Uriah Hall will carry a three-fight winning streak into the final. | Photo: Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
‘The Ultimate Fighter 17’ Middleweight Final
Uriah Hall (7-2, 0-0 UFC) vs. Kelvin Gastelum (4-0, 0-0 UFC)
The Matchup: In this day and age, it is a wonder how a talent like Hall managed to remain under the radar for this long. A former Ring of Combat champion, the Team Tiger Schulmann product has only lost to Top 10 UFC middleweights Chris Weidman and Costas Philippou since turning professional in 2005.
The New York native was the most feared contestant on Season 17 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” first turning heads with his vicious spinning heel kick knockout of Adam Cella on the reality show’s third episode. Hall’s legend only grew with his short-lived quarterfinal thrashing of wildcard entrant Bubba McDaniel, as a vicious counter right hand had McDaniel briefly fearing for the safety of his eye. Hall then closed out his run by stopping Dylan Andrews with strikes on the ground in the Round of 4.
Not nearly as celebrated has Hall, Gastelum has been something of a dark horse throughout the competition. After topping Kito Andrews in a preliminary bout, the 21-year-old Arizonan established himself as a force to be reckoned with when he submitted the more experienced McDaniel in his second fight. A southpaw who has been described by coach Chael Sonnen as a “brawler,” Gastelum showed off the power in his hands by dropping Collin Hart with a left hook and finishing the bout with a barrage of hammerfists on the mat. Gastelum punched his ticket to the final by choking out the heavily favored Josh Samman, ruining what could have been a highly anticipated showdown between Hall and Samman.
Hall will be the heavy favorite here, and that designation is well-deserved. Prior to appearing on the show, Hall faced a far greater level of competition than Gastelum, whose four triumphs came against foes with a combined record of 4-9. More importantly, Hall is simply the bigger, stronger, faster and more skilled fighter. Gastelum’s best chance at victory is to take down Hall down early and often; swinging wildly in exchanges against a foe with finishing ability in both his hands and feet is a surefire way for the Arizona Athletic Club member to become part of Hall’s personal highlight reel.
Hall is not one-dimensional, however, as he blends striking and takedowns well and is comfortable landing heavy punches while positioned inside an opponent’s guard. Hall also has shown an ability to land solid knees in tie-ups, too. Gastelum will have to use crisp punching combinations to disguise his takedown attempts or risk getting picked apart from the outside.
The Pick: Equal parts flashy and technical, Hall will be able to pick his spots here, eventually landing a decisive counter as Gastelum attempts to apply pressure by moving forward. Hall takes this by knockout or technical knockout in round two.
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