The Ultimate Fighter and UFC tried to hype Uriah Hall as the best striker the show has ever seen, or the "next elite striker". Surely, this lost some or much of its momentum when he lost to his teammate Kevin Gastelum. While Uriah has showcased some rare skills thus far, he has also showcased several flaws.
1. The strength and weaknesses of Uriah's striking.
2. A brief discussion on John Howard and the match up.
2. Discussion of the importance of human physiology and anatomy in relation to striking.
3. Cross comparing different elite fighter's shoulder mobility, posture, and muscle balance.
*Part 1 focuses on #1 & #2
Uriah's kick(s) are what really put him on the map. With plenty of flash and shock value, he dispatched Adam Cella with a spinning heel hook kick in a spectacular fashion. At the time, the only other UFC fighter to win with such technique was Edson Barboza.
Something that Uriah does is back-pedal and then launch explosive jabs. Often, fighters will opt to parry a left jab with with the right hand, as taught generally in boxing. To exploit this, Uriah feints a jab, drawing a right hand parry, and spun to throw the powerful heel hook kick with magnificent results. When the right hand is drawn out to parry, the timeframe to block or react to such a kick is significantly reduced. With near perfect timing and sense of distance, Adam Cella was knocked out cold with this manuever: a more in-depth breakdown of this technique by Jack Slack.
The problem with this kick however, is that once an opponent knows that you have such weapon, he will be much more conscious of his parries and your positioning to create a spin. The positioning to create such a spin is vastly different from most striking positions, thereby making it relatively simple to see the shift unless properly setup. An opponent that has become cognizant of this kick is automatically less vulnerable due to the advanced footwork, accuracy, balance, flexibility, and timing involved.
This is precisely why we don't see a lot of high spin kicks. Though powerful and beautiful, they are generally as hard to do as they are risky. And obviously, a fighter generally won't win a fight just by being able to spin kick, it's simply a wonderful and powerful trick shot in a fighter's arsenal.
So then, what are other effective strikes under Uriah's arsenal? In short, other kicks. Lots of other kicks.
Uriah has an excellent and comprehensive kicking game for the most part.
1. Rear teep ; 2. Right high roundhouse ; 3. Left low roundhouse
4 & 5. Reading a kick, stiffen leg to maintain balance and minimize damage / counter ;
6. Lead teep ; 7. Rear low round house ;
8 & 9. After establishing the low kick, Uriah looks low to feint and come up with a high kick trick shot.
1 - 4. Demonstrates the excellent kicking balance and base of Uriah. He reads a low kick, stiffens his leg, returns a mid-section roundhouse, and eats another low kick while trying to counter. Not only did he land his kick, he also maintained balance after being kicked off the ground and returned to stance. ;
5. Reads high kick, blocks ; 6. Rear teep ; 7. Rear mid-section roundhouse
8-9. Jab setup into power right midsection roundhouse
1-4. Shows the type of positioning one needs to throw a spin kick. Uriah's body position becomes linear to the target, and then he spins to shoot his rear leg back into Kevin's stomach.
1. Rear low kick ; 2. Stiffens leg ; 3. Rear high kick
4. Lead low kick ; 5. Left side kick ; 6. Rear high kick
7. Lead low kick ; 8 & 9. Look low feint low go high
All 3 rounds: 1-4 , 5-9. Jabs that connected ; 5. The only cross that landed nicely
Effective tendencies / techniques in other fights:
1. In his fight against Dylan Andrews, he lands a nice right lead uppercut that also almost landed against Kevin.
2. In some of his fights, if the tempo is slow he would use a rear leg heavy / upright stance to employ lead leg roundhouse or lead teep (common in Muay Thai)
3. Inside low kick into mid-section left kick- very smooth.
4. Left lead high kick- smooth. *vs. Dylan, Aung La Nsang, Costa Philippou
To sum it up, in short, Uriah can effectively throw many types of kicks and has a decent jab and cross.
A lot of what I have to say is better said by Jack Slack, so I'll begin by quoting him:
Unfortunately comparisons (*of Uriah) to Anderson Silva are completely unfounded on a technical level. While Hall has an excellent kicking game and a good jab, his boxing - as a science- has substantial holes.
Anderson Silva is masterful at moving around the cage, as is Lyoto Machida. Uriah Hall is always fighting with his back to the cage and nowhere to move should he need to retreat. He places himself in a situation where he must always move to either one side or the other.
This is fine in one sense - he still has two directions in which he can move - but when he does move in those directions it is often with his head held high and unguarded. Against Adam Cella, Hall continued to circle into Hall's (*Jack meant Cella's) right hand with his chin up.
Against his most recent opponent, Dylan Andrews, Hall walked onto a couple of good punches from a completely passive and over matched opponent simply because he circles out with his hands out of position and his shoulders low.
On the single occasion in the bout when Andrews attacked with more than one punch in combination, he was able to back Hall onto the fence and dump him to the floor.
A final fault in Hall's stand up is his tendency to reach for punches. While he seems to have trained out his fondness for leaning straight backwards, Hall will still reach to parry punches when he is moving away. This exposes him to follow up strikes on the same side.
Faking the jab and coming with a lead hook, faking the right straight and coming with a right hook, or throwing a jab or straight and following with a high kick on the same side. These are all the sorts of things that an opponent can do to catch Hall with a telling blow through his limited defenses.
As you will see, my list is similar to Jack's points in that I emphasize mainly boxing defensive flaws.
