UFC 300 fight card — Alex Pereira vs. Jamahl Hill: Five biggest storylines to watch for in Las Vegas

Written by on April 12, 2024

Nearly 31 years into its journey of becoming the premier global promotion in all of combat sports, the UFC will present a deep and historic event on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas to celebrate UFC 300. 

The pay-per-view event will be headlined by a light heavyweight title clash pairing Alex Pereira and former champion Jamahal Hill in the last of three title bouts atop the card. 

The other recognized title bout on the card sees women’s strawweight champion Zhang Weili defend her belt against her countrywoman Yan Xiaonan in the co-main event. Weili has won three straight while reclaiming her title along the way. Xianoan, meanwhile, has picked up back-to-back wins, including a knockout of former champion Jessica Andrade.

The ceremonial BMF title is back on the line when Justin Gaethje takes on Max Holloway at lightweight. Another 155-pound clash could help shape the title picture when Charles Oliveira takes on Arman Tsarukyan. Plus, rising middleweight prospect returns when he takes on Cody Brundage and former PFL women’s lightweight champion Kayla Harrison makes her promotional debut when she takes on former titleholder Holly Holm at bantamweight.

Let’s take a closer look at the biggest storylines entering one of the most anticipated nights in UFC history. 

1. Alex Pereira is quietly approaching rarefied air

In just over two years inside the Octagon, no one in MMA has had the kind of instant success that the former two-division Glory kickboxing champion has. Pereira, who is 6-1 since his 2021 Octagon debut, has won titles in two UFC divisions and enters Saturday with a shot at a fifth straight victory over a former UFC champion (Sean Strickland, Israel Adesanya, Jan Blachowicz, Jiri Prochazka) when he faces Hill. Although Pereira does have a loss during that stretch (in a 2023 MMA rematch to Adesanya), he’s on the verge of securing a streak that would put him in select company in UFC history. Jon Jones, arguably the greatest MMA fighter in the sport’s history, began his initial 205-pound title run in 2011 with five straight wins over former champions (Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans and Vitor Belfort). 

The only UFC fighter to best that mark was Amanda Nunes, who began an eight-fight win streak over former champions in 2016 (Valentina Shevchenko, Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey, Shevchenko again, Raquel Pennington, Cris Cyborg, Holly Holm and Germaine de Randamie), although the streak didn’t actually cement itself until Pennington scored a surprise vacant title win in January, six months after Nunes retired. What makes this weekend’s fight so unique is that Pereira will fight a former champion in Hill who never lost his belt inside the cage and returns from a 15-month injury layoff after rupturing his Achilles tendon in a basketball game. No, this sure wasn’t the UFC’s first choice for a UFC 300 main event, but it still screams nothing but action potential and a chance for “Poaton” to continue his meteoric march into history. 

2. Max Holloway is sick of hearing your concern

Ever since Holloway signed the dotted line to move back up to lightweight at UFC 300 and challenge Justin Gaethje for the ceremonial BMF title, the 32-year-old former featherweight king has heard nothing but fans and media sharing their lament for the damage to come. Holloway has addressed the matter on his YouTube page in a string of recent videos and has used the lingering doubt as more motivation. Convinced that new featherweight champion Ilia Topuria will be headed into an immediate rematch with Alexander Volkanovski, who owns a trio of title wins over Holloway, the Hawaiian believes things will be a lot different this weekend than the last time he moved up in weight at UFC 236 in 2019. Holloway, who came up short in an all-action rematch with Dustin Poirier that night, revealed that he had just six weeks to prepare for the interim lightweight title fight and chose against adding muscle because of his status, at the time, as defending 145-pound champion. This time, Holloway has been focused on acquiring the added muscle so he can improve his striking power. It’s not as if Holloway doesn’t know how dangerous the powerful Gaethje can be. It’s because of that built-in fear, however, that he expects to lift his game to an entirely new level. 

3. Charles Oliveira-Arman Tsarukyan is the best fight on the card

Talk about the potential for fireworks in a fight overflowing with stakes as each exciting lightweight hopes to book a title rematch against champion Islam Makhachev with a victory. The fight also represents a perfect crossroads battle to find out which fighter is coming and which one is going in the overall title picture. Oliveira, 34, rebounded from his disastrous 2022 title loss to Makhachev by finishing Beneil Dariush last June. “Do Bronx” initially secured a rematch with the champion but was forced to pull out of their UFC 294 meeting last October with an injury and must now win back his No. 1 contender slot. Tsarukyan, meanwhile, is also fresh off of a knockout win over Dariush in a performance that catapulted the Georgian-born, Armenian fighter into legitimate title contention. Tsarukyan lost his 2019 UFC debut to Makhachev but was able to match him in wrestling for most of the unanimous decision defeat. 

4. This is Kayla Harrison’s all-in moment 

The two-time former PFL champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist in judo didn’t just exercise her right of free agency by signing with UFC in January, she agreed to a physical makeover in order to do so. The 33-year-old, who competed at 172 pounds in the Olympics, has spent the majority of her MMA career at 155 pounds, a weight division that UFC doesn’t employ. It was always assumed that Harrison would fight in UFC at 145 pounds — a weight in which she made once under the Invicta banner in 2020 — except for the fact that UFC’s women’s featherweight division is almost non-existent following Amanda Nunes’ retirement last year. Instead, Harrison agreed to the point of no return of fighting at bantamweight, against former 42-year-old champion Holly Holm, no less, in the ultimate baptism by fire moment. Luckily for Harrison, she thrives on these kinds of challenges and remains close to a 5-to-1 betting favorite to win. Still, the biggest battle for Harrison will be simply making the weight on Friday in the type of physical challenge that isn’t for the faint of heart. 

5. Forget the criticism: Bo Nickal belongs on the main card 

Only two fights into his UFC career following a legendary run as a three-time NCAA wrestling champion with Penn State (and two showcase wins on the “Dana White Contender Series”), Nickal is among the brightest prospects in MMA history. It’s not that fans don’t want to see him at UFC 300. It’s just not in this matchup — as a 20-1 betting favorite against Cody Brundage — and not in this specific placement as the PPV opener on such an explosively deep card. Yet, for all the times critics question whether UFC is still motivated to build stars in this era, this is the exact right move for a promotion to feature a 28-year-old rookie with this much breakout potential. Nickal has proved through five pro fights that his grappling skills as a wrestler who is able to effortlessly transition into numerous submission attempts is far above that of even many elite UFC stars. The question of whether he can strike at this level, however, has yet to be answered, along with the type of questions about his stamina, fight IQ and chin that are hard to answer when a fighter’s entire pro career has been first-round finishes. Against Brundage, an aggressive brawler with a collegiate wrestling background of his own and a two-fight win streak, we should find out a good deal more on the largest platform possible to showcase exactly where Nickal is that. 

Who wins UFC 300: Pereira vs. Hill, and how exactly does each fight end? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed picks on UFC 300, all from the MMA expert who profited more than $6,200, and find out. 

The post UFC 300 fight card — Alex Pereira vs. Jamahl Hill: Five biggest storylines to watch for in Las Vegas first appeared on CBS Sports.

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