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Fighter on Fighter: Breaking down UFC Fight Night 99’s Gegard Mousasi and Uriah Hall

MMAmania.com resident fighter analyst -- and aspiring professional fighter -- Andrew Richardson breaks down the mixed martial arts (MMA) game of UFC Fight Night 99 headliners Gegard Mousasi and Uriah Hall, who will collide once more this Saturday (Nov. 19, 2016) inside The SSE Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Joshua Dahl (L), Joshua Lindsey (R) via USA Today Sports

Former DREAM and Strikeforce kingpin, Gegard Mousasi, will attempt to even the score opposite dynamic knockout artist, Uriah Hall, this Saturday (Nov. 19, 2016) at UFC Fight Night 99 inside The SSE Arena in Belfast, northern Ireland.

Mousasi entered the last bout as a huge favorite and dominated the first round accordingly. However, he ducked into a massive spin kick — and follow up flying knee — which handed him his first-ever knockout loss (watch full video here). "Armenian Assassin" is intent on revenge. Meanwhile, Hall is looking to prove this his first victory was no fluke. Furthermore, Hall has lost his last two bouts, which puts quite a bit of pressure on the striker to perform here.

Let’s take a closer look at the skills of both athletes:

Striking

Mousasi has been competing for over a decade and knocking foes out thanks to his technical kickboxing skill. He was a successful amateur boxer, and Mousasi has even found success in professional kickboxing.

Mousasi is one of the most measured and efficient strikers to ever compete inside the Octagon. He’s a tactician, willing to adapt his stance and style depending on his opponent’s approach. Regardless of whether he’s maintaining distance or on the attack, Mousasi remains in great position. He rarely overextends or leaves himself open to an easy counter, which is the mark of an experienced kickboxer.

Mousasi’s jab is a key weapon in each of his game plans. He makes great use of the strike by hiding it among feints before suddenly snapping his opponent’s head back. Additionally, Mousasi will double and triple up on the strike, as well as switch between a hard full-body jab and flicking punch.

By mixing it up, Mousasi is far more effective.

"Dreamcatcher" is excellent at finding holes in his opponent’s defense and exploiting it. That’s a great attribute for any fighter, but it makes it difficult to analyze him, as Mousasi is always finding different openings to capitalize on. For example, Mousasi stalked Vitor Belfort for about eight total minutes in his last fight. Throughout the exchanges, Mousasi pinned Belfort with jabs before following up with different combinations. Eventually, he found a home for the head kick, and the following flurry ended his opponent’s night (GIF).

Mousasi’s comfort with different techniques and composure to find an opening is what truly separates him from most athletes. On the other hand, Uriah Hall is a second degree black belt in Kyoshukin karate, and it shows in his dangerous kicking game. Alongside his extreme athleticism, these skills make him an extraordinarily dangerous fighter.

The two most impressive highlights of Hall’s career came in the form of spinning kicks. The one that initially brought him such acclaim happened on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) house in his debut fight opposite Adam Cella, as Hall blasted his foe with a spinning wheel kick.

It’s important to note that this strike began with the jab. Like his foe, Hall is very skilled at controlling range with the jab. Unlike Mousasi, Hall’s jab is all about speed and power, as it tends to really hurt his opponent more than most jabs. Since it’s such a formidable blow, his opponent’s will often look to slip and avoid the strike. To knockout Cella, Hall simply feinted the left and spun into a kick instead when his foe moved to parry the strike (GIF).

Opposite Mousasi, there was less of a set up. Hall noticed that Mousasi was ducking, and he jumped into a spinning back kick. His timing was perfect, and that blow lead to the end of the bout. Another important weapon in Hall’s arsenal is the counter right hand. Very often, Hall will retreat a step, plant, and fire back. In his bout with Ron Stallings, Hall first parried his opponent’s cross before returning the cross (GIF).

For all his offensive acumen, Hall does have a proven issue defensively. He has a habit of backing into the fence with his hands low. He’s usually out of range, but an opponent who excels at closing the distance — such as Chris Weidman and Derek Brunson — can catch him in bad position to absorb the blow.

Wrestling

Mousasi has incorporated offensive wrestling into his game far more often in recent fights. Though he’s a Judo black belt, most of his takedowns have come in the form of double legs against the fence.

