Robert Whittaker vs Uriah Hall Preview and Analysis – UFC 193

robert-whittaker-mma-ufcThe main card of UFC 193 features an intriguing middleweight contest between the 10th ranked Uriah Hall and the 14th ranked Robert Whittaker. Hall is coming off the biggest win of his career, a highlight-reel knockout of Gegard Mousasi, while Whittaker is coming off a first round starching of Brad Tavares in May. The winner of this matchup will have a strong case to fight one of the higher-ranked fighters in the division.   Uriah Hall (12-5 MMA, 5-3 UFC, -145 favorite) Hall blasted onto the UFC scene as a competitor on season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter. He was practically anointed the next Anderson Silva on the show, as he had a few highlight-reel knockouts, including one insane spinning back-kick that knocked his opponent out cold. Hall made it to the finals by finishing all three of his opponents. However, his luck ran out there, as Kelvin Gastelum took it to him from the opening bell and used his wrestling and sheer aggression to take home a decision victory. It seemed like Hall had trouble letting his hands go, perhaps because he was fighting a friend. Since then, Hall has had his ups and downs. He lost to Rafael Natal and John Howard in lackluster contests that he should have won. However, he has gotten back on track lately by winning three out of his four fights this year, including a starching of middleweight contender Gegard Mousasi in September. The 31-year old is a bit of an enigma. Sometimes he will come out and blow the doors off his opponent, while other times he will sit back and hardly throw any strikes, which plays right into his opponent’s hands. Many believe he suffered from mental blocks in many of his fights and that is the reason why he lost. Hall has has much more success when he lets his strikes go and either brings the fight to his opponent or counters effectively. Obviously, Hall is a dynamic striker that has power in every limb. He throws thunderous kicks to all levels, including spinning and jumping kicks. Further, he works a stiff jab that he likes to follow up with a hard straight right hand. Another positive aspect of Hall’s game is his killer instinct, as he jumps on a hurt opponent instantly. The area where Hall’s opponents usually try to exploit him is his grappling. While Hall has improved in that area, especially with his submission defense, he can be taken down and worked over from top position. He is going to need to improve on that if he is going to make a run at the title. High-level grapplers like Jacare Souza and Chris Weidman would give him a very hard time. However, he does a decent job of creating space and getting back to his feet when he can. While his defensive grappling has improved, Hall’s offensive grappling is practically non-existent. Further, Hall has solid cardio and can push a strong pace when he wants to.   Robert Whittaker (14-4 MMA, 5-2 UFC, +125 underdog) Like Hall, Whittaker is also a product of The Ultimate Fighter. The Australian was a competitor on The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes in 2012, which he won by knocking out his first two opponents and earning a decision over current UFC fighter Brad Scott in the finals. Whittaker had a nice start to his UFC career by defeating Scott and knocking out former The Ultimate Fighter winner Colton Smith. However, things took a turn for the worse in his next two fights, as he lost a decision to Court McGee and got knocked out by Stephen Thompson. After defeating Mike Rhodes in 2014, Whittaker decided the weight cut was too much for him and moved up to the middleweight division. Since making the move to middleweight, Whittaker has reeled off two impressive knockouts over Brad Tavares and Clint Hester. The Australian’s striking repertoire includes a crisp jab, straight right, overhand right, and a brutal left hook. He also adds in kicks to all levels and front kicks that either cause damage or push his opponent backwards. Good conditioning and punching power are also positive aspects of his game. As far as grappling is concerned, Whittaker is fairly solid. He can wrestle when he wants to and has a nice double-leg, but he mostly uses them to score points and then get back to his feet, which is where he wants to be. The 24-year old seems to be proficient in submission and takedown defense, which is going to be especially important when he starts fighting bigger, stronger, grapplers in the division. After all, he is a rather small middleweight and will likely have a hard time against some of the monsters at the top of the division.   Thoughts This should be an interesting striker vs striker matchup. The key element of this fight to me is what version of Uriah Hall shows up. If he decides to fool around and play patty cake for three rounds he might be in trouble. However, if he actually comes to fight this will be an entertaining scrap. Whittaker will try to slip Hall’s punches and come back with huge bombs of his own, especially his left hook. I think this is going to be a closely contested fight, though either fighter can end it in the blink of an eye. I will go with Whittaker for the upset because he will likely throw more volume and score more points on the judge’s cards. (if it makes it there)   Prediction Robert Whittaker defeats Uriah Hall by unanimous decision

Written by Mike James

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