For those who regularly check in on MMA websites, UFC 283 is a major boon. There isn’t a fight that appears to be misplaced on a PPV main card. Even better, there’s a pair of title fights that has everyone vacillating on who will end up walking out with the gold. The only reason the PPV hasn’t been hyped as a tentpole event is none of the title fight participants have the recognition that comes with being one of the UFC’s faces. There’s no intention to disrespect Glover Teixeira, Jamahal Hill, Deiveson Figueiredo, or Brandon Moreno, but none of them have broken through. There’s no doubt the UFC still has hopes for Hill and Moreno to do so, but neither are there quite yet.
Regardless, both title fights are exceptionally well-matched. We have seen Figueiredo and Moreno do the damn thing – this will be the fourth and final time they collide – but there’s a lot of unknown quantities between the fresh matchup that is Teixeira and Hill.
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Glover Teixeira vs. Jamahal Hill, Light Heavyweight
Glover Teixeira wasn’t the first UFC champion to hold gold in their 40’s when he upended Jan Blachowicz towards the end of 2021. However, he was the first to have first held gold in his 40’s, Randy Couture and Daniel Cormier winning their first titles while still in their 30’s. Perhaps even more impressive, Teixeira delivered what is likely to be his career-defining contest in his unsuccessful defense against Jiri Prochazka at the age of 42. Teixeira and Prochazka’s back-and-forth contest was an instant classic, FOTY in 2022 for many publications. That he came up short is an afterthought for many.
Unfortunately, in the midst of how great that contest was, many have overlooked a few of the lessons that should have been taken from the fight. First, there’s no doubt Teixeira showed heart for days in the contest. He absorbed insane amounts of damage from Prochazka, only to continue marching forward. However, he ultimately did tap to a RNC that wasn’t fully sunk in by Prochazka. Blame that on fatigue, blame that on the cumulative damage, whatever. He ultimately did tap… and that means Hill knows he can be broken. I’m not saying that to be a jerk. I have no doubt nobody is more frustrated by Teixeira tapping than Teixeira. It is what it is at this point….
The other thing to take out of that contest is the amount of damage Teixeira absorbed. Think about the decline many fighters have suffered immediately after enduring an epic battle. Rory MacDonald never appeared to be the same after his classic with Robbie Lawler. Lawler had one more legendary performance after that, but neither he nor Carlos Condit looked the same after their battle. Old school fans will remember Don Frye and Ken Shamrock beating the ever-living crap out of each other, only to never be the same afterwards. Some would point out these are fighters who have had excessive miles put on their body. Teixeira is 43 years old, having made his debut over 20 years ago. The miles are there. His title win was so shocking because of the miles.
Despite that, Teixeira could continue to shock everyone. Sure, he’s glacially slow, but he has been for years. He’s proven he knows how to work around that. Teixeira still hits like a truck if he’s able to land a clean shot. Most importantly, there may not be a more dominant topside grappler in the history of the light heavyweight division. Teixeira is heavy from the top and technically clean enough that it’s difficult to buck him. Prochazka was able to do so thanks to athleticism, years of experience, and fatigue beginning to get the best of Teixeira. Hill is a hell of an athlete, but experience is still something he’s short on. His inability to stop takedowns from Thiago Santos in Hill’s most recent contest offers hope to the savvy Teixeira being able to put him on his back.
However, in Hill’s favor is youth, speed, power, and range. Hill rapid ascension has been largely due to him being one of the most gifted athletes on the roster. A simple watch of his film would confirm that. The other part of it has been because he’s been mature enough to soak up what his coaches have been teaching him and learning from his mistakes. Remember him claiming his ground game was underrated going into his fight with Paul Craig? To Hill’s credit, he hasn’t even tried to screw around with the ground game since Craig taught him a lesson in humility. To Hill’s credit, he even seemed to develop a friendship with Craig afterwards. One of the best ways to learn to is take lessons from those who added an L to one’s ledger. Hill has been doing just that.