The strategy here is simple. Mousasi uses his excellent jab to push his opponent back, and his kicks help him cut off the cage. Once his foe is trapped, Mousasi will flash out a jab or combination before level-changing into a double leg takedown. Defensively, Mousasi’s judo is more likely to come into play. He’s proven to be a difficult man to take down, particularly since his range control on the feet is so strong. With a strong sprawl and clinch defense, only the division’s absolute best can grind Mousasi into the ground.

Additionally, Mousasi’s hips are very strong, as he’s often able to reverse his opponent into top position. If his foe takes a bad shot and loses his base, Mousasi will hip in hard to flip his opponent to his back. While he’s not known as a wrestler, Hall has proven to be a solid takedown artist. It’s not his strongest attribute, but Hall is far form an easy man to take and keep down.

Overall, Hall rarely initiates his own takedowns. However, he’s definitely willing to fight fire with fire against an opponent looking to drag him to the mat, as Hall scored takedowns on both John Howard and Kelvin Gastelum. Usually, Hall lands in top position by either lifting from a double leg or simply slamming his opponent from the clinch.

Defensively, Hall’s jab and kicks keep his opponent far away, which is of course a massive benefit. Plus, in close range wrestling exchanges, Hall’s physical strength is a great line of defense.

For the most part, Hall only winds up on his back if he’s caught off-balance. That can happen due to an interrupted spin kick or if his foe ducks under a big punch, but even then Hall generally does a nice job of quickly scrambling to his feet.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Though Mousasi landed some hard ground shots and passed his guard a few times, Hall actually had the most impressive jiu-jitsu moment in their first fight. Throwing up a sudden armbar, Hall shocked the veteran and forced him to scramble with all his might to escape the hold.

Outside of that moment, the jiu-jitsu blue belt hasn’t shown much grappling in his fights. On the other hand, Mousasi has scored 12 submission wins across his long career. He’s a rather varied grappler, as Mousasi is solid from top position but also one of the most difficult men to control when on his back.

Let’s focus on his unique bottom game.

From his back, Mousasi largely uses the butterfly and open guard. He looks for sweeps and submissions from both positions. While he's doing all of this, Mousasi is constantly battering his opponent with punches and elbows from his back. To sweep his opponent, it's vital that Mousasi creates space. An important part of creating space is to first never allow his opponent to settle. Once Mousasi's back hits the mat, he immediately begins kicking on his foes' hips, landing small strikes, or elevating his opponent. As his opponent fights off all of this, he's not landing ground strikes or threatening to pass. Instead, Mousasi is the one with all the openings.

Mousasi's ground strikes often open up grappling opportunities. Regardless of whether Mousasi is throwing hammer fists or upkicks, the idea is still the same. If his opponent is focused on blocking a strike, it's going to be more difficult to defend a sweep.

The opposite is also true.

For example, Mousasi used upkicks to land a very nice sweep on Sokoudjou. Mousasi first landed a couple kicks to Sokoudjou's chest, which made him stand up straighter. Mousasi was in a position similar to the De la Riva guard but instead of hooking around his opponent's knee, Mousasi rested his left foot on Sokoudjou's hip, the same side that he controlled the ankle. Then, Mousasi dropped his right foot behind his ankle.

To finish the sweep, Mousasi pulled Sokoudjou's ankle with his left hand, kicked out his hip with his left leg, and tripped him with his right leg. This is sometimes called a tripod sweep (GIF). In Mousasi's first bout with "Jacare," he managed to knock the Brazilian out with an upkick. Mousasi was attempting to kick Souza away while the Brazilian looked to pass guard. When Souza rushed back towards Mousasi and attempted to dive into guard with a punch, Mousasi met his jaw with an upkick (GIF).

Souza countered the upkick with guard passes brilliantly in the rematch, but that’s because "Jacare" is arguably the best grappler in UFC.

Another nice example of Mousasi's ground strike/grappling combo is his upkick to triangle transition. After getting upkicked, most fighters will look to rush back into guard. When they do, Mousasi's legs are right by their neck, and he's quick to attempt the submission. Mousasi managed to finish Denis Kang with this technique and attempted it against Ilir Latifi as well.

Conclusion

Both men have a lot to prove in this match up. Mousasi is already on the longest UFC win streak of his career, and he’s looking to prove himself a class above Hall; this fight could push him into the title mix. On the other hand, Hall is in a big win-big loss position, as he either scores the biggest win of his career — AGAIN! — or is sliding down the ranks with a three-fight losing streak.

*****

Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, is an undefeated amateur fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport's most elite fighters.

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