It was only back in September of last year that Uriah Hall pulled off a serious upset when he finished the prolific Gegard Mousasi with a combination of some serious ninja moves including a flying spinning back kick and a flying knee. But before the finish, Mousasi had been dominating the fight, and for a year he’s been itching to right what he thinks was a wrong.
Calling Mousasi a veteran of the sport feels a little odd, knowing he’s only 31 years old. But the Iranian-born Dutchman has a huge (and impressive) MMA record of 41-6-2, starting back in 2003. That means he’s averaged nearly 4 fights a year for well over a decade. Account for injuries, that’s truly prolific stuff. Mousasi is a great grappler with high-level submission skills, but he’s also a well-rounded and dangerous kickboxer, who even considered entering the 2012 Olympics in London in amateur boxing.
It was no surprise then, that when Hall and Mousasi first met last year Hall looked out of his element. Mousasi knew how dangerous Hall was on the feet, so he got a hold of his opponent and dragged him to the mat. He put Hall in all kinds of trouble, nearly finishing him with a rear-naked choke. But Hall managed to survive, and no tap came.
The second round of the fight came as much more of a surprise, no more than to Mousasi himself, who had to thank the referee for saving him after suffering a devastating KO. The crazy thing about Uriah Hall is that no-one else in MMA right now can go from average to pure destruction so quickly. In the blink of an eye Hall landed a massive spinning kick that rocked Mousasi. Hall, seeing Mousasi was dazed, decided that flying through the air had been effective, so there was no need to start keeping his feet on the mat now. This time he didn’t spin but launched his knee into Mousasi’s wobbly chin. The rest will go down in UFC history as a truly classic KO.
Much like middleweight champ Michael Bisping and his feelings regarding the infamous Dan Henderson ‘H-bomb’ KO on his own chin, Mousasi was desperate to rectify the loss that he felt came against an opponent that wasn’t on his level. In countless interviews he described the win as something of a fluke, praising Hall for his striking skills, but at the same time arguing that 99 times out of 100, the outcome of their fight would go his way.
Last night Mousasi had the chance to prove his point, and he took on the challenge with the utmost confidence. A lot of times when a fighter is up against someone who’s already KO’d them, they’ll display understandable caginess; a lack of desire to put themselves in harm’s way.
Mousasi, however, knew it was key for him to believe in his skills. He traded on the feet with Hall at range for the first 2 minutes. He knew if his defence was on point, he shouldn’t fear the striking battle. Hall looked a little cagey himself, knowing the threat of the takedown from Mousasi was a big one. Both guys landed solid, powerful leg kicks, but most of the punching was limited to jabs.
Finally though, when the takedown came Hall was powerless to stop it, much like their first fray. The only difference this time was Mousasi didn’t really have much interest in letting the round end, knowing what happened last time. While he didn’t sink in a choke this time, his positional dominance was such that he didn’t need to. Wrapping up one of Hall’s hands, he had the explosive striker trapped in an ugly position up against the cage. Mousasi landed power right hands over and over to Hall’s face; Hall’s strength waning fast. This time it was Hall the referee would need to save.
A lot of the time when a rivalry is 1-1, promoters and fans call for the ‘rubber match’ to decide things once and for all. For me, this is unnecessary and wouldn’t make sense. Mousasi is certainly on his way up in the middleweight division. He isn’t too much of a pay-per-view draw, and so may struggle to get the title shot he feels he deserves without a few more wins in a row. And it’s real tough to string together wins as a middleweight top-10 when you’re surrounded by guys like Luke Rockhold and Jacare Souza.
But either way, big fights are in Gegard Mousasi’s future. Uriah Hall, on the other hand, is now on a 3-fight losing streak. He possesses an occasionally staggering striking ability, but it’s frustratingly inconsistent. And as for his grappling skills- they’re sub-par. Hall needs to work on becoming more well-rounded if he’s to have a future in the UFC middleweight division, and he’ll need to win his next fight in a convincing fashion if he doesn’t want to get cut from the organisation.
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