Killer instinct is not something that can be taught to a fighter. You either have it or you do not. When we saw Uriah Hall on the 17th season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), it was understood the young New York fighter had it in truck loads. But, after back-to-back split decision losses in his first two fights, the question has become whether or not Hall has lost what made him great on TUF, due to not being ready for the bright lights of the UFC.
You are only as good as your last fight and on Saturday night (Dec. 28, 2013) at UFC 168, the 0-2 middleweight will need to return to form against Chris Leben, as his job is most likely on the line should he suffer a third straight defeat.
After separating Adam Cella from consciousness with a spinning back kick in the opening round on TUF 17, Hall would send the MMA world into a GIF tizzy. Not to mention UFC President Dana White had teased about the knockout prior to the TUF season, saying, "It was one of the nastiest knockouts I have ever seen in the fight business, let alone on The Ultimate Fighter."
Hall became the fighter no one wanted to face, and to go in there against him, was to face certain harm or injury. In the quarterfinal round, Hall's status grew to even greater heights after knocking out Bubba McDaniel in the first round and breaking three bones in his face in the process, followed by a TKO win over Dylan Andrews.
The bloom came off the flower after Hall lost the TUF finale to Kelvin Gastellum via split decision. It was a close fight and really could have gone either way, but Hall was built up as such a killer, that most expected him to obliterate Gastellum. Hall disappointed once again last August at UFC Fight Night 26, dropping another split decision, this time to veteran John Howard. In both fights, he seemed unable to pull the trigger or show the aggressiveness that made him so effective and dangerous on TUF.
This loss prompted Dana White to openly criticize Hall:
"I love Uriah Hall. I have a great relationship with this kid," White said, after the UFC Fight Night 26 card in Boston. "He's one of the nicest human beings you will ever meet, but he's not a fighter, man."
Hall spoke with MMAFighting.com recently and gave his reaction to White's comments. "I heard those things, and at first I was like what? Whoa. No one wants to hear those bad comments," he said.
"But for me it's taking the good out of it. I think you can learn from any situation," he continued. "Dana's words did some good for me man. It's in your face, but if you look at people who are successful in life, you are always going to have those struggles, always going to have those battles, it's about overcoming it.
"For me personally, it was a big deal. I just felt at one point it was so fast and so sudden, that I couldn't handle it. But it didn't break me, it taught me. So it's about redefining myself and bouncing back."
The former Ring of Combat (ROC) champion will have to channel his childhood influences of Jin Kazama from Tekken and Jean-Claude Van Damme, and revert back to his TUF 17 spinning back kick ways, to ensure his place on the UFC roster at UFC 168.
His opponent, Chris Leben, will certainly force him to fight.
A veteran of 32 professional fights, and owner of four "knockout of the night" bonuses, Leben will oblige in a slugfest and will throw caution to the wind, even on his three-fight losing streak. Perhaps he brings out the fighter in Hall that has gone AWOL since TUF 17.
Or, he will more than likely send Hall out of the UFC in search of answers.
During Thursday's media scrum, White revealed that Hall had contacted him about what he said about him. "I got some texts from Uriah saying, ‘I'm glad you said all that stuff about me because it motivated me,'" White said. "So we'll see on Saturday."
Will Hall's motivation equate to finding that killer instinct again? We'll see. Otherwise it's probably the last time we see the former TUF standout in the Octagon.
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