UFC 175: Weidman vs. Machida - Uriah Hall vs. Thiago Santos Preview and Prognostication

Please don't replicate this performance Uriah. - Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting

Uriah Hall takes on fellow Middleweight Thiago Santos for a bout to decide if Hall won't become the next Phillipe Nover at UFC 175 in Vegas.

Uriah Hall vs. Thiago Santos Middleweight

So is Uriah Hall the next Phillipe Nover and we just don't know it yet?

Possibly. I hate to play into the following narrative but I'll do it anyway. As everyone and their pinko commie friends knows, there is a racial component to how observers look at black athletes. Racial stereotypes are perpetuated by the assumptions that black athletes are naturally gifted (cue the endless Rogan and Goldberg explosive and athletic aspersions), and therefore success is expected.

Too easily this turns into an indictment of that athlete's character or intelligence. Melvin Guillard is a perfect example. Everyone thinks he could be so good if only his "head was screwed on straight". Yet he's not (I'd argue, as I have before) because of the illusion of potential: he's quite terrible on the ground, isn't even all that dynamic on the feet, which makes him lacking in talent. Of course, given Melvin's history of drug problems, maybe this isn't the perfect example I intended it to be.

Still, the point remains. Hall is like Guillard: people see him as extremely gifted, and thus extremely disappointing at 1-2 in the UFC. And yet what really qualifies Hall as an "extremely gifted" athlete if we're restricting his talents to simply "hits hard, punches fast"?

In spite of all that, unlike Guillard, I do believe Hall doesn't 'think the game' well.

So you're saying he's spoiling his talents?

Not so much. Sports are as much mental as they are physical, and not just in a Yogi Berra way. 'Learning to anticipate your opponent', for example, appears to be a skill that is learned, but that becomes neuro-hardwired with experience*.

I suspect Hall is that kind of guy. He doesn't seem to read his opponents well, even if he's capable of deadly precision on the feet.

I don't like talking about magnets and bunsen burners, so can we skip this part?

I was done.

Ok cool. Thiago Santos is a +375. That seems like a really good number. What say you?

I'm still not sold on Santos. Don't get me wrong. That was a big win over Ronny Markes, and it was completely earned. And yet other than his snapping left kick to the body, which he's constantly hunting for, none of his other strengths stand out otuside of his background as a Brazilian army paratrooper. Fortunately for him he's dealing with someone who is very flawed.

As I said, I think Hall's problem is a lack of awareness. In both of his UFC losses, he seemed completely ignorant of what he had to do to gain those incremental advantages that allow you to win a decision. As abstract as it is, I think 'urgency' is a real quality in MMA: fighters who understand to the second, when they are behind on the scorecards. MMA is a sport punctuated by violence as much as it's grounded in inertia. There are long intervals of clinching, top control, and feinting that make a fight neutral: a byproduct of innumerable mechanics among so many different styles conflicting with one another. The really good fighters know how to counter that inertia with a nice quick and swift trip takedown, spinning back elbow, or feint into a fight altering kick or punch. And so forth...

Hall doesn't know how to break that inertia.

At 29 years old, I don't expect him to suddenly figure it out. This is why I lean towards Santos. Hall's power is still a factor. I mean...there's always this.

But it's not a favorable matchup. I think Hall excels when his opponent is aggressive, but isn't really a specialist. He's good at picking his shots, and finding the counter punches, and when he's committed...as he showed on TUF, also good at sticking to his jab but he doesn't weave any of it together with the intent of really punishing his opponents.

Santos isn't an aggressive fighter, and I like the way he keeps himself at range where he can land those kicks. I don't think the fight is lopsided, but I believe Santos can win committed to his left leg without worrying about Hall's uncertain attack.

Thiago Santos by Decision.

*This study refers to mirror neurons, which despite the hoopla surrounding them thanks to one of the most fascinating popularizers of neuroscience (V.S. Ramachandran), are still heavily debated.

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