Uriah Hall ripped through The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17 unlike any other mixed martial arts (MMA) up-and-comer, putting his stamp on every contestant who had the misfortune of stepping inside the Octagon opposite the Middleweight mauler. Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White spent his Tuesday nights teasing Hall's exploits, while his coach, former two-time 185-pound No. 1 contender, Chael Sonnen, would shower him with incredulous praise.
You can beat "that puke," Anderson Silva, Uriah!
Indeed, Sonnen was Hall's biggest cheerleader and motivator throughout the season, helping him achieve his highlight-reel potential. Hall wasn't necessarily sold on the bold Silva prediction (read more here) because it was simply an outrageous claim, but the words of wisdom that Sonnen shared certainly made a marked difference in his ability to perform.
"I think in any fight, 90 percent of it is mental," Hall explained in a recent pre-fight interview. "The weakest point of a fighter is his mind -- not his stand up or ground game. Talking to Chael, he told me that emotions are fake, but nerves are good because that means you are on edge, ready to go. But, emotions -- anger, sad, fear -- is it really going to help you? No, it's not. It's about actions, planting seeds and doing what you are supposed to do that is going to bring you to the next level.... Chael approached me differently. He told me that it was okay to lose.... It made all the difference."
Sonnen has significant experience losing, dropping two world title fights to the aforementioned Silva. However, he was winning throughout TUF 17 season, out-coaching Jon Jones, winning a Harley Davidson motorcycle for his superior efforts and advancing his two fighters to the tournament final.
Hall was clearly the favorite, while Gastelum flew below the radar. Even though all Gastelum did was win when he wasn't supposed to, including a submission finish of Team Jones' top pick Josh Samman, in the semifinals to punch his ticket to the Finale opposite Hall.
Accordingly, he was once again the heavy under dog, but managed to pull off another upset at TUF 17 Finale last night (April 13, 2013), which took place at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was close (see FightMetric report here), but rather than praise Gastelum for a job well done, most of the reaction has been focused on what went wrong with Hall.
"I don't think he showboated, I think he mentally broke," UFC President Dana White declared during his TUF 17 Finale post-event scrum (watch it here). "You saw what he had this season, but when you find out what a guy really has is when he's under pressure ... that's when you find out who the Anderson Silva's and the Georges St. Pierre's are, those types of guys."
Indeed, White suggested that all Hall -- who spent most of the first round with his hands down, juking and jiving along the cage as if he were "The Spider" (watch highlights here), needs to "work on his head." A head that Sonnen spent two months molding into a stone-cold killer, while simultaneously inflating into an overconfident superstar who he clearly isn't.
Much like Sonnen, Hall became a legend in his own mind. One who might be super talented, but still lacks the mean streak and mental balance required to complement the flash.
"He has a lot of skills and his wrestling looked good tonight," White continued. "Everything looked good tonight, he just has to to work on his head. You've got to get that head straight man, you've got to get meaner. You're not mean enough."