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Preview: UFC 302 Prelims

Hafez vs. Gall


Welterweights

Bassil Hafez (8-4-1, 0-1 UFC) vs. Mickey Gall (7-5, 6-5 UFC)

ODDS: Hafez (-325), Gall (+260)

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Gall’s return after a two-year layoff is a pleasant surprise, as the New Jersey native has turned himself into a solid fighter who’s better than his reputation would likely suggest. Gall’s still probably best known for his 2016, where he got the nod to welcome Phil Brooks to the UFC and beat him handily, then followed with a submission win over Sage Northcutt. After that, the UFC didn’t seemingly have much of an idea on how to capitalize on that momentum, given that Gall was still one of the rawest fighters on the roster. Over the years, Gall has traded wins and losses as a standout grappler who has developed a decent striking game but never found the elite athleticism to entirely control a fight. There are times when stronger athletes can just find takedowns and pin him to the mat, and Gall’s last outing in 2022 saw him get knocked out by Mike Malott. Still, Gall’s a solid litmus test to see which opponents belong on the UFC roster, and it will be interesting to see how Hafez fares after an impressive UFC debut.

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Hafez had a solid if unspectacular regional record before a big last-minute opportunity against rising contender Jack Della Maddalena fell into his lap in July. It looked like an unwinnable fight for Hafez on paper and probably should have been in practice, but he managed to overachieve and earn a split decision loss, mostly through pursuing takedowns and luring Della Maddalena into some poor grappling decisions. Gall is the more consistent fighter, but Hafez has a clear horsepower advantage that should make this interesting. Hafez could sting Gall or wind up as another opponent who can overpower and outwrestle him. With that said, Hafez hasn’t been an overwhelming grappler in the past and could just as easily find himself in Gall’s wheelhouse if he takes things to the mat. Hafez finding a finish wouldn’t be a shock, but Gall is an underrated fighter. Plus, Hafez has tended to tire if forced to fight at a high pace for a long stretch of time, so the call is that the New Jersey native can grind out a hometown win here. The pick is Gall via decision.

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