Saturday’s UFC Fight Night: Hall vs. Strickland card will mark a chance to erase a horrific memory. The last time he fought, Uriah Hall was ready to show the world that he had arrived as a title threat in the middleweight division while evening the score with Chris Weidman. Unfortunately, that fight ended disastrously when Weidman snapped his leg on the very first kick he threw. Although Hall walked away from that fight with a victory, he didn’t get to show the world that he is now one of the best, complete fighters in the sport.
Hall aims to make that case again this weekend when he takes on Sean Strickland, another fighter on a four-fight winning streak. Strickland has been a much better fighter after needing over a year off to recover from a late 2018 motorcycle accident. He too will be looking to announce his arrival as a legitimate title contender in the middleweight division in the main event.
With a few bouts falling out, the co-main event will be a welterweight fight between Niklas Stolze and Mounir Lazzez. Also on the main card is a strawweight clash between Cheyanne Buys and Gloria de Paula. The bantamweight division will also be on display as Kyung Ho Kang takes on grappling ace Rani Yahya. Opening up the main card is a welterweight scrap between all-action fighters Bryan Barberena and Jason Witt.
The event will take place inside the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The preliminary card will begin at 6 p.m. ET and the main card will follow at 9 p.m. ET. The fight card will air in its entirety on both ESPN and ESPN+. Combat Press writers Andrew Sumian and Matt Petela preview the action in this week’s edition of Toe-to-Toe.
Uriah Hall and Sean Strickland both come into this weekend’s main event with four-fight winning streaks; which fighter extends his streak to five and how does he get it done?
Sumian: It is always a tricky task when it comes to accurately picking a bout that involves Hall. The 36-year-old TUF runner-up is inarguably one of the most unpredictable fighters in the UFC today. His range of outcomes in any given bout range from extraordinary to significantly underwhelming. The No. 8-ranked Hall is on the most successful UFC campaign of his career which has resulted in four straight victories against Bevon Lewis, Antonio Carlos Jr, Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman.
However, the names that compile the most recent wins for Hall is precisely the issue. He has yet to beat a UFC middleweight ranked inside the top 10 or in their prime. Instead, Hall’s wacky winning streak consists of a bizarre leg break in his bout with Weidman and an underwhelming fourth-round finish of Silva. Still, the Jamaica native remains one of the most talented strikers in the UFC today with the ability to knock anyone out. Riding the biggest winning streak of his UFC career and oozing with confidence, Hall gets a chance to set himself up for a top-five opponent should he defeat North Carolina’s Strickland.
Strickland is certainly one of the less talked about middleweights who has a real chance of becoming a contender. He continues to climb the middleweight ladder and put together impressive performances. The now-California resident is riding his own four-fight winning streak and holds the more impressive UFC campaign between himself and Hall. Strickland has defeated Nordine Taleb, Jack Marshman, Brendan Allen and Krzysztof Jotko. The No. 11-ranked middleweight has shown his ability to bring a well-balanced game and has displayed the ability to finish fights both on the ground and feet.
Strickland is a very composed combatant who is aware of when it is appropriate to pressure his opponent or stay calculated and fight at distance. He possesses an extremely effective 1-2 combo. He uses it to set up powerful flurries or combinations to further advance on his opponent. Strickland enters this bout outside the top 10 of the division but will be in line for a huge bump in both ranking and opponent if he is able to take out Hall this Saturday.
There is always a possibility of Hall landing some stunning kick or punch that sends Strickland to the canvas and further demonstrates the former’s ability to be a legendary finisher. However, that will not happen on Saturday night. Strickland will stay calm and composed as he unleashes calculated combos on the chin and legs of Hall before securing a takedown or two throughout the bout. He will dominate Hall from start to finish and earn himself a late-round TKO or unanimous decision victory. Strickland is a talented middleweight whose contender status will finally be realized by the UFC and fans when he delivers the biggest win of his career in impressive fashion.
Petela: Sure, there has always been the question of what version of Hall is going to enter the cage. But since moving his camp to Dallas and Fortis MMA in 2019, he has looked like a complete fighter ready to realize his full potential. It is a shame that fans didn’t get to see the evolution in his game in his last fight against Weidman after the nasty leg break. Barring another freak injury, this fight against Strickland will mark the arrival of the new Hall as a threat to everyone at the top of the middleweight division.
Strickland has been on a very impressive run recently. His striking is crisp, he doesn’t waste energy and he trusts his chin enough to pick and choose the moments when he puts himself in harm’s way. He has all the makings of an elite fighter who can overcome all challenges he faces. While he will push Hall to the limit, it will be the new, refined version of Hall who gets the better of the striking exchanges. Hall will come away with a decision victory.
The card underwent last-minute changes during fight week and the strawweight bout between Cheyanne Buys and Gloria de Paula has a main-card slot; do these women deliver on the big stage?
