This Saturday (Aug. 17, 2013), UFC Fight Night 26 will be coming to us live from TD Bank Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The stacked mixed martial arts (MMA) card features several great bouts from top-to-bottom, with many of fighters needing impressive victories to hold onto relevancy.
It's an odd set of circumstances for both fighters, as Hall was projected as the most talented TUF prospect ever before his puzzling loss to Kelvin Gastelum in the Finale. Howard, on the other hand, is looking to prove himself to Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) brass once again, having won his first four bouts in the promotion before dropping his last three.
It's an interesting bout with two men who have their backs up against the fence, which could result in some fireworks. Overall, it may just be a test to see if Hall can live up to his massive potential.
Let's take a deep dive into the 185-pound showdown between Uriah Hall vs. John Howard:
Record: 7-3 overall, 0-1 in the UFC
Key Wins: Adam Cella (TUF 17), Bubba McDaniel (TUF 17), Dylan Andrews (TUF 17)
Key Losses: Kelvin Gastelum (TUF 17 Finale), Chris Weidman (Ring of Combat 31), Costa Philippou (Ring of Combat 34)
How he got here: Hall got here in a whirlwind of publicity surrounding his insane exploits on TUF 17, where his highlight reel and propensity for sending his opponents to the hospital created an instant hype train with a ton of momentum. Unfortunately, Hall was deemed a bit of a head case when he was unexpectedly ground out by heavy underdog Kelvin Gastelum at the show Finale.
There's no doubt that he has a huge amount of talent and skill, it's just a matter of putting that together inside the Octagon. His TUF coach, Chael Sonnen, may have been right when he said that Hall could be an instant contender within the 185-pound division, but if he can't get the mental game down, it'll be all for naught.
How he gets it done: Hall will get it done with his diverse array of strikes. His speed is almost unrivaled in the weight class, and he can hit with an arsenal of shots that seemingly arise out of thin air.
He'll have his hands full with Howard, who has only been stopped via technical knockout once in his lengthy 28-fight career. However, Hall has kicks that are legitimately unlike any other fighter's in MMA. That's to be expected, though, and Hall's true key to winning will be getting his mind right.
If he can come in calm and confident, he has the potential to destroy even a veteran like Howard. If he gets emotionally involved like he did against Gastelum, it could be a lackluster showing for the new Reign Training Center product.
Record: 20-8 overall, 4-3 in the UFC
Key Wins: Charlie Brenneman (Ring of Combat 21), Dennis Hallman (TUF: The Heavyweights Finale)
Key Losses: Jake Ellenberger (UFC Live: Jones vs. Matyushenko), Thiago Alves (UFC 124), Matt Brown (UFC Live: Kongo vs. Barry)
How he got here: Howard has been fighting professionally for almost nine years now, making his first foray into the UFC back at UFC 94 in early 2009. He reeled off four consecutive victories within the Octagon and started to face off against top opposition.
He didn't fare so well from that point on, dropping three straight to the likes of Ellenberger, Alves and Brown. That's no list to scoff at, but three losses usually spell the end for most fighters in the promotion.
Howard reinvented himself at Middleweight and found a home with CES MMA. Fighting in Rhode Island since his departure from the UFC, Howard became the CES Middleweight champion and defended the title an impressive four times. He's earned his ticket back to the UFC, but it's not going to be easy against an opponent like Hall.
How he gets it done: Howard's great toughness is definitely going to be a huge key to victory for him. He's never been knocked out, which is going to help him a ton against the power striking of Hall. If history would serve as an example, fighters who took down Hall and made it an ugly, grinding match tended to do well.
Obviously, standing and trading is a recipe for disaster in this bout. Regardless of how confident Howard is in his striking, the plan should be to get this fight to the ground. If he can accomplish that, he has a good chance to win.
"Doomsday" is known for his kickboxing, so his belief in those abilities could get him into deep water against a rare talent like Hall. Independent of how Howard performs, he could receive a huge boost from his opponent if Hall is not all there mentally.
Fight X-Factor: The X-Factor here is obviously mental preparedness. UFC President Dana White has stated that Hall has the talent to destroy most fighters, but it's just a matter of getting control of his own thoughts. If he's accomplished that, presumably few Middleweights could trump the Jamaican-born prospect.
Bottom Line: It's beginning to sound redundant, but the bottom line is that Hall has to show up in great mental shape to win like he's capable of. Howard will be coming in with something to prove, and likely fighting for his job in his second UFC stint. That will definitely make him a dangerous man, so a bit of luck could come into play on either side during this bout. Hall made the move to Mark Munoz's Reign Training center, so we'll see how that's helped him correct his mental lapses within the cage.
Will Hall come out confident with guns blazing and add another knockout to his impressive highlight reel, or will Howard's experience win out in the end?