It has been over 11 days since we have seen live fighting on television!
I know we took over a month off just recently but after the megadose of UFC we got in the triumphant return, I am fiending for more.
This is the UFC’s first fight back after quarantine in its home city and state of Las Vegas, Nevada.
If you’re familiar with Dana White’s Contender Series, the facility they use for those live events will be where they are holding this Saturday night’s UFC on ESPN 9.
The APEX is the name of the joint. I haven’t had the chance to see it yet but just like the UFC’s Performance Institute, people have had nothing but good things to say.
One interesting and influential point to make is that the UFC will be using a smaller Octagon for this week’s event than they have been using lately. Dropping from 30 to 25 feet in diameter is a big jump.
This is especially true for the bigger longer fighters like one we will be talking about today, young Jamahal Hill.
Katlyn Chookagian is another example. She loves to stay long just like Hill. She won’t be affected by this as much because she isn’t nearly as large as the light heavyweight fighter Jamahal Hill.
We faded her this week because she is going up against a better striker and also the smaller cage.
A quiet arena favors the bigger strikes being landed. The harder strikes are normally louder and when the crowd is roaring, it’s harder for the judges to gauge the power of these shots that are landed.
They only have their eyes and it can get pretty difficult to tell who is landing and who is slipping perfectly just enough out of the way. This is especially true of the smaller weight classes.
Jamahal will be fighting a very tough opponent on Saturday.
Brazil’s Klidson Ebreu is a southpaw like Hill but with a black belt in BJJ and some very good takedowns to get him there.
The online sportsbook BetOnline.AG has the odds for this fight and you might be surprised to see who’s the favorite.
Jamahal Hill (-125) vs Klidson Ebreu (+105)
Klidson Ebreu has a clear path to victory in this one and the bettors who have already hit this line clearly agree. Hill opened up a (-175) favorite. I kinda get it.
He is a natural 205’er. 6’4” with a 79-inch reach. He has a solid jab and front kick to the body and Jamal really uses his range well. There are massive holes in his striking and takedown defense, though.
He is a talent, yes, but still very raw and underdeveloped. He likes to see his punches land so his chin is up there. He is used to getting away with it by using his range against weaker competition. He prefers to float his chin as opposed to keeping it tucked.
If it stays tucked, it is a closer target for your opponent to strike but it’s protected, or at least it’s supposed to be. When you float your chin, you rely a lot on reflexes and your range.
Anderson Silva is the perfect example. When a fighter’s reflexes start to diminish around 38, that’s about the time they fight a wrestler from Long Island, drop their hands, and let a random non-spinning back fist guide their chin into a left hook.
Still one of the worst days of my life.
I do like Hill’s game, though. Give these two guys another 12-18 months of the proper training and I think Hill deserves to be a 2 to 1 favorite.
His ceiling is higher than Klidson, who is kinda small for the weight class. He carries a little bit of flab in his gut and at just 6’ flat, is a little short for 205.
Abreu’s path to the UFC didn’t only go through his home country of Brazil as you might think. He took the hard road, in my opinion.
Russia. His nickname of the “Russian Terror” was given to him by his father because of how he disposed of so many Russian fighters, sometimes submitting them.
If this fight is a stand-up battle, I give the edge to Hill.
Even though he does have bad defense, he does stay relaxed enough to slide away from a big looping shot from Abreu. There is a 5-inch reach disparity.
Can Jamahal Hill defend the takedown attempts should they come from Klidson Abreu? Well, in his only UFC fight against Darko Stosic, Jamahal Hill was taken down 6 times in 9 tries.
Darko is jacked, though, and more explosive than Klidson. Stosic timed his shots very well but 6 takedowns are still 6 too many if you want to compete at the highest level of the UFC.
Hill popped right back up to his feet each time he hit the mat and he didn’t give his back up while he was getting to his feet.
He instead faced his opponent as he stood which opens you up to get hit clean but eliminates the back take and that will be imperative against a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion in Klidson Abreu.
Jamahal is going to be the bigger man in there and he looked stronger than Stosic and I would imagine Hill is going to have a strength advantage over Abreu.
Klidson has very good takedowns. He took down a 3-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club winner Shamil Gamzatov in his last fight. Klidson lost that fight by split decision but I didn’t see it that way. Gamzatov had slightly better range and lightly kicked his way into stealing that one.
If you’re still questioning his takedown ability, he was able to get Sam Alvey to the floor who has an outstanding 83% takedown defense in nearly 20 fights with the UFC.
He slides forward nicely with some of his punches and can transition from there quickly into a takedown attempt. He could slide on the inside of one of Hill’s looping punches and then use Jamahal’s long arms against him.
Do I think Klidson can get a takedown in 2 of the three rounds and not get beat up badly on his feet? Yes. I think this fight is very hard to call because Klidson is out of American Top Team and he fights so smart.
Hill could get taken down 4 times but pop right back up and start peppering his opponent with jabs and front kicks. Then we are relying on the judges to score light strikes against clinch/top control time.
That is not where we want to go. The value was definitely on Abreu when this betting line opened. It’s hard to bet on the smaller guy to take down and control the bigger guy, though.
I don’t think the Octagon going from 30 to 25 feet hurts any particular fighter’s chances more than Jamahal Hill. Fight IQ, experience, slightly better odds, stronger team, and better wrestling all go the way of Abreu.
This is quite the contrast in experience, styles, and size as well. I do see Jamahal having some early success with the front kick to the body and landing his jab.
The jab does become more important in a southpaw vs southpaw matchup. Both of these lefties are accustomed to favoring their power side when exchanging with orthodox fighters.
One thing that impressed me quite a bit was Klidson Abreu’s ability to check kicks. Against Shamil Gamzatov, he consistently caught his opponent’s foot on the top of his tibia or his knee. I don’t think the judges picked up on it but the fight was in Moscow so go figure.
Hill throws hard kicks and it’s going to affect how he throws his front kicks as well if that foot gets checked. Jamahal will land clean early but once Abreu finds his range, I think his defense will improve giving him the cover fire, if you will, to close the distance and hopefully get that takedown.
Hill was taken down 6 times in his last fight. I don’t think we are crazy to think his back might touch the mat a couple of times on Saturday night.
He had better hope it isn’t for long because Klidson Abreu is a much more capable submission artist than Darko Milicic, I mean Stosic.
Get your bets in now, team!