Uriah Hall faces Chris Weidman this weekend on the main card of UFC 261. This fight is a rematch of a bout that took place in 2010, before either man had signed to the UFC. Weidman won by TKO in the first round to give Hall the first defeat of his professional MMA career. Now, Hall looks to exact revenge and get closer to fulfilling the immense potential he showed at the start of his UFC run.
After recording four wins and one loss through his first five pro fights, Hall entered as a participant on the 17th season of The Ultimate Fighter. He made a name for himself on the show with a series of highlight-reel knockouts that earned him a place in the finals of the competition. The second of those knockouts was a vicious spinning wheel kick against Adam Cella that was voted as the knockout of the season. At that point, Hall had built a fearsome reputation and was the clear favorite to win going into the finale against Kelvin Gastelum.
In what would become a theme of Hall’s UFC tenure, the Jamaican-born fighter produced a much more subdued performance compared to his previous fights in the season. He fought in bursts and ended up losing a close contest by split decision. Hall appeared to have the technical advantage over Gastelum, but he simply did not throw enough output to deter his opponent from coming forward. He also backed himself up too often and allowed Gastelum to take the initiative in the fight with his wrestling. Ultimately, Gastelum’s greater will to win triumphed.
In some of Hall’s additional losses, he has appeared to rapidly crumble in the face of adversity. In his rematch with Gegard Mousasi, Hall was taken down in the first round and shelled up unusually quickly. Mousasi proceeded to deliver heavy blows, and the referee brought the bout to an end.
The 36-year-old had a similarly fast demise against Paulo Costa. In the first round, Hall frustrated the then-undefeated Costa with his powerful, accurate jab and had bloodied up the Brazilian. In the second, he seemed to hurt Costa before tiring himself out trying to get the knockout blow. Costa pushed forward and landed a hard body shot that dropped Hall and ended the fight. Hall was on the verge of a finish, but was finished himself merely seconds later.
Whilst there is no shame in losing to the likes of Mousasi and Costa, the manner of these losses was frustrating to those that have been supporters of Hall since he appeared on The Ultimate Fighter. By this point, Hall had lost four of his last five fights and was teetering on the edge of a release from the UFC. Since then, he has embarked on a three-fight winning streak, the last of which was a TKO victory over Anderson Silva in the Brazilian’s last fight in the UFC.
Hall has all the attributes to establish himself in the upper echelon of the middleweight division. He possesses excellent speed and power, and he has a diverse striking arsenal that gives him a shot of beating any fighter in his weight class. However, he has been let down too often by suffering from a mental block in fights.
Hall has markedly improved in this aspect since he joined the Fortis MMA gym, which is based in Dallas, in 2019. Against Antonio Carlos Junior, Hall showcased his slick striking and hurt his opponent on several occasions. Hall dropped Junior in the second round and looked to be taking control of the fight. However, early in the third, the Brazilian continued to exert forward pressure in spite of the damage he had taken. Junior managed to take down Hall and trap him in a body triangle. Hall was unable to escape this position, but he displayed grit and determination to avoid being submitted by the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion.
Hall secured a split-decision win over Junior on the judges’ scorecards. The fact that he was able to persevere in a physically demanding fight against such a durable opponent was a testament to his improved mental strength in the Octagon.
On paper, a fight against Weidman appears to be favorable for Hall. Weidman has suffered a near-terminal career decline losing the UFC middleweight strap to Luke Rockhold at UFC 194. The New Yorker has suffered five losses in his last seven bouts, with all of those defeats coming by knockout.
Hall will have to be wary of the wrestling threat that helped Weidman win their first encounter. Hall will also know that he possesses the power and technical striking to knock out a man who has shown an inability to take big shots in recent fights.
Weidman has been inactive in the past few years and appeared fatigued in his last contest against Omari Akhmedov. If Hall can keep the fight standing and push the pace early, then he will give himself a great chance of securing the victory. A win over Weidman would be a stepping stone to a fight that could earn him a title shot. Conversely, if Hall loses this contest, then it is likely to be the end of his hopes of becoming a UFC champion.
At the age of 36, Hall might seem past the time to establish himself in the title picture. However, there have been examples in recent times of fighters thriving later on in their careers. With the increased knowledge around recovery and training, plus access to facilities like the UFC Performance Institute, older fighters have been able to prolong their careers and compete at a high level.
Hall can take inspiration from former opponent Derek Brunson, who at 36 has put himself in title contention with four consecutive victories. There is also the example of the combatants of the next UFC light-heavyweight title fight, the 38-year-old champ Jan Błachowicz
and his 41-year-old challenger Glover Teixeira. Both athletes have seemingly defied age and had some of the best performances of their careers following a time when they had been written off as elite competitors.
UFC 261 will be the first card run by the company to take place in front of a full-capacity crowd since UFC 248 in March 2020. It will be a great spot for Hall to give a showcase performance on one of the biggest pay-per-views of the year. Hall has found great synergy with Fortis MMA head coach Sayif Saud and will need to use this relationship to elevate his game to the next level. His natural physical gifts, allied with the improved mental strength and fight IQ he has accrued recently, will give him a chance to belatedly deliver on the promise he showed on The Ultimate Fighter.
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