We’re about to witness the finale of Anderson Silva’s legendary UFC career. I would say career in general, but there’s been so much pushback from Silva about him not wanting his career to be over, I got a feeling we’ll see him turn up somewhere else. Regardless of whether this is the end of the line or just his UFC career, it is a clear delineation for him and the official end of an era. There’s been a lot of talk of who the GOAT is lately following Khabib Nurmagomedov’s retirement, it’s fortuitous Silva’s retirement fight comes a week later, allowing us to reminisce about Silva’s run of dominance. While Khabib was intimidating in his own way, Silva’s opening of his UFC career captured the imagination of fans in a way that had never been done before. Hell, it still hasn’t been replicated… probably never will. Will he find some of that magic one more time?
The forgotten man in this equation is a man who once received numerous comparisons to Silva for his own ability to yank a vicious KO seemingly out of nowhere. Hall developed a cult following when he delivered the most vicious KO in TUF history, landing a spinning hook kick that literally sent Adam Cella to the hospital. Of course, that was eight years ago and while he’s certainly had some badass moments since that time, Hall hasn’t lived up to the high expectations that were placed upon him following his coming out party.
Hall might have more natural power than Silva, but he doesn’t have the natural feel for fighting Silva does. To be fair, no one does – which is why his creativity paid off with the dividends it did as opposed to costing him – Hall’s temperament should have made it obvious he could never be the next Silva. Silva appears to be playing games at times, doing things to amuse himself more than anything. Hall doesn’t look like he enjoys being in the cage.
Hall’s fighting style reflects how much he seems to enjoy fighting. If you back off and give him space, he falls into bouts of inactivity. If you get in his face attacking, he’ll swing back with a vengeance. Hall has developed a jab in recent years that allows him to be far more consistent and likely to win a decision. The question is whether Silva will engage him enough to bring the dog out of Hall as Silva, who rarely had a consistent strategy even when he was on his legendary win streak, has been more aimless than ever in the last few years.
Of course, the one time Silva was aggressive in recent years was against Israel Adesanya. It’s no coincidence that was his best performance since losing the title. Plus, it’s also his last opportunity to create a memory in the UFC. The possibility of this contest being a stinker certainly exists as both can be hesitant, but the motivation is there – for both combatants – to step up and make this contest memorable.
Admittedly, I’ve been dancing around the most obvious factor in this contest: Silva’s age. He hasn’t fought since May of last year due to a knee injury sustained from a Jared Cannonier leg kick. That marks the second major leg injury that induced a layoff of over a year. Silva’s durability has to be called into question, especially given the type of power Hall can produce. Silva’s reaction time is still good, but that’s only because his natural feel for fighting is unparalleled in addition to his exceptional reflexes when he was in his prime. The problem is Silva hasn’t properly adjusted to the decline in speed. There’s a reason he hasn’t finished an opponent since he was the middleweight champion… unless you count Michael Bisping. Regardless, at 45, I don’t trust Silva anymore, particularly against someone as durable and resilient as Hall. There’s a damn good chance Hall freezes in the moment, but if I’ve got to pick someone, I’ll go with the less shopworn of the two. Hall via TKO of RD3
Bryce Mitchell vs. Andre Fili, Featherweight
Finally, Mitchell is getting what he has been beating his chest over for his last several contests: Reebok is providing his with camouflage shorts!
Showing no shortage of personality, Mitchell has successfully made a name for himself after entering the organization with little fanfare via TUF. Unashamed of his southern heritage, there is one thing that defines Mitchell even more than his redneck personality: his fearlessness. Not a great technical wrestler, Mitchell isn’t afraid to put himself in a compromising position if it means getting the fight to the mat. That’s because there are few who have proven to be as elusive on the mat, working his way out of situations most wouldn’t be able to escape. All he needs is the slightest opening and he’ll go after his own submission. In fact, Mitchell is only the second fighter in UFC history to secure a submission via a twister.
Many see that as being problematic for Fili as he has a reputation for being prone to submissions. To be fair to the longtime Team Alpha Male rep, he hasn’t been submitted in over five years despite keeping a busy schedule. In fact, Fili has eliminated many of the mental mistakes that plagued him earlier in his career. No longer does he pursue takedowns when he’s winning the striking battle on the feet, keeping the fight where he’s at an advantage. Making better use of his length has been another factor in his recent success. That doesn’t mean he’s closed his defensive holes – those are still numerous – but his offense attack is more consistent.
