Ladies and gentlemen, we finally have a UFC light heavyweight champ. In the first pay-per-view of 2023, Jamahal Hill captured the vacant belt with a brutal decision win over Glover Teixeira, who announced his retirement after a valiant effort at UFC 283. The bout headlined an eventful return to Brazil, which also saw Brandon Moreno put a stamp on his rivalry with Deiveson Figueiredo, Mauricio Rua ride off into MMA valhalla, plus much more.
With so much to discuss, let’s hit our six biggest takeaways from UFC 283.
1. Imagine your surprise when someone said in November that Jamahal was going to be the UFC’s light heavyweight champion. The side-eye sent their way would’ve been legendary. Their actions would have been rebuked immediately — that is not a criticism of Hill. Hill was not in the photo. Too many names were ahead of him in the divisional ladder. Champ by early 2023? Nah, maybe early 2024. Yet as we awake on this Sunday morning, the new king of the land at 205 pounds is the same man who 19 months ago had his arm brutally snapped in half by Paul Craig.
This is the state of MMA after the past few topsy-turvy years: The more we think we know, the less we actually understand.
Jiri Prochazka reacts to Jamahal Hill’s win at #UFC283 pic.twitter.com/seo1Psh4ze
— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) January 22, 2023
But you know what? Hill was certainly not worthy of it.
He leveled up in front of our eyes at UFC 283. Cardio and takedown defense have been his biggest questions in the game. “Sweet Dreams” answered both in resounding fashion. On short notice, he rose to the occasion and put together an impressive performance. He battered Glover Teixeira using sledgehammer after, with no signs of slowing down. It was a thorough beatdown from pillar to post. His athleticism and creativity on the feet over 25 minutes were a revelation, and now it’s hard not to drool at the prospect of how bats*** crazy an eventual Hill vs. Jiri Prochazka meeting of violent gentlemen could be.
Last month I called the light heavyweight division a rudderless mess, and while I don’t think UFC 283 washed away all that weirdness, Hill’s breakout performance at least gives 205 pounds some semblance of much-needed direction (even if both Prochazka and Magomed Ankalaev would likely be the betting favorite against him if booked tomorrow).
But, let’s not forget the side in Teixeira. I am still amazed at this man. The same way that time-traveler who showed up in November with news of Hill’s fate would’ve gotten one hell of a side-eye, they may’ve been locked up as certifiably insane had they forecast in August 2018 how the home stretch of Teixeira’s career would play out. The Teixeira of five years ago was a washed-up contender who’d dropped three of his past five fights and been brutally knocked out twice, one of which lasted all of 13 seconds.
His fate was supposed to have been signed, sealed, delivered. It was over.
Now? It is open to debate whether Teixeira should be considered a Hall of Famer.
(I mean … he probably is, right? )
It’s incredible. Teixeira’s unlikely final chapters will go down as the greatest legacy-altering end-of-career push for any UFC fighter not named Michael Bisping.
The early-40s version of Teixeira implausibly emerged as a more durable, more dangerous, more dependable fighter than the mid-30s version. If gifting the MMA world one of the greatest fights of all-time wasn’t enough, the fact that he was able to absorb 232 significant strikes from a knockout artist 12 years his junior on Saturday and not only claw his way to the scorecards in his retirement fight, but also nearly rally for a miracle ending in the final round, just serves as further testament to the legend Teixeira has become.
In the end, Teixeira was right: He was too tough for his own good.
But damn, it was one heck of a ride. You can rest easy champ. You gave it all you had.
2. The legitimate question is: In terms of pure action, are Brandon Moreno and Deiveson Figueiredo UFC’s greatest rivalry?
Brandon Moreno talks about the reaction from the Brazilian crowd and says his punch did the damage to Deiveson Figueiredo’s eye at #UFC283 pic.twitter.com/YiWmDxuSoQ
— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) January 22, 2023
Think about it. Sure, other series featured more compelling characters or were more historically significant in a broader sense, but in terms of the actual fights themselves and how they played out in the cage, how many other UFC rivalries truly compare?
Really, only one springs to mind: Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard. That trilogy checks all the same boxes, and ultimately it probably still holds the crown for me. It’s a debate, but it is enough. Who really expected that back in Dec. 2020 before UFC 256?
That being said, it’s time to move on. Figueiredo appears to be able to see that too. The score is settled at 2-1-1 and Moreno had the more dominant performances across the four contests. Alexandre Pantoja has long deserved his opportunity at the UFC flyweight belt, and promising talents like Manel Kape, Muhammad Mokaev, and Amir Albazi are going to be earning their chances soon. It’s frankly impressive Figueiredo made 125 pounds for as long as he did, but the matchmaking possibilities now for him at 135 pounds are endless too. This entire story has been positive. Flyweight is in a healthier place than ever before, and that’s only because of the dazzling displays Figueiredo and Moreno put on over the past 25 months. Now it’s time to for the rest of the division to rejoin the fray.
