Jordan Leavitt, Jamahal Hill Top UFC Vegas 16 Picks

Jack Hermansson has had two opponents withdraw from Saturday night’s main event and is now slated to take on fellow middleweight contender Marvin Vettori. Darren Till first backed out due to injury and then Kevin Holland tested positive for COVID-19.

Interestingly enough, the short notice replacement Vettori is the -160 favorite in the fight. Hermansson is ranked fourth in the division compared to Vettori at 14, so the line is a bit of a mystery to me.

This is Vettori’s first 5-round fight and he’s taking the fight on short notice. He was training to fight Jacare Souza next week at UFC 256 so it’s not like he’ll be out of shape, but those extra two rounds could be a massive advantage for Hermansson, who’s last three fights have all been 5-round fights.

Co-headlining the event are two massive Light Heavyweights in Ovince St. Preux and Jamahal Hill. OSP’s best days are behind him but he proved in his last fight that still, at 37-years old, possesses knock-out power.

UFC Vegas 16 lacks a big star on the card, but it is packed with undefeated prospects. Four fighters will put their perfect records on the line Saturday.

My first bet includes one of those prospects, Jordan Leavitt, who makes his UFC debut against a veteran in Matt Wiman.

Jordan Leavitt to win by decision +187

Leavitt is making his UFC debut in this fight and he’s a huge favorite to win at -400. He’s a high-level grappler and looks to submit opponents with five of his seven wins coming via submission. The UFC looks like it’s serving up their young prospect an old, washed-up veteran for his debut.

Leavitt is taking on Matt Wiman, who hasn’t won a fight since 2014. He took a five-year layoff after that win and returned for two fights in 2019. He looked terrible in both losing by decision and 3rd round TKO. Wiman was out-struck a combined 143-34 in those two fights. But there is one skill of Wiman’s I am banking on for this fight.

Matt Wiman has never been submitted. Of Wiman’s 17 UFC fights, he fought seven fighters that finished their careers with over 13 submission victories. None of them could get Wiman to tap.

Leavitt doesn’t have the striking power to KO Wiman, and I will be extremely impressed if he’s the first fighter to make Wiman tap. Jordan Leavitt by decision is the play for me.

Jamahal Hill by decision +260

This is another case that I am taking the favorite fighter (-172) but in the method that isn’t expected. Jamahal Hill is 8-0 and has won half his fights by KO and the other half by decision. He’s expected to finish his opponent based on the odds (+150) but his opponent, Ovince St. Preux is a veteran of 39 professional fights and has only been knocked-out twice.

OSP has fought much more dangerous strikers than Hill and survived. OSP’s 9 losses by decision proves he’s durable but definitely beatable. Jamahal Hill is the exact type of fighter St. Preux struggles with. A high-volume striker that doesn’t have any size disadvantage.

OSP is a massive Light Heavyweight at 6”3” and an 80” reach but Hill is right there with him in freakish stature at 6”4” and a 79” reach. Fighters that have defeated OSP and fit the volume + size build are Dominick Reyes, Nikita Krylov, Ben Rothwell, and Jimi Manuwa.

Jamahal Hill averages 7.90 significant strikes per minute compared to OSP’s 2.64. Hill also has slightly better striking defense. This will be Hill’s toughest test against a durable opponent, but I think his volume will be enough to edge out a decision win.

Nate Landwehr to defeat Movsar Evloev +450

I’m not the one that will normally back the biggest underdog on the card, but I don’t understand this line at all. Yes, Movsar Evloev is unbeaten at 13-0 and 3-0 in the UFC but a -625 favorite? Both of these fighters are former M-1 champions, but Landwehr was the champ one weight class up.

Evloev fought at 135lbs in Russia but has fought at 145lbs in all his fights in the UFC. Landwehr has a slight size advantage and Evloev has yet to finish an opponent in the UFC.

Evloev is expected to win this fight by decision at -125 but Landwehr has the potential to surprise a lot of people Saturday night.

A big part of Evloev’s game plan is his takedowns, averaging 3 per fight. Landwehr has an 80% takedown defense, which was on display when he stopped 12/13 takedowns against a talented wrestler in Darren Elkins.

I expect this to be a very close decision fight and I think Landwehr can sneak out a decision win. He averages 2.45 more significant strikes per minute than Evloev. Landwehr’s striking defense is not as good as Evloev’s, but Landwehr’s win over Elkins is more impressive than any of Evloev’s three UFC wins.

I’m taking Landwehr to win at +450 but Landwehr by decision at +800 is tempting.