VSiN’s MMA expert dives into the main event of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night card in Las Vegas.
Sean Strickland -225 vs. Uriah Hall +180, middleweights (185 pounds)
This bout features a couple of diversely trained strikers ranked within the division’s top 15.
The eighth-ranked Hall is a kickboxing-based fighter with a second-degree black belt in Kyokushin karate and a blue belt in Brazilian jiujitsu. At 36, the Jamaican is five years older than his opponent, but he will own a slight advantage with arm and leg reach.
Hall has been in the cage with absolutely elite talent, and though he’s a gifted middleweight, he sometimes can struggle mentally against opponents who force the fight on him. Since landing in Texas to train with Fortis MMA, Hall has gained momentum in the mental aspect, which seems the only part of his game that needed vast development.
Through no fault of his own, Hall has had just two fights since 2019, and both times he faced older opponents. He finished Anderson Silva in the fourth round of their October 2020 bout, then beat Chris Weidman in 17 seconds on April 24, when Weidman snapped his shin on Hall’s shin when Hall defended a kick. That’s not much work over the last few years.
Hall appears fresh and ready to fire. His experience, his precision striking and kicking and his knockout power are clear advantages. If he can maintain his focus against an absolute maniac, he can surely win.
Strickland began his career as a welterweight, but his decision to move to middleweight has allowed him to realize a 3-0 run with wins over Jack Marshman, Brendan Allen and Krzysztof Jotko, all talented fighters, but not on the level of competition Hall has faced.
Strickland grew up tough, which resulted in a lack of success in school but an early introduction into martial arts. He is a street-talking antagonist who risks coming across an obstinate, even when he is not fighting.
Strickland is unrelenting with forward-striking pressure, and though he’ll be at slight disadvantages in reach, the smaller cage at the UFC Apex will more than allow for fighter interaction, which Strickland needs to turn this fight from a display of striking into a full-scale brawl.
Strickland will attempt to back up Hall, which negates any fighter’s kicking skill. If he can force Hall backward, he’ll have an advantage, provided he does not walk into a Sunday shot.
Hall will look to maintain space and push the slighter man backward. His plan will be to face Strickland’s music early and then, after gaining his respect, crack the smart guy when he becomes frustrated and attempts to force inside position. Hall’s precision kicks and strikes are more effective when the target is incoming. He just needs to set that up by pressing Strickland back with his own pressure early.
Strickland is legitimately nutty enough to try to walk through strikes to create a good, old-fashioned brawl. If Strickland can transition this bout into a toe-to-toe throwdown, he’ll hold the advantage over Hall, who may well be the more fluent striker.
If Hall can gain respect early and work to counter Strickland coming in, Hall will gain confidence and momentum and be able to display his skills from a position of strength.
Recommendation: Lean to the Under (-110) on the total of 3.5 rounds.