UFC Fight Night: Walker vs. Hill Preview

The UFC’s third event of the month was supposed to be headlined by a battle of the Rafaels, in Rafael Dos Anjos vs. Rafael Fiziev. However, due to a Fiziev visa issue, top Light Heavyweights Johnny Walker and Jamahal Hill now take the headlining spot. The card is also highlighted by Contender Series alumni, the record holder for most UFC bouts, and a pair of Middleweight knockout artists.

Johnny Walker vs. Jamahal Hill

Johnny Walker opened his UFC career in brutal fashion as he pulled off three straight first-round KO victories over Khalil Rountree, Justin Ledet, and Misha Cirkunov. However, since this prolific start he has struggled to find consistency having gone just 1-3 since then. This lack of consistency may be somewhat attributable to Walker’s changing style. In 18 victories, Walker holds finishes in 17 of them. 15 of those finishes have come in the first round. Despite this record indicating Walker’s penchant for pure violence, in his last bout he found himself playing a very methodical strike-for-strike game against former Light Heavyweight title challenger Thiago Santos. While Walker would lose the decision to Santos, he proved he was capable of taking a more measured approach to his fights and had the ability to go the five-round distance as well albeit at a slow pace. Against an up-and-comer in Jamahal Hill who possesses incredible KO power, it will be interesting to see if Walker has made strides in utilizing his more calculated distance striking strategy. However, if Walker does choose to engage in a brawl, he has a bevy of dangerous striking techniques available including elbows from the clinch, flying knees, hook kicks, and spinning back fists.

Jamahal Hill appears to have the hallmarks of a future title contender in the Light Heavyweight division. Still young in his professional career, Hill has accumulated a 3-1, 1 NC record in the UFC with notable finishes of former Light Heavyweight title challenger Ovince Saint Preux and Australian prospect Jimmy Crute. Despite possessing incredible KO power, as demonstrated his last time out against Crute, Hill’s approach is typically very methodical. Hill tends to pick his opponents apart from range before closing the distance for powerful hooks and knees. At 6’4” with a 79” reach, Hill has significant physical advantages over much of the division. However, in Walker, Hill finds a rare instance where he will have neither a height nor reach advantage. Hill’s approach to dealing with a larger, taller fighter will be very telling as to his fight IQ and whether he is a legitimate threat to make a run to the top of the division.

Kyle Daukaus vs. Jamie Pickett

Contender Series alumnus Kyle Daukaus missed out on being awarded his first UFC finish his last time out against Kevin Holland. In that bout, Daukaus submitted Holland only to have it declared a No Contest due to a headbutt that compromised Holland before the finish. Despite having just a 1-2, 1 NC record in the UFC, Daukaus has proven to be one to watch in the Middleweight division, giving tough fights to some of the division’s top prospects including Brendan Allen, Phil Hawes, and Holland. In this fight with Jamie Pickett, look for Daukaus to utilize his lengthy frame to deploy his grappling heavy approach. In 10 career victories, Daukaus has won eight of them via submission (five of those via D’arce Choke). Against an opponent in Jamie Pickett who possesses an 80-inch reach, it’s likely that Daukaus will engage in a clinch battle with the ultimate goal of getting Pickett down with a trip in order to seek a fight-ending submission.

Between 2017 and 2020, Jamie Pickett overcame two failed attempts on Dana White’s Contender Series to finally secure his spot in the UFC on his third try when he KO’d Jhonoven Pati on season 4. Unfortunately for Pickett, his UFC start was much like his early Contender Series attempts, as he dropped his first two UFC fights. However, in the last few months, Pickett has once again overcome a rough start, having picked up two decision victories over Laureano Staropoli and Joseph Holmes respectively. He now finds himself in a co-main event in just his fifth UFC fight. As shown on Contender Series, Pickett has serious power, however in the UFC he has shown an ability to pace himself during a fight and pick his opponents apart either at range or in the clinch. Pickett’s main deficiency comes when he is the one being pressured as he appears to tire when his opponent pushes their own pace. Against Daukaus, Pickett will need to make good use of his reach advantage and use his size to muscle Daukaus’ against the cage if they find themselves locked in the clinch. If Pickett allows Daukaus to control where the fight takes place, he may find himself in some precarious situations.

Jim Miller vs Nikolas Motta

38-year-old Jim Miller holds the record for most fights in the UFC at 38 and finds himself as a gatekeeper for prospects at this stage of his career. In Miller’s last fight, he was able to break a two-fight skid with a KO victory over the debuting Erick Gonzalez. The KO was just the fifth in Miller’s 16-year MMA career and his first since 2016 where Miller KO’d Takanori Gomi at UFC 200. In the last number of years, it has become clear that if Miller is unable to finish his opponent early, he will likely end up losing a decision. There is no reason to think that Miller’s bout with Motta will be any different. Given Motta’s background in Muay Thai, Miller is most likely going to look to get this fight to the canvas as quickly as possible in order to hunt for a quick submission victory.

Nikolas Motta first came to prominence on the fourth season of The Ultimate Fighter Brazil. Motta would lose his preliminary round fight to eventual season winner Glaico Franca and would not be signed by the UFC following the conclusion of the season. Motta spent the next five years fighting in various regional promotions including Shooto Brasil and CFFC before getting an opportunity on season 4 of Dana White’s Contender Series in 2020. Motta made the most of this opportunity, picking up a decision over Joseph Lowry to earn himself a UFC contract. Motta now finds himself debuting against the fighter who holds the most experience in UFC history. Motta is a KO threat to Miller as he has solidMuay Thai abilities highlighted by a KO victory over current UFC Lightweight Joe Solecki on the regional scene. Look for Motta to keep the fight on the feet and extend Miller past the first round.

Joaquin Buckley vs. Abdul Razak Alhassan

In 2020, Joaquin Buckley became immortalized in UFC highlight reels with an incredible spinning back kick KO over Impa Kasanganay. Since then, Buckley has gone 2-1 with KO victories over Jordan Wright and Antonio Arroyo. Buckley clearly has immense power in both his punches and his kicks, but he also utilizes his strength well in the clinch often muscling his opponents from that position. At just 5’8” in the Middleweight division, Buckley will almost always need to close the distance in order to be most effective. Against Alhassan, this is no different. Given Alhassan is his most dangerous in the first round, Buckley may look to implement a clinch-heavy gameplan in the first round before looking to uncork another KO in the later rounds.

Abdul Razak Alhassan had a trio of KO victories from 2017 to 2018 over The Ultimate Fighter season 21 veteran Sabah Homasi (twice) and Niko Price that had many viewers speculating just how far he could climb in the Welterweight division. Unfortunately, after a lengthy layoff Alhassan dropped his next two bouts where he failed to make the Welterweight limit for either bout. A jump up to Middleweight didn’t fare any differently as he dropped a decision to Jacob Malkoun in his return to the division. Alhassan finally found himself back in the winner’s column in his last bout in August of 2021 when it took him just 17 seconds to KO Alessio Di Chirico with a head kick. In 11 career victories, Alhassan has won all of them via first-round KO. Given that Alhassan typically tires in bouts getting past the first frame, he will undoubtedly look to continue his first-round KO trend against Buckley who has suffered three KO losses in his career.

Elsewhere on the card, The Ultimate Fighter Latin America season 1 alumnus Gabriel Benitez does battle with the very talented David Onama who gave prospect Mason Jones all he could handle in his last outing. Additionally, Chas Skelly returns from a nearly three-year layoff to face Mark Striegl, who looks to rebound from a rough UFC debut.

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