Petela: They both really need to make a statement or risk losing their place among the strawweight division’s top prospects. Buys was thoroughly outclassed by Montserrat “Conejo” Ruiz in her debut and couldn’t escape a scarf hold for the majority of the fight. De Paula also dropped her debut against Jinh Yu Frey via unanimous decision.
Fortunately for Buys, she has an opponent who isn’t likely to neutralize her on the feet and force the fight to the canvas where she clearly needs improvement. This fight will show off the striking skills of both women and they will each look impressive with Buys coming out victorious. Don’t expect a ‘Fight of the Night’ performance but this won’t be a snoozefest either.
Sumian: I agree with my colleague on the outlook of this bout, but have de Paula pulling off a closely contested decision victory. Both of these fighters are fairly green but have enough experience to put on a surprisingly fun scrap. De Paula will outstrike Buys and earn the victory.
Collin Anglin, Melsik Baghdasaryan and Orion Cosce, do we need to know these names?
Sumian: All three debutants are riding notable winning streaks as they make their way to the biggest stage in mixed martial arts today. Cosce enters the Octagon with an undefeated 7-0 record after making a splash on Dana White’s Contender Series. He faces Phillip Rowe who looks to right a wrong after dropping a unanimous decision to Gabriel Green in his first official UFC appearance. Expect this one to be a wild bout with both men finding success throughout the rounds.
Melsik Baghdasaryan and Collin Anglin make their UFC debuts against one another which should make for a sneaky “Fight of the Night” candidate. Both of these men are familiar with victory and have proven their ability to finish fights and dominate their opponents. Anglin has a slight nod in experience, but the winner will be decided by who wants it more come fight night. All three newcomers should have some warranted attention going into Saturday.
Petela: I disagree. There is no question that all three of these fighters boast impressive resumes. It is also no small accomplishment that they all picked up contracts on Dana White’s Contender Series. However, their prior experience does not come from the marquee feeder systems and none of these fighters defeated a fighter with a winning record immediately prior to DWCS. They may all look impressive in their debuts, but don’t expect any of these fighters to become UFC mainstays.
What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?
Petela: Ashley Yoder. It seems as if Yoder is always one fight away from being released and then picks up a desperately needed victory. She is in that same position this weekend, having dropped three of her last four fights. Unfortunately this weekend she will not be able to pull out a victory over Jinh Yu Frey and this will be the last time we see the “Spider Monkey” fight in the Octagon.
Sumian: The loser of Ryan Benoit and Zarrukh Adashev. Both flyweights are riding two-fight losing streaks in a division that is ripe for turnover. The loser will find themselves packing, whereas the winner will be in line for another Octagon outing.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Sumian: Phillip Rowe versus Orion Cosce. These two have never gone the distance and are proven finishers. Expect both men to come out guns blazing as they look for the finish. Their efforts could claim a “Performance of the Night” bonus and captivate the attention of both matchmakers and fans.
Petela: Ronnie Lawrence and Trevin Jones. Last weekend’s main event was a coming out party of sorts as the bantamweight division staked a claim as the best division in the promotion. These two up-and-coming bantamweights will steal the show early in the night as they demonstrate not only their ability to keep a frenetic pace, but also their sizable power.
Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?
Petela: Rani Yahya. His last four submissions include two arm-triangle chokes, a heel hook and a kimura. He will leave Dana White no doubts about giving him a bonus check as he looks to take one of Kyung Ho Kang’s limbs home with him.
Sumian: Rafa Garcia. The 11-1 prospect from Mexico dropped his UFC debut to Nasrat Haqparast but has all the makings of an exciting featherweight. Expect him to land on veteran Chris Gruetzemacher in the second before locking up a submission victory to earn his first UFC victory and a bonus.
Pair this card with…
Petela:Cool Runnings. It’s Olympic season after all. The unlikely story of the Jamaican bobsled team will be the perfect lead in to watching Uriah Hall pick up his fifth straight victory.
Sumian: Bellator 263. It is rare when a Bellator card is able to trump a UFC card in regards to excitement and star power. This is the case come Saturday night as Bellator hosts arguably the most anticipated match-up of recent memory between Patricio “Pitbull” Freire and A.J. McKee. As a result, pull out the laptop for UFC, while you project the Bellator card up on the main screen.
Main Card (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET)
MW: Uriah Hall vs. Sean Strickland
WW: Niklas Stolze vs. Mounir Lazzez
StrawW: Cheyanne Buys vs. Gloria de Paula
BW: Kyung Ho Kang vs. Rani Yahya
WW: Bryan Barberena vs. Jason Witt
Preliminary Card (ESPN, 6 p.m. ET)
Women’s BW: Nicco Montaño vs. Yanan Wu
FW: Collin Anglin vs. Melsik Baghdasaryan
LW: Chris Gruetzemacher vs. Rafa Garcia
FW: Danny Chavez vs. Kai Kamaka
StrawW: Jinh Yu Frey vs. Ashley Yoder
BW: Ronnie Lawrence vs. Trevin Jones
WW: Philip Rowe vs. Orion Cosce
FlyW: Ryan Benoit vs. Zarrukh Adashev
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