Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight fringe contenders Gegard Mousasi and Uriah Hall will clash this Saturday (Sept. 26, 2015) at UFC Fight Night 75 inside Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
After years and years of competition, Mousasi seems to have finally figured out his place in the mixed martial arts (MMA) world. While he's come up short in his two opportunities against Top 5-ranked opposition, "Dreamcatcher" has nonetheless proven himself a top talent and fighter to watch.
Meanwhile, the jury is still out on Hall. He clearly possesses some insane athletic talent, but a combination of technical mishaps and a questionable mentality have left him with some ugly losses.
Let's take a closer look at the keys to victory for both men:
Key Wins: Mark Munoz (UFC Fight Night 42), Ovince St. Preux (Strikeforce: Melendez vs Masvidal), Dan Henderson (UFC on FOX 14)
Key Losses: Ronaldo Souza (UFC Fight Night 50), Lyoto Machida (UFC Fight Night 36)
Keys to Victory: Mousasi is very talented in each area of MMA. He's a dangerous technical kickboxer, smooth submission grappler and underrated wrestler. While he's not truly elite in any one area, Mousasi's diverse skill set and bursts of aggression have allowed him to finish 31 of his opponents.
In this bout, Mousasi has a couple of options. He has the skill set necessary to pick apart Hall or grind him down with some well-timed takedowns, and he could always blend the two as well.
Really, it's just important for Mousasi to pressure his opponent. Hall does his best work when he can keep his opponent at the end of his jab and work with fancy kicks. Luckily, Mousasi has an even sharper jab and is rather experienced at pushing his opponent backward with forward pressure.
When Hall is forced to fight from his back foot, he becomes far less effective. His hands begin to drop, and he often looks for single punches with any setup. Against Mousasi, that simply won't cut it, as the veteran will be able to break through his guard with punches or duck under for a quick takedown.
Key Wins: Thiago Santos (UFC 175), Chris Leben (UFC 168), Ron Stallings (UFC Fight Night 59)
Key Losses: Rafael Natal (UFC 187), Kelvin Gastelum (TUF 17 Finale), John Howard (UFC Fight Night 26)
Keys to Victory: Uriah Hall is an extremely explosive athlete and dangerous striker. When he's at his best, Hall is keeping his opponent on edge with his jab and exploiting the holes in his defense with vicious kicks.
It's also worth mentioning that Hall is a nasty counter puncher as well.
This is a very tough match up for Hall. His opponent has at least a small technical edge in every area, as well as twice the experience. While that's never a good thing, Hall usually has a solid puncher's chance as one of the hardest hitters in the division.
Unfortunately, Mousasi has proven largely impossible to hurt with strikes.
To defeat "The Armenian Assassin," Hall needs to fight perfectly for the entire fight. He cannot afford to make any mistakes, as Mousasi is a true veteran and will exploit them.
In short, Hall needs to outpoint Mousasi from the outside and keep his activity. Both men are prone to longer periods of passivity, which can cost them on the judges' scorecards. If Hall can keep his output high and land hard/flashy kicks before circling away from counter strikes, he could conceivably land the better shots and earn a decision.
Bottom Line: This should be an entertaining bout between two kickboxing specialists looking to live up to their potential.
Mousasi has looked extremely good in his last two fights. He blew through Dan Henderson in less than one minute, and I would be surprised if Costas Phillippou landed more than a dozen strikes in their 15 minutes of combat. If he can continue to build momentum with a big win here, he'd likely get a fairly high profile match up in his next bout.
On the other hand, an upset would be pretty shocking, and it would likely kill any remaining hopes of Mousasi working into the Top 5.
Meanwhile, this is a massive opportunity for Hall, and it's one he hasn't really earned. If he manages to pull off this victory, he's deserving of a spot in the rankings and could finally be considered as a contender.
Should Hall lose to his opponent, it wouldn't really change anything. Hall has come up short against lesser competition in the past, so he really wouldn't lose any ground. Plus, he hasn't built any momentum since his loss to Natal, so there's very little risk for him in this bout.
At UFC Fight Night 75, Gegard Mousasi and Uriah Hall will battle in the co-main event. Which man will have his hand raised?