Those who have either beaten Teixeira or come close to beating him over the last several years have been some of the best athletes in the division at the time they clashed. Hill certainly qualifies in that sense. That isn’t to say he’s guaranteed to win. Teixeira may have come up short against Prochazka, but it’s obvious the wheels didn’t come off for him in that contest. That Hill is similar in his attack to Prochazka should be more encouraging for Teixeira’s chances as the defensive deficiencies should be something Teixeira will expose. That Hill has never gone five rounds either is another point in Teixeira’s favor. Despite all that, I can’t help but fear Teixeira’s on the verge of falling off. It isn’t like the Prochazka fight is the only fight he’s taken a lot of damage in. He took a beating at the hands of Anthony Smith prior to flipping that contest on its head. Thiago Santos knocked him down too. Teixeira has already defied the odds by accomplishing what he has. But how long can he? Given the vibrance and fearless nature of Hill, I think he’ll expose the age of Teixeira. Hill via TKO of RD3
Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Brandon Moreno, Flyweight
While I believe it’s time to move on from the rivalry once this fight is complete, it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate what Figueiredo and Moreno have been able to provide for fight fans. While educated viewers have long had an appreciation for the quality of action provided by the flyweight division, the dominance of Demetrious Johnson prevented a true rivalry from taking hold. In the process, the division developed a level of stagnation that made the division difficult to market. The exciting back-and-forth provided by these two in each of their three contests injected an interest in the division that has been sorely missing. Thus, while I’m interested to see someone else in the title picture besides these two, a level of appreciation needs to be offered to them.
Following the second contest, it looked like Moreno had Figueiredo’s number. The Brazilian couldn’t keep up with the fast pace of Moreno. However, Figueiredo recognized where he was coming up short, rededicated himself to ensuring he would have the energy to go all 25 minutes. That started with a disciplined weight cut, something Figueiredo hasn’t always been able to do. Given how Figueiredo ballooned up following their most recent contest, there were rumors Figueiredo wouldn’t be able to make it down to 125. However, all reports that I’ve read indicate Figueiredo’s weight management was in a good spot for this contest as well. In other words, many were going to wait to see how Figueiredo looked coming into the contest. If he looked bad, it was likely to be Moreno all the way. That doesn’t appear to be the case.
The other issue with Figueiredo has been his willingness to take unnecessary risks. Sure, he’s been able to get away with it at various times in his career thanks to his prodigious talents. However, Figueiredo took a more meat and potatoes approach in the third contest. While there’s no doubt better conditioning contributed to Figueiredo securing three knockdowns in that fight, Figueiredo sticking to what he does best may have been more important.
What kept Moreno in that fight was his advantage in activity. One of the best conditioned athletes on the roster, Moreno has never shown any signs of fatigue, despite going five rounds several times over the course of his career. It isn’t due to him pacing himself either. Moreno has always fought in a hyperactive manner that ensured he would never be outpaced. Of course, when he was young, much of it was empty movement. As he’s matured, there has become more economical with that movement. Combine his maturity and activity with his exceptional instincts and Moreno has blossomed into elite fighter he is today.
One curious trend in their three fights has been Moreno moving away from his wrestling. Not that he’s ever really been an elite wrestler, but his doggedness and opportunism makes him a threat that can’t be ignored. Perhaps he didn’t attempt as many since Figueiredo was more aggressive in looking for takedowns, but it’s a curious stat to note. Whether he looks to re-emphasize that is hard to know. Forced to change camps after his coach James Krause entangled himself in the betting scandal currently hovering over the sport, Fortis MMA hasn’t exactly been a hub for wrestlers. Not that Sayif Saud and crew aren’t capable of doing good things with Moreno, but the chemistry between fighter and coach is key. Being forced to have that shaken up could be combustible.
There’s also the age factor. Moreno was an absolute babe when he first entered the UFC over six years ago. Just coming off his 29th birthday, Moreno appears to be in his physical prime. In the case of Figueiredo, he’s now 35. I understand all-time greats push the limits of Father Time – much like Teixeira is – and Figueiredo may be the most freakish athlete the flyweight division has seen. It’s fair to question if age has caught up to him. Plus, has Figueiredo perhaps gotten too comfortable? We didn’t see the best version of him until he was motivated to get the belt back.
As always, this is a difficult fight to predict, despite having seen them do the damn thing three other times. A thing or two goes differently in the last fight and Moreno could have been the winner. Thus, ultimately, I’m going with whoever has the greatest potential for slipping. Moreno walking into Brazil could be imposing enough to create slippage, but Moreno’s eternal optimism needs to be taken into account. For Figueiredo, his age and history of doing just enough to get by leads me to believe Moreno is more likely to win. Anyone throwing money around this fight will need to be exceptionally cautious, so I say that with minimal confidence. Moreno via decision
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