Jamahal Hill's Win at UFC 283 Doesn't Clear Up Murky Light Heavyweight Division

Tom Taylor@@TomTayMMAContributor IJanuary 22, 2023

Jamahal Hill
Jamahal HillMAURO PIMENTEL/AFP via Getty Images

Jamahal Hill is the new UFC light heavyweight champion, but his reign atop the weight class is anything but undisputed.

Hill, 31, won the division's top prize in the main event of Saturday's UFC 283 event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he defeated former champion Glover Teixeira by unanimous decision after five exciting rounds.

It was an extremely impressive performance from the American. He defended seven takedowns in Round 1 alone, and by the time the fight reached the championship rounds, he had soundly taken control of the action with his striking.

Teixeira looked like he might pull off a last-minute comeback when he scored a takedown in Round 5, but Hill survived and, minutes later, was having the belt wrapped around the waist with tears streaming down his face.

"Anything is possible," he said in his post-fight interview with Daniel Cormier. "Hard work, dedication, accountability. Too many people told me I couldn't do it, told me I needed to win in one round, told me that I couldn't go five. What the f--k you got to say now?"

It was a great moment for Hill, but he still has a lot of work to do before he cements himself as the light heavyweight division's top fighter. After all, he likely wouldn't even be in this position were it not for a series of unpredictable twists in the weight class.

The trouble began when Jiří Procházka, who won the title with a fifth-round submission of Teixeira last June, vacated the belt after suffering a serious shoulder injury in training later in the year. It was an unfortunate development, but it's not uncommon for champions to relinquish their titles in MMA, and the UFC was quick to pursue a resolution, booking Jan Błachowicz and Magomed Ankalaev to fight for the vacant belt at the final pay-per-view of 2022.

Unfortunately, that plan ended in disaster when Błachowicz and Ankalaev battled to a draw. Ordinarily, they might have been booked for an immediate rematch, but the fight was as entertaining as watching paint dry, so the UFC quickly hatched a new plan and announced that Teixeira and Hill would fight for the belt at UFC 283—which catches us up to the current moment.

Jamahal Hill lands a head kick on Glover Teixeira
Jamahal Hill lands a head kick on Glover TeixeiraMAURO PIMENTEL/AFP via Getty Images

It's great that the light heavyweight division finally has a champion again. We were all getting tired of seeing the big empty space atop the weight class's official rankings. But the reality is that there is no reason to believe Hill is the best fighter in the weight class. Not yet, at least.

Ankalaev could certainly be his superior. Until Hill beat Teixeira, the Russian definitely had the better wins overall, having beaten the likes of Anthony Smith, Thiago Santos and Volkan Oezdemir—all former title challengers—in his recent appearances.

Błachowicz could also be a better fighter than Hill. While the Polish star is getting up there in age at 39, he is a former champion, and has beaten a host of the division's best fighters over the years.

Jirir Prochazka
Jirir ProchazkaYong Teck Lim/Getty Images

Then there's Procházka, who most fans still rightly consider the best fighter at light heavyweight. The Czech star, a former Rizin champ, has won 13 straight fights—most of them by stoppage—after capturing the UFC belt last year. And he never actually lost that piece of hardware, so there's really no reason to assume he is no longer the division's top dog.

It's been somewhat difficult to accept anybody as the true light heavyweight king since Jon Jones—the greatest fighter in the division's history—vacated the belt to move up to heavyweight back in 2020. Yet with so many contenders right on the cusp of championship glory at the moment, Hill's reign is all the more questionable.

The intention here is not to knock the new champion. He is an excellent fighter and very well could be the best fighter in the weight class. But it's going to take some time for fans to accept him in that role—as much as the UFC may have hoped we'd all forget about Procházka, Ankalaev and Błachowicz when they announced his fight with Teixeira.

The good news is that Hill seems to understand the situation.

While he did not mention any of his light heavyweight rivals by name in his post-fight interview, he seemed to welcome fights with anybody the UFC deems worthy to challenge him.

"To everybody that's coming, you see where I'm at," he said. "Come get some."