No surprise given his fearless nature, Mitchell is far from a defensive savant himself. Then again, there hasn’t been a lot to judge Mitchell on as of late as he’s been quick to get the fight to the mat in recent contests. In fact, he’s been perfect in his takedown attempts in his last two contests. Unfortunately, nobody is going to compare the takedown defense of Matt Sayles and Charles Rosa to Fili. There’s a very good chance Fili keeps the fight standing and pieces up Mitchell as it’s doubtful Mitchell can consistently take advantage of Fili’s defensive holes. However, Mitchell always seems to find a way to get the fight to the mat. While it’s true Fili hasn’t been submitted in a while, he also hasn’t faced anyone as relentless on the mat as Mitchell. Thug Nasty continues his improbable run. Mitchell via submission of RD2
- Kevin Holland’s contest with Makhmud Muradov was a sneaky good contest. Unfortunately, MMA fans don’t deserve nice things and Muradov just days before the event. Kudos to Charlie Ontiveros for stepping up on very short notice, but it’s a HUGE letdown that he’s the replacement. Never at any point has anyone considered Ontiveros to be someone the UFC was looking into outside of being a late replacement as he is now. A natural welterweight who regularly relies on the size advantage he has at 170, Ontiveros won’t have that against Holland. Even worse for the newcomer, it looks like Holland is putting it all together. The lanky striker has been making the best use of his length as he has at any other point in his career. Throw in the fact he has avoided engaging in needless grappling exchanges and it’s hard to dismiss the mental growth he has shown. Given how much Ontiveros depends on being the longer fighter and there’s no reason to believe the newcomer will be able to produce the improbable upset. Holland via TKO of RD1
- Either the pandemic has slowed down the amount of appearances or Greg Hardy’s team isn’t placing as much value on experience as this will only be his second appearance in the Octagon in 2020 after five showings in 2019. Like him or hate him, Hardy has displayed progress. For instance, he makes better use of his energy expenditures to remain effective late in contests after issues with that early in his UFC tenure. Hardy has lost any of his incredible burst that made him an NFL All-Pro, which should only become more effective as he continues to tighten up his technique. He’s still one-dimensional as he hasn’t shown any interest in pursuing a ground game, but that may work out to his benefit this time around as Maurice Greene is one of the few heavyweights with an active and effective ground game. Taller than Hardy with an equally long reach, Greene has a tendency of leaving his chin out there to be touched up, negating much of the natural defensive advantages his size would provide. However, Greene also has more high-level experience and has a good gas tank by heavyweight standards. Plus, Greene does an excellent job utilizing kicks to the body and legs. There’s a good possibility he can wear down Hardy enough to either take a decision or a late finish. Given the progress Hardy has shown, I see no reason he won’t continue to improve. He should get the job done. Hardy via TKO of RD2
- While most would like to move on from 2020 – we’re almost there – Bobby Green would love for the year to continue. Owning a single win in the previous five years combined, Green has accumulated three wins thus far in 2020 and is the betting favorite to pick up his fourth. A very emotional individual, Green appears to have put his personal affairs in order and it has come across in his performances. The swagger that defined his climb into the top ten of the rankings in the mid-2010’s has returned, ducking and dodging punches while returning with his own brand of firepower. While Green isn’t a particularly powerful puncher, he can rack up the volume in a hurry and supplements it with an underrated wrestling game. In fact, a good chunk of his recent success can be attributed to his reemphasis on utilizing his wrestling. He may have second thoughts on that as Thiago Moises has proven to be capable of making opponents pay for going to the mat with him, securing a heel hook submission in his most recent contest against Michael Johnson. Still only 25, Moises is one of the most skilled grapplers at 155 with a developing striking game. The problem is Moises is often aimless in his strategy, content to let his opponent dictate where the fight takes place rather than looking to enforce his style of fight. Moises’ wins have come by way of his opponents making mistakes. There would have been a good chance of that happening with Green a few years ago, but that appears less likely now that Green is in a good place mentally. The longtime vet is a clear favorite. Green via decision