If ever there was an old guard vs. new, passing of the torch, old lion vs. young buck fight, it was UFC Vegas 59’s light heavyweight main event between Thiago Santos and Jamahal Hill.
Santos was that proverbial old lion, a dangerous veteran with knockout power who, at 38, might just be on his way out. With just a 1-4 record dating back to his 2019 title bid against Jon Jones, the Brazilian was certainly in a precarious position.
At 31, in contrast, Hill was a relatively fresh face, in his prime, and getting his toughest test to date on Saturday at the UFC Apex.
On a night with nine straight finishes leading up to the main event, the headliners proved up to the challenge, putting on a ferocious performance that did not, not surprisingly, go the distance.
Santos fired a hard low kick in the opening minute of the fight, then chased after a single-leg takedown but was too far out. Santos and Hill would both take some big swings before the Brazilian drove Hill up against the fence, looking for a takedown. Hill would stay upright, firing a knee and a punch to the body; Santos answered with a knee of his own, but Hill then landed low on Santos. Towards the end of the frame, Santos fired a spinning kick, and took another big swing at Hill.
Hill opened up the second round with a kick, followed by another, and another. Then a fourth. A fifth sneaked up high, but Santos had that blocked. Santos then hit home with a body kick that landed with a thud. That was followed by a powerful, explosive takedown from Santos, though Hill immediately scrambled up. Another scramble saw Santos fire a spinning kick wide, and the two started to open up, trading. Santos powered into another takedown, but didn’t have it; they’d exchange knees in a clinch. A left hand landed for Santos, but Hill pressed forward, landing his jab. Hill fired a head kick, but Santos spun under it. Hill lunged forward with a hook. They slowed a bit; Hill landed the right hook that time. Another would come moments later. They traded at the buzzer.
The third round saw Santos pursuing a takedown early. Not entirely surprising, as he had slowed a step by the end of the second, and had arguably been losing the stand-up battles. Hill stuffed the attempt, sprawling and pressing Santos’ head down before getting up. Santos landed the next takedown attempt however, and when Hill got back up, Santos dragged him down again, mixing in a few punches. Back on the feet, things got a bit wild again, with the pair trading and Santos firing a spinning back fist. In the final minute, Santos went after the takedown again, with Hill landing an uppercut to the body and a knee, but Santos securing a final takedown late.
Round three belonged to Thiago Santos. Round four did not.
Hill rocked Santos early in round four, with Santos up against the fence. That led to a heavy exchange; they went back to center before Hull cut off the cage again. Hill trapped Santos and began unloading! They traded; Santos went down at center and Hill piled on with punches while Santos covered up. Somehow, Santos survived and made it to the fence, with Hill piling on elbows this time! Santos was done, and ref Herb Dean finally made the call — Jamahal Hill takes the TKO win, and UFC Vegas 59 ends up with a 100% finish rate.
Hill proved he has arrived in the light heavyweight division with that performance, for those that weren’t already sold. The card going 10 for 10 on finishes is the first time that has occurred since UFC Fight Night 55 in 2014.
Official Result: Jamahal Hill def. Thiago Santos by TKO, Round 4, 2:31