The UFC has put a strong card together for its debut on the Fox Sports 1 network, but if you run your finger over the six fights on the main card, there’s one that bout that may have fans declaring, “One of these things is not like the other.”
The bout in question is the middleweight contest between Uriah Hall and John Howard. Hall is 0-1 in the UFC, and Howard, a late injury replacement on the card returns to the UFC after going 6-1 outside the organization. That’s a nice little run, but let’s not forget that prior to that stretch Howard ended his time with the UFC by losing three straight between August 2010 and June 2011.
Fighters with a combined record of 0-4 rarely get high profile slots on fight cards as important as Saturday’s will be to the UFC. The message of this booking should be clear to all; the UFC still has very high hopes for Uriah Hall.
Hall was a wrecking machine during the 17th season of The Ultimate Fighter, well, at least until the fight that really mattered, the final bout of the season. Hall earned his spot in that final by knocking out his first three opponents on the show.
Hall’s spinning wheel kick knockout of Adam Cella left UFC president Dana White remarking, “In my 13 years at UFC I have only seen 5 KO’s like this.” Hall followed that knockout with a KO of Bubba McDaniel that had White calling Hall, “The most dangerous fighter” in the history of TUF. In his next win, Hall finished Dylan Andrews with strikes from the ground. Let me be a little clearer on that, he finished Andrews with strikes from the bottom. During the episode White said of Hall, “This is the meanest, nastiest kid ever. Holy s**t, this guy.”
White was not the only one heaping praise of Hall, Chael Sonnen, Hall’s TUF coach, declared that he thought Hall would be able to defeat then UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
And then? Hall, a -315 favorite heading into the final fight of the season, dropped a split decision to Kelvin Gastelum. Disappointing doesn’t come close to describing Hall’s performance in the loss to Gastelum. White spoke about Hall’s performance after the fight saying, “And what it looked like to me was, when he came out tonight, he folded under the pressure like he didn’t even want to be in there.”
By booking Hall on the main card the UFC is giving Hall a second chance. The promotion is handing Hall the opportunity to let them know that he will not fold under the pressure of being on the big stage. They’re telling Hall they have faith that whatever held him back in the loss to Gastelum has been worked out, and that he’ll be the beast that had White using all types of superlatives to describe his style of finishing his TUF opponents.
With that being said, don’t think Hall will get a third chance to shine on a main card if he delivers another lackluster performance. As White said after Hall’s loss to Gastelum, “The one thing that you never know, you can have a guy who’s incredibly talented, but what’s going to happen to him when he gets into that pressure cooker? That one moment when it all matters. That’s where the guys who become world champions really shine.”
The pressure is on Hall heading into Boston. Will he be one of those fighters that shine under pressure, or will he be just another athlete full of unrealized potential? We’ll find out on August 17.