fine point, with his brabo choke in particular having been a weapon of choice during his UFC run, accounting for four of his finishes inside the Octagon.
Neal has a more limited set of tools to work with on the feet, but he wields knockout power in his hands and throws with speed, while he also has solid takedown defense and good durability.
I’d expect to see some exciting exchanges here and both men will likely eat some big shots, but I think Luque can be the more active, versatile and consistent striker over the course of 15 minutes to get the nod on the scorecards.
Prediction: Vicente Luque to win by decision.
Mohammed Usman vs. Zac Pauga
One of two TUF finals on the card, this heavyweight clash sees Usman, who is indeed the brother of former TUF winner and current welterweight champion Kamaru, putting a 7-2 career record on the line against Zac Pauga, who is 5-0.
Don’t be expecting another elite level performer like Kumaru from his younger sibling though as while the 33-year-old Usman has athleticism, he started competing in MMA much later in life and it shows with a fairly rudimentary striking and wrestling game, with decent power and strength, but not great cardio or technique.
It’s perhaps telling as to the quality of the heavyweights on this season of TUF that his opponent, 34-year-old Pauga actually only started his career four years ago. He has fought at light-heavyweight in the past and so isn’t the biggest heavyweight around, but as a result he’ll have speed on his side and puts his strikes together better than Usman.
I don’t really expect a great fight here, but I feel there’s a bit more upside to Pauga and I’ll take him to keep this one standing and outstrike Usman to claim a decision victory.
Prediction: Zac Pauga to win by decision.
Brogan Walker vs. Julianna Miller
Walker comes into this women’s flyweight TUF final with a 7-2 record, while Miller was just 2-1 in her MMA career before trying out for the show.
Both fighters come from Invicta FC, but the 34-year-old Walker clearly has the pro-experience edge, and indeed she even holds a unanimous decision win over current UFC fighter Miranda Maverick from back in 2018, though her two losses came in the last few years against former UFC fighter Pearl Gonzalez and a current one in Erin Banchfield.
Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that despite her lack of pro-MMA experience, the 26-year-old Miller did go 6-0 as an amateur and has also competed frequently in BJJ tournaments. And Miller certainly favors mat work when she competes as her striking ability isn’t much to write home about, being more busy-work rather than anything meaningful, so being able to utilize her grappling ability and search for submissions is crucial to her success.
Walker on the other hand is more striking orientated, and while she doesn’t have much in the way of finishing ability she does have respectable power and should land the more meaningful blows here.
Miller perhaps has the higher potential ceiling in the long-run given her age, but for now I think her lack of a reliable takedown threat will prove problematic, with Walker having enough wrestling defense to keep the action upright to emerge with a decision victory.
Prediction: Brogan Walker to win by decision.
Augusto Sakai vs. Serghei Spivak
It’s been a tough couple of years for Sakai, who has been finished via strikes in his last three heavyweight bouts, so a win is a must for him here as he goes up against Spivak, who has won four of his five fights during the same period.
It’s been a somewhat surprising slump for Sakai given that he had only lost once in his previous 17 fights before that, though his losses have come against particularly heavy-handed opposition in Alistair Overeem, Jairzinho Rozenstruik and most recently Tai Tuivasa.
All of which may have left his chin compromised, but the 31-year-old is a good striker in his own right, opting more for high-volume offense rather than one big finishing punch, and that had served him well for much of his career, with the accumulative damage leading to 11 finishes from 16 victories.
Spivak is unlikely to look to test Sakai on the feet though as he does his best work on the mat, whether via ground-and-pound strikes or submissions, and he does have good takedown ability to facilitate that.
If Sakai can keep this one upright he has a real chance to break his losing streak, but I think Spivak’s takedowns are sturdy enough to enable him to get the action to the mat several times en-route to a win on the scorecards.
Prediction: Serghei Spivak to win by decision.
Ariane Lipski vs. Priscila Cachoeira
After two TKO losses in a row, Lipski steadied the ship last time out with a decision win over Mandy Bohm and now goes up against Cachoeira, who has won three of her last four fights in the promotion.
Known as ‘The Queen Of Violence’, there was some hype around Lipski heading into her time in the UFC that’s she’s largely been unable to live up to, posting a 3-4 record since. That being said, the 28-year-old did look good last time out. She has an aggressive muay thai based striking game, good power and she can use her decent wrestling and grappling ability when required too.
Cachoeira actually also holds a 3-4 record in the promotion and she too embraces a highly aggressive approach with a brawling-based striking style that sees her willingly eat a lot of shots while looking to land her own hard-hitting strikes.
Lipski is the better technical striker here and is the more well-rounded fighter in general, so if things aren’t working out for her on the feet she may look to switch things up with mat work, and as such I’ll take her to emerge with a decision victory.
Prediction: Ariane Lipski to win by decision.
UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Hill Prelims
(Predicted winners in bold)
Sam Alvey vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk
Bryan Battle vs. Takashi Sato
Terrance McKinney vs. Erick Gonzalez
Nate Landwehr vs. Zubaira Tukhugov
Jason Witt vs. Josh Quinlan
Cory McKenna vs. Miranda Granger
Mayra Bueno Silva vs. Stephanie Egger
Ross Cole is one of the most prolific mixed martial arts writers in the world, having written more than 17,000 MMA news stories for MMA Insight, which he founded in 2009 as a way to channel his passion for the sport of mixed martial arts, and reaching millions of die-hard MMA fans in the process.
You can read more of Ross’s work at MMAInsight.com.