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Uriah Hall’s mixed martial arts career has been something of a rollercoaster ride, with inexorable highs and stomach-churning lows.
The two-time Ring of Combat champion will attempt to avenge one of his nine professional defeats when he rematches Chris Weidman in a UFC 261 middleweight showcase on Saturday at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. Weidman put away “Primetime” with punches in their first meeting, which took place on the regional circuit more than a decade ago. Hall enters the cage on the strength of three consecutive victories. The Fortis MMA rep last appeared at UFC Fight Night 181, where he cut down Anderson Silva with punches in the fourth round of their Oct. 31 main event.
As Hall prepares for his long-awaited rematch with Weidman, a look at five of the moments that have come to define him:
1. Gold Standard
Hall laid claim to the Ring of Combat middleweight championship for a second time when he took a unanimous decision from Nodar Kudukhashvili in the ROC 41 headliner on June 15, 2012 at the Tropicana Resort and Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28 for Hall. Kudukhashvili was effective in spots, especially in the second round. There, he executed multiple takedowns, bottled up Hall in the clinch and swarmed him with punches along the fence. However, fatigue plagued the Georgian throughout the second half of the fight. Hall pecked away with a punishing jab, mixed in leg kicks and delivered takedowns of his own. He was clearly the fresher and more confident fighter in the third round, where he connected with a spinning back kick to the body and continued to pair his jab with leg kicks. By that time, an exhausted Kudukhashvili had been reduced to throwing leaping left hooks that had little to no hope of landing. It was Hall’s final pre-Ultimate Fighting Championship appearance.
2. Expectations Unmet
Relentless aggression, capable standup and multiple takedowns carried Kelvin Gastelum to a split decision over Hall in “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 17 middleweight final on April 13, 2013 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. All three judges struck 29-28 scorecards: Sal D’Amato for Hall, Adalaide Byrd and Junichiro Kamijo for the 21-year-old Gastelum. Hall looked out of sorts at times, perhaps caught off guard by his opponent’s willingness to exchange and wade through his punches and kicks. The Team Tiger Schulmann product did his best work in the second round, where he tagged Gastelum with jabs, delivered a takedown and scored with a beautiful belly-to-back suplex. Gastelum was not deterred. He secured a pair of takedowns in the third round and, despite being reversed twice, spent enough time in top position to earn the split verdict.
3. Out to Pasture
Hall stopped Chris Leben on a technical knockout in the featured UFC 168 prelim on Dec. 28, 2013 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The match was halted at Leben’s request in between the first and second rounds, “The Crippler” announcing his retirement from mixed martial arts soon after. Hall set the tone with a flying knee in the opening seconds and then proceeded to pick apart his adversary from the perimeter. Leben spent his time following the talented 29-year-old former Ring of Combat champion around the cage, absorbing punishment with each ill-fated step. In the closing seconds of the first round, Hall connected with a devastating right cross to the face that dropped Leben where he stood and ultimately ended the fight.
4. Shock Value
In what was easily the single most significant victory of his career, Hall put away Gegard Mousasi with a jumping spinning back kick to the face, a flying knee and follow-up punches in the second round of their UFC Fight Night 75 co-main event on Sept. 26, 2015 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. A replacement for the injured Roan Carneiro, Hall brought it to a rousing close 25 seconds into Round 2, the shock value off the charts. Mousasi roared out of the gates in the first round. He executed a takedown inside 15 seconds, applied his ground-and-pound, achieved full mount twice and ultimately forced Hall to yield his back before hunting the rear-naked choke. No one could have foreseen what was ahead. At the start of Round 2, Hall drilled the onetime Strikeforce and Dream titleholder with a jumping spinning back kick and flying knee, both of which landed flush. Mousasi collapsed, dazed, confused and unable to sufficiently defend himself. A series of follow-up punches necessitated the stoppage. It marked the first time in Mousasi’s 45-fight career that he had been finished by strikes.
5. Diverging Paths
“The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes” winner Robert Whittaker continued his climb toward stardom, as he captured a unanimous verdict over Hall in a UFC 193 middleweight showcase on Nov. 14, 2015 at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia. Whittaker swept the scorecards with 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 marks. It was not a blowout. A replacement for the injured Michael Bisping, Hall bloodied Whittaker’s nose and did some nice work in the third round, where he rattled his counterpart with a head kick, a flying knee and a front kick to the face. However, it was not enough to deny the Aussie. Whittaker mixed leg kicks with aggressive punching combinations and also scored effectively in the clinch, with short punches, foot stomps and knees to the legs. It was the start of a three-fight losing streak for Hall, establishing a clear ceiling withing the division for the gifted but mercurial competitor.
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