You can tell a lot about a UFC fighter’s path through his next opponent. Thiago Santos has had 32 fights in his career, including a TKO victory over Jan Blachowicz three years ago. The victory over the former champion brought him a title shot against Jon Jones. Santos lost a split decision to Jones, but the battle with one of the greatest players of all time was the pinnacle of his career. He quickly got over the loss, but the physical scars from competing at the highest level still affect his career today. Santos spent the next 16 months recovering from various knee and leg injuries sustained against Jones and has since struggled to take down the elite of the light heavyweight division.
This Saturday at UFC Vegas 59, Santos is still fighting in the main events, but now he’s in a different role. Santos will take on No. 10 Jamahal Hill, a rising contender who garnered attention with his spectacular knockout in a Johnny Walker video. But again, the odds tell the players everything we need to know. Hill is the -300 favorite and Santos is expected to serve as a litmus test for a promising title contender. As cold as it may seem, this is a natural career progression for both fighters. And it’s still a big test for Hill, who has yet to face a fighter of Santos’ caliber, even if the former opponent’s best days are behind him.
It was a one way move with money backing the favorite and that’s why I think it’s justified.
Jamahal Hill (-300) vs. Thiago Santos (+240)
Everything is set for Hill to show off his deadly power against sixth-placed Santos. Hill is out of action after consecutive knockouts in the first round and has a huge statistical advantage. His 7.06 significant bpm is impressive for the light heavyweight division, and his 3.35 bpm difference (touchdown/absorption) almost matches Santos’ total of 3.71.
Hill is a southpaw with a three-inch reach advantage and a solid straight left. He makes good use of his length to land from a distance, but he is not just a fighter who is gearing up for a knockout. Instead, he showed the ability to work his body, deal damage in the clinch, and turn up the volume while patiently waiting for the moment to end the fight. Santos’ last loss was to another southpaw, Magomed Ankalaev, when his willingness to sit back and counterattack saw him fall behind on the scoresheets. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Santos trying to get this punch to the ground, but Hill’s ability to scramble to his feet should make any change in momentum short-lived.
I will support Hill to get the job done on Saturday night and earn a top 5 fight. Santos knows his recent low performance approach won’t be enough to sway the judges for five rounds, so I expect him to come out on his sword. Hill’s odds of taking Santos out are better than -165 odds (62% chance) and give a bigger edge than the current price of the money line. Santos has been on the scoresheets in three of his last four losses but has still finished 60% of his career losses. Another option is to play Hill with two other big favorites. Listed below are two of my recommendations for the best branches of the Express Card. Regardless of how you want to attack the market, bet on the Hill if you are betting on the main event.
Bet: Hill KO/TKO/Disqualification/Submission (-150)
Bet: Hill, Terrence McKinney and Michal Olekseichuk (-141)
Stephanie Egger (-135) vs. Maira Bueno Silva (+110)
Losing her UFC debut, Egger stopped her next two opponents from a distance with a TKO and submission. However, it is unlikely that she will be able to do the same with Bueno Silva, who has yet to complete 11 career fights. Egger’s path to victory will be to blow Bueno Silva apart and use her aggression against her to secure takedowns. But Bueno Silva is a fireball that will force her into the pocket by landing harder punches in the exchange.
Egger will lose by trading on foot and I’m not very sure she will take the fight to the ground under fire. She averages only 1.69 significant punches per minute compared to Bueno Silva’s 4.25 and she will have to rely on her judo to break Bueno Silva’s 69% takedown defense. Bueno Silva runs into trouble against top tier hitters when she’s ready to take a shot to strike. I didn’t see enough in Egger’s stance to show that she can use her opponent’s defensive abilities. I see that the decision will be made as Bueno Silva’s results and injuries impressed the judges for three rounds.
Bet: Maira Bueno Silva (+110)
*Statistics provided ufcstats.com.