Could the Man Who Helped Save the UFC Hang With Jamahal Hill?

January 17, 2024
3 months

The UFC’s going on 31 years in existence is a miracle in and of itself. Professional sports boom and bust all the time in the United States. But the organization once referred to as “human cockfighting” by Arizona politician John McCain survived the early smears on its reputation.

But in the early 2000s, the UFC still hadn’t cemented its status as a long-term viable business option. But when the company came up with The Ultimate Fighter, a reality TV show that housed several potential prospects under one roof together, the UFC would find something to give them mainstream attention.

Much of that popularity would come from the fight for a UFC contract in the finale. Forrest Griffin would beat Stephan Bonner by decision in a wild, three-round fight that sparked the sport’s popularity in the United States. Griffin would go on to briefly hold the UFC light heavyweight championship.

But how would Griffin hold up with modern fighters? Jamahal Hill is a trailblazer of his own. He is the first fighter who competed in Dana White’s Contender Series to win a championship. Hill would be an interesting matchup for Griffin. The best MMA news sites would like to see a match where two trailblazers meet to try and add to their legacy.

TUF House Wasn’t Griffin’s Introduction to MMA

Griffin is one of the rare fighters who has connections to the more wild-west days of MMA and a strong connection to the modern sport. Before appearing on The Ultimate Fighter, Griffin already had 11 professional bouts under his belt. Amazingly, Griffin’s first professional fight was a unanimous decision loss to Dan Severn.

Severn was a former UFC Tournament champion and had a brief run in professional wrestling in the WWF. During this period, Griffin would also pick up a win over a future UFC title challenger, Chael Sonnen. Griffin ran his record to 9-2 on the regional stage before getting an opportunity in the UFC.

Griffin and Bonnar Change the Sport

Bonnar and Griffin refused to touch gloves at the beginning of the fight when they met in April 2005. Both men then came out in the first round and threw a number of wild punches to try and set the tone for the fight. Bonnar cut Griffin in the second round with a strong punch to Griffin’s nose, but the doctor allowed the fight to continue.

Griffin’s variety would end up prevailing. He scored two takedowns during the bout and held a 96-64 edge in total strikes. Griffin’s performance earned him a UFC contract.

Another TUF Season Sees Griffin Win Title

Griffin ended up on a championship track in the UFC. He was named as one of the coaches for The Ultimate Fighter Team Rampage vs Team Forrest. The culmination of that season included a championship fight between Griffin and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at UFC 87.

Griffin put on the performance of his life. While Jackson did score a knockdown, Griffin finished with a 77-50 edge in significant strikes and a 113-76 advantage in strikes overall. Griffin would go the distance and win the championship after putting the decision on all three judges’ scorecards.

Griffin’s time at the top, however, was short. He lost his next two fights via knockout. First, he lost the title to Rashad Evans, then another fight with Anderson Silva. Griffin would fight four more times in the UFC, beating former rival Tito Ortiz twice before retiring in July 2012. Griffin finished his career with a 19-7 record, according to MMA news sites.

Hill Made Quick Rise to Top of UFC

Hill had only fought five times professionally before taking on Alexander Poppeck in the Contender Series in July 2019. There was little doubt that Hill was ready for the big time. He knocked out Poppeck in the third round, then ran off three more wins to run his record to 8-0.

However, Hill did have his win over Klidson Abreu overturned due to a positive test for marijuana. Unlikely adversity would hit Hill, forcing his championship aspirations to wait. Hill would take a surprising TKO loss to journeyman Paul Craig at UFC 263. He would have six months off before coming back with a knockout win over Jimmy Crute.

Time on Top Ends Up Being Brief (So Far)

Hill was slated to fight Jiří Procházka for the championship in late 2022, but the fight had to be scrapped due to an injury suffered by Procházka. Hill instead had to fight former champion Glover Teixeira for the belt in January 2023 at UFC 283. While the fight was closely contested at times, Hill was the better striker and proved it during a five-round decision win.

But Hill’s body would end up betraying him. He tore his Achilles tendon while playing in a pickup basketball game and had to vacate the championship. Outside the octagon, adversity has caused issues for Hill. 

Hill got in trouble for domestic violence when he was accused of hitting his brother in November 2023. Hill hasn’t yet set up a fight for a return to the octagon.

Griffin Would be a Tough Out for Hill

Griffin is a fun personality and a solid fighter. He fought some of the biggest names of MMA form when he was coming up. Griffin’s championship win over Jackson is one of the great shocks in MMA history. Jackson was a more dynamic fighter who had tools that Griffin didn’t.

Griffin never stopped working hard and was able to earn opportunities that may have been over his ability level. It’s hard to say where Hill’s career will go from here. The light heavyweight championship picture has completely changed since he was injured. Now, Hill will have to compete with the dangerous Alex Pereira to get his belt back.

MMAfighting latest news shows Hill didn’t have to climb the regional scene like Griffin did to make it to the top. However, Hill’s athleticism and potential allowed him to forgo some hoops other fighters needed to jump through. Hill has had his share of difficult fights to become a champion. Hill would lean on his versatility to topple Griffin in what would be an entertaining fight.

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