Monday, May 23, 2022

How Far Can Jamahal Hill Go In The Light Heavyweight Division?

Dressed to the nines in a white tux, red tie, and shades, Jamahal Hill rocked up to the UFC Vegas 48 post-fight press conference in style to deliver a message. Having just achieved the biggest win of his career over Johnny Walker, Hill, with his similarly attired son sitting next to him, wanted the assembled press to know one thing—that they should start believing, because he’s the real deal.

“It’s time to start having a different kind of conversation, because you all are asking the wrong questions about me,” Hill told press. “‘Where’s he going next? How good am I for real?’ Stop doubting. Start believing, ‘cause it’s for real.”

Despite knocking out almost every opponent placed before him in his young career, Hill feels that he’s underappreciated—by the UFC and the press. The 30-year-old believes he’s been denied the fanfare lavished upon the UFC’s other top prospects.

Jamahal Hill
Jamahal Hill, and his son, at the the UFC Vegas 48 post-fight press conference. PHOTO: MMA JUNKIE

“The spotlight isn’t shining on me like it is on other people,” Hill said in 2021. “Which is cool. You know what I mean? ‘Cause at the end of the day, what I can do, my abilities, you can’t ignore it.”

And ignore them you can’t. By knocking Johnny Walker out on his feet with an early frontrunner for KO of the year, Jamahal showed why he should be touted as a future title contender. Now in the light heavyweight top ten, he plans on doing the same to the division’s best.

“I feel like the division is a little tired,” Hill told the press after his victory over Walker. “Some guys need some naps.” 

A Future champion or Another ‘Johnny Walker?’

Hill, the self-proclaimed “best boxer in the UFC”, isn’t short on confidence. But the Michigan native, who only made his professional MMA debut just over four years ago, has so far backed it up. Entering the UFC via the Contender Series in early 2020, Hill has earned five KOs in six fights (one, however, was later ruled a no-contest after he tested positive for marijuana). 

Hill’s only loss, and perhaps the biggest asterisk against his future potential, was that to jiu-jitsu specialist Paul Craig, who submitted him within two minutes, dislocating his arm in the process. Humbled, Hill admitted to learning a powerful lesson, attributing the loss to his “flat-out arrogance” heading into the fight.

Jamahal Hill
Jamahal Hill Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Clearly, much like Johnny Walker early in his UFC career, Hill has relied on his spectacular KO power to end fights early. But will ‘Sweet Dreams’ similarly stumble against the division’s best? Or can he become champ?

According to former UFC lightweight Kenny Florian, it all depends on whether Hill can shore up his ground game.

“I absolutely believe he can be champion,” said Florian on a recent episode of the Anik & Florian Podcast (h/t Sporskeeda). “You know with that Paul Craig loss, I think that’s the kind of loss that’s going to drive someone like Jamahal Hill. That’s the kind of thing that’s going to motivate him and get him to shore up those weaknesses that perhaps was exposed in that fight. So, does he need to improve his grappling based on what we saw? Yes. But I do think he has absolutely all the makings of the champion based on what I have seen, based on how he handles himself, based on how he has climbed back in that division with the adversity that he has experienced… I would not be surprised in the least to see him as a 205-pound champion at some point.”

What’s Next For Jamahal Hill?

Relentlessly ambitious, Hill said after his victory over Walker that he wanted #2 ranked Jiří Procházka next. But after Volkan Oezdemir tweeted that he’s “still doubting” Hill, it appears ‘Sweet Dreams’ now has his sights set on the Swiss.

“I’ve already said it, bro, as long as I got the say-so, he’s next,” Hill told TMZ. “Just for the simple fact that what I’m here to do, I can’t have people speaking out. If you gonna speak my name, you better be sure. You better be sure. And he spoke it, and I’m going to go out and make an example of him.”

Even without the beef between the duo, a matchup between newly-ranked #10 Hill and #8 Oezdemir makes a lot of sense. Oezdemir has lost five of his last seven fights, including his most recent to Procházka and Magomed Ankalaev. Derailing a surging prospect like Hill could give his UFC career the life-saving defibrillation it needs.

For Hill, facing a fellow knockout artist with little ground game like Oezdemir—and a seemingly faded one at that—will likely be easy work and propel him further up the top ten, where a true test of his skills may await.

However, many may no doubt be wondering: Would Hill’s one-punch knockout power, like Walker and Oezdemir before him, only carry him so far? Possibly. But if there’s one thing that drives ‘Sweet Dreams,’ it’s proving his doubters wrong.

What do you think? Does Jamahal Hill have the potential to be light heavyweight champ?

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