1. Inability to consistently read punches
2. Over-slips often, very difficult to counter off over-slips
3. Off-balance and out of position often when trying to throw punches
4. Off-balance and out of position often when trying to evade punches
5. Head / Chin upright all the time
6. Lack of technical head movement
7. Lack of shoulder defence- hard to use shoulder to protect head when it's upright
8. Over-parries or reaches for parries
9. Does not block in time
10. Drops his hands without having mastered sense of distance, sense of timing, blocking defence, deflection, reading, and evasion
11. Circles into hooks, lack competent lateral movement
12. Flares his elbows to punch, makes it predictable
13. Tries to evade by leaning back too often, gets caught during the lean back
14. Lack overall punching footwork
15. Gets backed up to the cage often due to all the back-pedaling (caused by inability to properly defend against punchers)
16. Sometimes over-commits to punches (for jabs and crosses) and lands in awkward positions that are very vulnerable to counters
17. Over-reacts to feints, leans back, and then drops his hands for no good reason
18. Lacking punch diversity- does not have combination punches, his punches are mostly singular and almost always a power shot, and either jab or cross
19. Does not pull back his punches well after firing them, results in over-committing, hesitation, lack of combos, and being in vulnerable positions
20. Closes eyes often (have not developed high sensitivity to punches). During TUF (in practice), he allegedly started throw overly hard jabs after getting hit. If true, it would also support this.
21. Really stiff shoulders, chest, and neck, all of which are highly correlated to most of these technical flaws. This point is the real reason behind why I created a list of weaknesses and wrote about Uriah Hall. The next piece will discuss this in detail.
As you can see, from a technical perspective, Uriah's understanding and application of boxing is neither masterful nor elite. His athleticism, explosiveness, and kicks however does compensate for this in many of his fights.
1-2. Didn't block in time ; 3. Both hands-out-of position, left shoulder out-of-position and head upright ;
4. Overslip, hands out-of-position to counter ; 5. Arm-punch ; 6. Overslip
7-9. Head out-of-position and head upright
1-3. Leaned back as defence to superman punch, gets clocked. Leans back some more and gets clocked again.
4-6. Purely defensive mode, many parts left vulnerable ; 7. Gets clocked with hands out-of-position.
8-9. Totally out-of-position and decides to lean as defence, gets clocked.
1-2. Out-of-position punches, lack of proper shoulder and hand positioning ; 3. Gets clocked against the fence
4. Over-lean to body shot ; 5. Out of position punch
6-8. Leans back, almost gets hit with an over hand, fails to capitalize on great counter timing
9. Gets stuck on fence and gets hit
1-3. Hands out-of-position ; 4. Overreaching, head past knees ; 5. Hands out-of-position ; 6. Gets clocked while leaning back ; 7-8. Over committing to a cross, foot leaves the floor 9. Over-leaning without counter
1-2. Hands way out-of-position, gets clocked ; 3. More out-of-position lean backs ; 4. Over-committed shot
Uriah's other fights show case much of the same flaws, particularly so when he faces opponents that can execute some or all of these:
a) Competent boxing offence and boxing defence
b) Can consistently push him back
c) Threaten takedowns
e.g. Chris Weidman and Kevin Gastelum did all 3, Costa Philippou did the first two with a little bit of the third.
The reasoning is rather simple. Kicking is most effective when moving forward or when stationary, when a kicker is pushed back it will become much more difficult to execute most kicks. So in cutting off the kicking distance and timing by pushing the kicker back, he is forced to punch (or throw self-endangering and weaker kicks).
Fedor did a great demonstration of this principle against Crocop (as did others). Fighters consistently demonstrate this principle against Cheick Kongo. In so far, the case of Uriah Hall has served as another testament to how essential "The Sweet Science (boxing)" is in MMA striking, for a striker cannot be truly considered elite without it.
Dropping the hands and pulling head back out of exchanges is something that should only be done by fighters with competent reflex and thorough defensive game (as well as the ability to counter off of it e.g. Hamed, Roy Jones, Ali, Anderson Silva etc.). When standing too upright, one cannot mitigate the force by moving with it and will take more impact than necessary.
Uriah is fighting John "Doomsday" Howard, someone who appears a bit as a feeder.
John Howard looks like a very watered down version of Jake Ellenberger:
1. Stands in a squared stance
2. Can throw right low kicks
3. Loves to throws hook bombs; switches in and out of southpaw to throw them (has a nice left hook)
4. Loves to exchange; will try to block hits shelled up in order to throw back some hooks
5. Not very technical, hands out-of-position often when not blocking (and doesn't seem to see where the punches are coming from when he is blocking)
6. Throws lots of hooks when backed up against the cage
a) He isn't nearly as explosive.
b) His base isn't nearly as heavy.
c) His timing isn't nearly as good.
d) He does not pose a constant or high-level takedown threat
1. Will take a shot before coming forward
2. Takes some time to load up before firing
3. Does not use the lead shoulder well to protect himself
4. Main defence is high guard when moving forward (leaves midsection very exposed)
Stylistically, Howard is the type of fighter to beat Uriah: comes forward, boxes, and tries to take opponents down; the problem however, is that his execution is probably not high level enough.
I'm not going to say Howard has no chance, I just don't think he has a good chance (Uriah 7:3 or 8:2). While his boxing in general is a bit better than Uriah's, his defensive tendencies leave him very vulnerable to Uriah's arsenal of explosive kicks.
John, for some reason, employs the high guard to block jabs- this will set up all sorts of wonderful kicks that we will probably see. The squared up stance also makes John the target of many teeps, sidekicks, and spinning back kicks. This will likely really discourage John from coming forward. Uriah will most likely use straight punches to diffuse John's hooks (though Uriah could over-commit without technical defence and pay for it). If Uriah notices these things and establishes them, we will see John Howard as target practice.
Stay tuned for part 2, it details why Uriah's boxing may be the way it is!
As always, thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it.