The first MMA pay-per-view event of the new year, UFC 283, kicks off this Saturday night. Two title fights highlight the stacked 15-fight card as the flyweight and light heavyweight belts are up for grabs.
In the main event, Glover Teixeira continues his quest to regain the light heavyweight title in front of a hometown crowd in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The long-time veteran captured UFC gold for the first time 14 months ago in his 40th career fight, only to relinquish the title in an epic war with Jiri Prochazka last June. However, a bizarre chain of events has Teixeira fighting for the title once again. First, a significant shoulder injury suffered in training forced Prochazka to vacate the belt. Then, the final domino fell in place perfectly as Magomed Ankalaev and Jan Blachowicz fought to a draw in the UFC's first attempt to crown a new champ.
Standing in the way of Teixeira is Jamahal Hill — a long, rangy, 6-foot-4 knockout artist riding a three-fight winning streak. Hill (5-1-1 UFC) has finished his last three opponents via KO/TKO and picked up valuable experience fighting into the fourth round in his latest win over Thiago Santos.
Get ready for a classic matchup between the rising contender and the old lion. The former champion is now the betting underdog at +110 odds. Will Father Time finally catch up to the 43-year-old Teixeira? Here's why I am betting Hill will have trouble putting Glover's lights out, plus a method-of-victory prop worth considering.
The handicap always starts with the price. Glover Teixeira hasn't closed as the betting favorite in over three years, and we are still getting plus prices in his third consecutive title fight. He closed as more than a 2-to-1 dog in his wins over Santos and Blachowicz before finally getting some respect against Prochazka. Although, Glover was still a sizable underdog (+170 range) in that fight. Teixeira easily outperformed his price tag in a losing effort, putting on one of the best fights of the year, where he was literally seconds away from winning.
Age matters in mixed martial arts, but it's not everything. In this matchup, Glover's experience far outweighs the age concerns, especially against a fighter with only seven UFC fights. Saturday night may be Hill's third consecutive main event, but it's only his second fight on a pay-per-view card. His first appearance was a nightmare, as he got TKO'd by Paul Craig in the first two minutes of the first round. This time, he is fighting for the UFC light heavyweight title against Teixeira in front of an electric crowd in Brazil. That's a pretty big jump.
Can Hill hunt Teixeira down early and put him to sleep with a big left hook? It's certainly possible, but I don't think it's as likely as the odds imply at 57%. Teixeira has defensive holes when trading in the pocket, but he is also savvy enough to realize he doesn't have to play dangerous games with Hill. Instead, Teixeira can use his boxing to set up his most significant advantage, his grappling.
Thiago Santos registered six takedowns against Jamahal Hill and had him in deep waters a few times. Credit is due to Hill for surviving, but the first time will be the last time he goes to the ground with Teixeira. I don't have confidence in Hill's technical defense once it hits the mat, and I don't see him escaping Teixiera's suffocating top control. Instead, Teixeira will methodically soften him with good old-fashioned ground and pound before he finds his neck and squeezes until he is champion again.
Whether it's Hill's dynamite left hand finding the veteran's chin, or Teixiera locking in a lethal submission, the total set at only 1.5 rounds speaks volumes. Each fighter has a strong path to winning the fight, creating value on the method-of-victory props for both Hill and Teixeira. Glover by submission should be priced around 2-to-1 when the markets open at BetMGM, while playing Hill via KO will get you closer to even money.
I will bet on the old lion to use his experience to reclaim his title. If he can stay out of danger for almost the full five rounds against a striker like Jiri Prochazka, I am confident that his durability buys him enough time to grind out the win.
The Bet: Glover Teixeira (+110)