3. There only a few fighters in this game I can directly point to as a reason why my life ended up taking the path it did. But Mauricio Rua? He is one of them.
Back in 2005, I was a junior in high school when the violent spectacle of Pride Fighting Championships first stumbled into my purview. It was a perfect way to make an angsty teenage fan of MMA, watching Rua’s grand prix race unfold on live streams from halfway around the globe. Rua is the greatest Pride FC player. His ruthless creativity with stomps and soccer kicks was borderline obscene, and his 2005 remains one of the most impressive feats ever accomplished by a young fighter in MMA history. Imagine a 23-year-old materializing from out of nowhere today and trucking through four of the best fighters in the world in a span of five months, each performance somehow more violently spectacular than the last. His icon status was at an age when most fighters don’t even know their feet. And that nickname? An all-timer. I have at least three Legend of Zelda files titled “Shogun” hidden somewhere in my closet.
I hate getting old!
I hate getting old! #UFC283
— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) January 22, 2023
Looking back this past week, the fact that Rua was only 25 years old when he debuted in the UFC still boggles my mind. He’s seemingly been middle-aged for the past 15 years. The UFC product was so very different than Pride’s, and Rua was stripped of so many of his best weapons once he arrived stateside, yet he still gave the MMA world a plethora of memorable moments in his post-prime run, from his title-winning night of vindication over Lyoto Machida in 2010 to his legendary wars of attrition with Dan Henderson.
Rua had his ups and downs and never looked like a Mr. Olympia competitor, but he’s an easy first-ballot Hall of Famer and a lock on the first-team All-Violence squad until the end of time. He deserved better than to get dance-taunted on his way out by a random Contender Series prospect like Ihor Potieria, but I’m glad he was at least given the chance to go out in Brazil among his adoring countrymen rather than in a sterile, empty UFC Apex arena.
Thanks for everything, “Shogun.” Your place in MMA lore will never be forgotten.
4. Let’s draw up some quick welterweight matchmaking post-UFC 283, shall we?
- Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman 3
- Khamzat Chimiev vs. Colby Covington
- Belal Muhammad vs. Gilbert Burns
Now, doesn’t that look nice?
I know Burns called Covington out after his win over Neil Magny but Chimaev against Covington is still the move. This is the ideal final boss before Chimaev takes the title. Burns spent fight week railing against Muhammad. It makes no sense. Get it done, UFC matchmakers, and we’re friends forever.
5. Grab a seat on the Jailton Almeida train as soon as possible, people, this wagon is getting full fast.
If you’ve listened to any of our shows over the past year, you probably know I was already a believer in MMA Fighting’s 2022 Rookie of the Year. But after his romp over a 31-pounds-heavier Shamil Abdurakhimov at UFC 283? I’m officially all-in. Maybe it’ll be at heavyweight or maybe it’ll be at 205 pounds, but Almeida is going to contend for titles, and I’ll be stunned if he doesn’t have “UFC champion” on his resume before this is done.
The prince of positivity Alexander K. Lee called him a gigantic Demian Maia with wrestling and ground-and-pound on Saturday, and you know what? The comparison is not even offensive to me. The way he’s been able to exert on his will with ease on his opposition through four octagon appearances should be setting off alarms for anyone in the UFC above 185 pounds.
I had questions whether Almeida’s size will hold him back at heavyweight, and to be fair, those questions are still valid. There’s miles of difference between Curtis Blaydes and Abdurakhimov. But manhandling a 263-pound monster as if he was a toddler is a hell of a statement to quiet those concerns. I still have a hunch Almeida will eventually hit a glass ceiling against the larger elite heavyweights, and that 205 pounds will be his eventual home, but either way, I’m buying up as much Jailton stock as possible because this man is destined to be a difference-maker before his UFC story is over. Choo-choo!
6. Crown the Bonfim brothers as the new kings of Rio for the weekend, because they just pulled off one of the wildest debuting nights for a household in modern UFC history.
In a span of two hours on Saturday, the Brazilian pair rattled off a new frontrunner for Knockout of the Year plus a spectacular 49-second submission over two very legitimate talents in Terrance McKinney and Mounir Lazzez. We’re absolutely going to be talking about what big brother — 27-year-old Ismael — pulled on McKinney once awards season rolls around at the end of 2023. This is about the best a human can throw a flying leg. Yet somehow the debut of little brother — 25-year-old Gabriel — wasn’t any less impressive. Considering the matchups the Bonfim brothers were tasked with for UFC 283, even mom and dad couldn’t have dreamed their big-show debuts would go this easily.
I won’t get too far ahead of myself, but the UFC has struggled to find a dominant sibling act to rival what the Pitbulls brothers are for Bellator. In recent years, there have been some misses (the Daukauses, the Teymurs, the Azaitars), some one-sided duos (the Shevchenkos, the Usmans, the Burnses), and a few potential options still in pending (the Basharats, the Tafas), but rarely — if ever — do both siblings actually pan out. The Bonfims have a long way to go to become those guys, but they couldn’t have asked for a more picturesque start.