Top-15 light heavyweight finishers Johnny Walker and Jamahal Hill will go hammer and tongs in what’s set to be a barn-burning headliner at UFC Vegas 48 on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
Former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos and rising star Rafael Fiziev were originally meant to main event the card, however, visa issues forced the bout to be moved to the next pay-per-view.
Walker and Hill now top the marquee and while that means it’ll now be a five-round fight instead of three, odds are the judges won’t be needed.
A middleweight match-up between Kyle Daukaus and Jamie Pickett has been promoted to the co-featured slot, while the most-tenured fighter in UFC history Jim Miller welcomes newcomer Nikolas Motta to the Octagon in a lightweight tilt.
Two other bangers are in store at the UFC Apex as heavyweights Parker Porter and Alan Baudot and middleweight finishers Abdul Razak Alhassan and Joaquin Buckley bring the heat.
MAIN CARD (from 2 AM Sunday SA time):
Johnny Walker (2.90) v Jamahal Hill (1.41) (Light Heavyweight)
Two of the biggest bruisers in the 205-pound division collide in the can’t-miss main event. Walker (18-6) stands 6’6″ while Hill (8-1-1NC) is 6’4″. The top-15 skyscrapers are savages, who enter the Octagon with the solitary goal of taking out their opponent. Fireworks are, therefore, guaranteed, so don’t blink.
Tenth-ranked Walker took the UFC by storm when he arrived on the scene in 2018. The rangy and dynamic striker produced three spectacular knockouts in a row before being stopped by top contender Corey Anderson. He hasn’t quite been the same since going 1-2 including dropping a decision to Thiago Santos in his last fight this past October.
Hill’s won four of his five fights inside the Octagon and bounced back from a nasty loss to Paul Craig by knocking out favoured Jimmy Crute last December. The 12th-ranked southpaw is the more technical striker, with Walker being a showman and fond of expressing his creativity on the feet.
A Walker fight almost never goes to a decision. The Brazilian boasts a 95% finishing rate and has been knocked out three times himself. If he is going to get the better of his fancied foe, he’s likely to do it early as all but one of his stoppages, which include 15 knockouts, came in the first round.
Hill’s not quite as rabid, yet four of his five knockouts materialised in the opening round. Having greater patience, presence of mind and defensive abilities should see “Sweet Dreams” stand tall over Walker, who’s proven to be a hittable target.
Kyle Daukaus (1.34) v Jamie Pickett (3.20) (Catchweight)
The co-headliner is a classic striker versus grappler clash. Pickett (13-6) uses his fists to forge his path to the pay window. He has power and is remarkably rangy at middleweight, a combination that’s seen him claim eight wins by knockout.
Daukaus (10-2) is like an octopus, with all but two of the former Cage Fury Fighting Championships middleweight champion’s wins coming by way of submission. He was originally matched up with Julian Marquez, but “The Cuban Missile Crisis” was forced out last week.
Time will tell whether Pickett stepping up on short notice is a gamble or a calculated risk. Stylistically, it appears to be a gamble. The one positive for Pickett is that it’s a catchweight bout, so he won’t be drained by a demanding weight cut. That said, even on their best days, Daukaus has displayed better conditioning, so he’ll have a decided advantage the longer the fight goes having had a full training camp.
Add in Pickett’s low output and “The Night Wolf” will likely need a finish if he’s to get his hand raised. Daukaus is defensively savvy (he’s never been finished) and should not only survive the early storm but use Pickett’s aggression against him.
Jim Miller (2.45) v Nikolas Motta (1.54) (Lightweight)
The matchmakers have served up quite the captivating clash here. Miller (33-16-1NC) holds the record for the most appearances in UFC history at 38, while Motta is making his promotional debut.
To have an unrivalled tenure in the UFC, you have to be well-rounded and Miller has black belts in taekwondo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu as evidence of what a complete fighter he is.
He notched his fifth knockout last time out against Erick Gonzalez but it’s in the grappling department where he shines, 18 submission wins a testament to the veteran’s jiu-jitsu sorcery.
In contrast, Motta’s mainly a striker. A kill-or-be-killed competitor, his record stands at 12-3 with eight knockouts. Sharing a nickname with Mike Tyson, “Iron” has fast and heavy hands and will be determined to keep the fight standing.
He’s the favourite despite being unproven in the UFC. With Miller, you know exactly what you get. He’s defied the odds on several occasions and I see him doing exactly that to spoil Motta’s debut.
Parker Porter (1.37) v Alan Baudot (3.05) (Heavyweight)
The significant step-up in competition in the UFC has proved problematic for Baudot (8-3), whose travels included competing in the South African-based EFC.
The Frenchman was knocked out both times he stepped inside the Octagon, and that the latter was later overturned to a no-contest was of little consolation. He’s the do-or-die type, with all but one of his wins coming by knockout and all of his losses by the same method.
Coming off consecutive wins, Porter (11-6) has momentum on his side as well as versatility (five KO and three submission wins). Both men throw high volume but only Parker has staying power.
It shouldn’t go long, though, as Parker should find a way through The Black Samurai’s suspect armour.
Abdul Razak Alhassan (2.25) v Joaquin Buckley (1.64) (Middleweight)
Make sure you have your beverage and snacks ready because the main card opener can end at any moment. These two are knockout artists to the bone, so get hyped for a barnburner.
It’s the story of Haqparast’s career to date, the 26-year-old struggling against seasoned opposition, and A black belt in karate, Alhassan has earned all 11 of his wins by knockout (the most recent taking him just 17 seconds), while all but three of Buckley’s 13 victories came in the same fashion. One of those was one of the most spectacular knockouts in UFC history (watch below).
Buckley’s biggest pro is he’s extremely explosive. His biggest con is that he’s over-reliant on big movements and doesn’t throw enough volume.
Alhassan puts combinations together and as a former welterweight, he’s set to have a speed advantage. As a result, I see him making Buckley KO victim number 12.
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