Hall came in with a ton of hype to live up to, having had his mixed martial arts (MMA) momentum derailed when he dropped a decision to Kelvin Gastelum at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17 Finale last April. Howard, a Boston native, also had much to prove in his first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bout since 2011.
Although Hall was highly praised for his powerful, dynamic striking, he immediately came out and scored a double leg takedown. Unable to do much damage on the ground, the bout was eventually stood up as Hall stepped back. Howard landed a good leg kick and then a strong left hook. The fight hit the cage, with Hall reversing position to control Howard. Toward the end of the first round, Hall landed a good knee and attempted a wheel kick, attempting some follow-up strikes to gain a small advantage in a close first round.
The tables began to turn in Howard's favor a bit in the second stanza, as "Doomsday" pressed forward with his patented boxing. Hall countered with more of his newfound wrestling, only to have Howard attempt a guillotine choke. He pressed Hall up against the cage, landing some good short punches in the process.
A lull in action prompted a restart, where Howard went back to his effective leg kicks. He transitioned to some offensive wrestling by taking Hall down, raining shots down towards the end of the second. The late action on the ground may have sealed the second for Howard.
As the last round began, neither fighter held a decided advantage overall. Hall looked to land some leg kicks of his own, and then pressed Howard towards the cage wall. "Primetime" tried to break out some of his trademark strikes with a high kick, but it missed the mark. Howard took advantage with another takedown, only to see Hall recover and turn the tables with a takedown of his own. The crowd booed towards the end, as Hall tried to roll across the ground. Howard saw this, and leapt high in the air to hit Hall with a flying punch. "Doomsday" landed in the mount as the bell rang, and it went to the judges' scorecards.
Ultimately, Howard took home a close split decision victory over the heavily favored and highly-regarded Hall, who will now go back to the drawing boards after having his hype train fall off the rails. It has appeared to be another case of holding back for Hall, who fought decently but was simply outdone by Howard in terms of output.
Although the time spent at Reign Training Center seemed to improve Hall's wrestling, he also didn't seem to be the dynamic, fear-inducing knockout artist that he was throughout his stint on TUF.
It will be interesting to see who Howard is matched up against next, as he started off his initial UFC run with some good wins. Once he got to the top level of UFC Welterweights, however, he was finished off frequently enough to earn his release.
He's now back at Middleweight and will look to climb his way back up the ladder against a higher ranked fighter.