Two of the brightest stars from The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 17 will collide this Saturday night (April 13, 2013) as Uriah Hall takes on Kelvin Gastelum in the co-main event of The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Hall was an absolute wrecking machine on this past season, blistering through the competition and knocking them senseless in increasingly violent ways. He did enough damage to his opponents that UFC President Dana White said he was a monster who everyone in the house was afraid of. He'll have a chance to prove it on Saturday.
Gastelum was terrific as well. He was the youngest fighter in the house and the last pick of Team Sonnen, but that didn't stop him from stepping up his game. The youngster finished all three of his opponents to earn his trip to the finals where he'll try to put an end to Hall's dominance.
Record: 7-2 overall, 0-0 in the UFC
Key Wins: none
Key Losses: Chris Weidman (Ring of Combat 31), Costa Philippou (Ring of Combat 34)
How he got here: Hall got into martial arts after, believe it or not, falling in love with the video game Tekkan and wanting to repeat the moves he used for his characters. He harnessed his skills under the tutelage of Tiger Schullman and began a very successful run in Ring of Combat where he won the middleweight title.
He lost consecutive fights to current top 10 UFC middleweights Chris Weidman and Costa Philippou but they only motivated him to get better.
After winning three straight fights, he tried out for TUF season 17 and made an immediate impact. Hall showcased his skills in his fight to get on the show, but it was his destruction of Adam Cella, Bubba McDaniel and Dylan Andrews that really put him over the top and on the radar with all the fans. Now he's out to not only win this season, but to put himself immediately in the mix among the best 185-pounders in the division.
How he gets it done: We all know what Hall wants to do. He needs to keep this fight standing and really start to go to work with his striking. Hall possesses perhaps the most unique and dangerous skill-set on the feet of any middleweight not named Anderson Silva and he just needs to space to work.
Hall is dangerous both inside and out, with powerful short hooks and uppercuts as well as some brutal kicking attacks. If he can find some space, he'll unleash some sort of brutal kick that will be practically impossible to block without injuring something.
Spacing will be key as Hall does not want to give Gastelum a chance to get inside with his short strikes or get taken down. While Hall is dangerous on the ground, that's still a part of his game he needs to work on. Avoiding the ground will be an important part of winning this fight.
Record: 5-0 overall, 0-0 in the UFC
Key Wins: none
Key Losses: none
How he got here: Gastelum started his professional fighting career just over two years ago, winning his debut via submission and stopping every single one of his opponents via strikes or submission to burst out to a flawless 5-0 record.
He tried out for TUF season 17 and made it on the show, becoming the youngest competitor on the roster. Despite being the last pick for Team Sonnen, he proved his worth by choking out veteran Bubba McDaniel in his first fight. The good times continued to roll when he knocked out Collin Hart in just 33 seconds and then he earned his spot in the finals by choking out favorite Josh Samman in the semis.
Now, he has an opportunity to become the ultimate underdog story if he can continue his run against the massive favorite Uriah Hall.
How he gets it done: Gastelum absolutely can not stay on the outside against Hall, or he'll risk getting his block knocked off. His goal should be to close the distance and take away some of Hall's weapons as quickly as he can. Hall is incredibly accurate and powerful and he can't give the Tiger Schullman fighter an opportunity to size him up and get his timing.
The earlier Gastelum can take this fight to the clinch or dump him on his back, the better. Gastelum has an above average ground game and was able to control much more experienced fighters from the show with his wrestling and submissions. That means he can do it to Hall too, who's biggest weakness is probably off his back.
Forcing Hall to grapple with him could also tire the striker out as well, especially considering that's a completely different level of conditioning.
Who will come out on top at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!