Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight contenders Derek Brunson and Uriah Hall collide this Saturday night (Sept. 17, 2016) at UFC Fight Night 94 on FOX Sports 1 inside State Farm Arena in Hidalgo, Texas. In a match up of physical powerhouses, what adjustments must be made for either man to claim victory? Let's break it down.
At some point in the last couple years, Brunson stopped worrying and found a ton of confidence in his hands. The former collegiate wrestler has blasted his last three opponents in less than six minutes total, and he’s knocking on the door to the title mix. Meanwhile, Hall’s career continues to experience its share of ups-and-downs. He broke into the top 10 with a big knockout over Gegard Mousasi a couple fights ago, but he came up short in his next bout before he could really build momentum.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for both athletes:
Key Wins: Lorenz Larkin (UFC 177), Roan Carneiro (UFC Fight Night 83), Sam Alvey (UFC Fight Night 73), Ed Herman (UFC 185)
Key Losses: Yoel Romero (UFC Fight Night 35), Ronaldo Souza (Strikeforce: "Rousey vs Kaufman")
Keys to Victory: Brunson is a powerful and quick Middleweight, capable of bombing his opponents with hard punches or throwing them to the mat with a double leg. Either way, his physicality is a massive asset, as he's often able to overwhelm his opponents.
That should be the plan here as well.
Hall really hasn't faced many wrestlers in his UFC career, as he lost to Kelvin Gastelum and has mostly fought kickboxers since. In fact, the two grapplers who did look to score takedowns, Gegard Mousasi and Rafael Natal, found some success in that area.
In Brunson's case, his strategy should be a heavy diet of pressure, takedowns, and hooks. Hall has a habit of backing himself up into the fence, which should allow Brunson to get in on the shot. Once Brunson has established the threat of the takedown, he can attempt to take a page from Chris Weidman's book. Once Hall returns to the feet, he'll be more wary of the shot, and that could create an opening for Brunson's newfound boxing prowess.
Key Wins: Gegard Mousasi (UFC Fight Night 75), Thiago Santos (UFC 175), Chris Leben (UFC 168)
Key Losses: Robert Whittaker (UFC 193), Rafael Natal (UFC 187), Kelvin Gastelum (TUF 17 Finale)
Keys to Victory: Another fantastic athlete, Hall is a terrifying kickboxer with some nasty counter punches. He really excels at that approach, battering his opponent on the outside with kicks and then cracking him when he tries to close range.
In this bout, managing the distance will be key. Hall cannot allow himself to be backed up into the fence, as it will cost him the fight. Even if he can defend the takedown from that position, Brunson will be in control of the bout and dictate whether the fight moves into the clinch.
It's bad news.
While Hall's kicks are always a factor and could end the fight in an instant, his boxing is perhaps more important here. Hall has a sharp jab, and he needs to throw lots of them. Creating consistent offense has been an issue for Hall in the past, and really focusing on his jab could help solve it.
If Brunson is getting stabbed with jabs as he tries to move in, it will make him far more desperate to pressure his opponent. Since Brunson can get a bit wild already, desperation really increases the odds that he'll run into a devastating counter punch.
Bottom Line: The winner of this bout will climb into the title picture.
Brunson is in the prime of his career. At 32 years old and just six years into his career, he’s improving at a solid speed and has become rather well-rounded. With his physical tools and increased skill, he could very easily compete with the division’s elite.
He just needs to defeat Hall for the opportunity.
On the other hand, a loss would be a massive setback. Brunson has really surged forward thanks to his current win streak, and while he wouldn’t drop out of the rankings, it would be a significant delay to his title hopes. For Hall, this is his chance to get back into the win column in a big way. If he’s able to stop Brunson’s rise, he could find himself in a high-profile match up with title implications before long.
That said, a second straight loss would definitely be a problem for Hall. Instead of facing a contender like Brunson, he’ll likely end up facing someone outside the top 15, which will do little to push him closer to the strap.
At UFC Fight Night 94, Derek Brunson and Uriah Hall will duel. Which fighter will remain standing when the dust settles?