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UFC Vegas 59 Main Event Preview: Santos vs. Hill

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With the dog days of summer in full effect, the UFC shows no signs of slowing down, as MMA’s top promotion opens up its August schedule this Saturday night with UFC Vegas 59 and the UFC Vegas 59 main event.

Live coverage of UFC Vegas 59 will begin with the undercard on Saturday at 7 pm ET/ 4 pm PT on ESPN and ESPN+ inside the United States (check local listings for network/streaming designations internationally), followed at 10 pm ET/ 7 pm PT with the main card.

This weekend’s card marks a return for the UFC to its Apex facility after a month on the road.

All told, UFC Vegas 59 will feature a 12-fight card, including the finale of this season of The Ultimate Fighter television series.

Light Heavyweight Showcase in UFC Vegas 59 Main Event

Highlighting Saturday’s activities is a contest at 205 lbs. in the UFC Vegas 59 main event, where No. 6 contender Thiago Santos (22-10 MMA, 12-9 UFC) takes on No. 10 contender Jamahal Hill (10-1, 1 NC MMA, 4-1, 1 NC UFC).

As with all UFC main events, this headliner will be an advertised maximum of five rounds at five minutes per round to close the show.

UFC Vegas 59 Main Event Fighter Comparison

Heading into the main event, Jamahal Hill stands as the taller man at 6-foot-4, compared to the 6-foot-2 frame of Thiago Santos. In addition, Santos owns a three-inch reach advantage (79 inches to 76 inches), and a one-inch leg reach advantage (43 1/2 inches to 42 1/2 inches) over Hill.

Could Thiago Santos Be Headed For Last Ride?

Thiago Santos comes in having posted a 1-4 record in his last five fights, losing last time out against Magomed Ankalaev on the night of March 12 in the very same UFC Apex in UFC Apex 50’s main event, this after having a three-fight losing streak snapped in October of 2021 against Johnny Walker.

Santos’ recent form is concerning for him and his camp, as he hasn’t been on a sustained winning streak from Aug. 4, 2018, to Feb. 23, 2019, during which time he emerged victorious from four fights in a row. While he showed signs of improvement against Johnny Walker last fall, Santos’ momentum was short-lived with the defeat to Magomed Ankalaev,

Another storyline for Thiago Santos is the fact that he’s in the twilight of his MMA career, as he turned 38 years of age just after the start of the year, thus time is beginning to become a factor for him and his camp. One must wonder if these factors could yield to the UFC Vegas 59 main event being part of Thiago Santos’ last ride in the sport of MMA.

Contender Series Alum Jamahal Hill Aims To Raise Stock Further on Saturday

In the other corner, Jamahal Hill has gone 3-1 with one no-contest in his last five UFC appearances and enters the UFC Vegas 59 main event on a two-fight winning streak.

Most recently, he scored a first-round knockout from an overhand right punch against the aforementioned Johnny Walker on Feb. 19 during UFC Vegas 48‘s main event.

Since joining the UFC’s active roster in January of 2020, just weeks before the coronavirus pandemic began, four of Hill’s six contests in the promotion have happened inside the UFC Apex, which he referred to in Wednesday’s media availability as Sweet Dreams Stadium.

Hill mentioned in the press junket that he considers himself to be the most successful fighter to join the UFC by way of appearing on Contender Series.

“I just put it out there because I feel like, to me, it’s true,” Hill said to the media on Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t think anybody that’s come off the Contender Series has beaten the level of competition repeatedly that I have, in the fashion that I have, or have the trajectory that I have.”

Saturday’s headlining bout marks Jamahal Hill’s second consecutive UFC main event, and if he plays his cards right, it could be his last fight before appearing on a pay-per-view.

All that’s left for him to do is simply prove it.

Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction

Stylistically, the UFC Vegas 59 main event seems to favor Thiago Santos, who holds black belts in Muay-Thai and Brazilian jiu-jitsu and a green belt in Capoeira, compared to Jamahal Hill’s purple belt in BJJ.

Watch For Thiago Santos To Land Kicks to Set Up Punches

One aspect of Thiago Santos’ fight game that’s evident on video is his ability to set up his punches by kicking his opponents, as he did against Anthony Smith in February of 2018.

During the second round of a scheduled three, after both men traded shots against each other in the first round of the fight, Thiago Santos bided his time while absorbing some kicks, before eventually landing a nasty kick to the liver to knock Smith down, ending the fight with a vicious flurry of ground and pound shots.

Although Smith tried to reverse this into a single-leg takedown, it was in vain, as Santos just kept piling on the punches and Marc Goddard called off the fight.

If Thiago Santos is able to land a nasty kick to the body, it could be the opening he needs to score the knockout in the UFC Vegas 59 main event.

Jamahal Hill Is Just as Nasty With Punches

In the other corner, don’t sleep on Jamahal Hill, as he can also land the vicious punch, like in his last fight against Johnny Walker. While this fight was advertised as a five-round contest, Jamahal Hill needed slightly over half of one to dispose of Walker.

Hill opened up the fight with a left leg kick to Walker’s head, and although Walker attempted to return fire with a spinning kick to the head, Hill was able to expertly block the effort, with both men attempting to throw significant shots.

Walker tried to slow the pace of the fight down with a clinch, but Hill broke away from it to continue throwing punches, and it was only a matter of time before he was able to land a vicious right hand to flatten Walker and knock him out. All it’ll take for Jamahal Hill to win on Saturday is to throw one punch right on the button. If he is able to land as little as a single punch square and true, this main event is his.

Final Thoughts

At the core, the UFC Vegas 59 main event is a story of two fighters at a crossroads in their careers.

Will aged experience triumph over youth this weekend? Tune in and find out.

Prediction: Jamahal Hill by First-Round TKO.

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Drew Zuhosky has been writing about MMA since the spring of 2018. A graduate of Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, Drew enjoys a good game and an even better fight. When he's not writing, you can find him playing video games and listening to music.