There were a lot of people hoping Uriah Hall would be able to shut up Sean Strickland. He never came close. Not that Hall didn’t land a few nice shots, but Strickland’s constant pressure and jab stayed in the face of Hall all night, breaking Hall mentally more than it did physically... and Hall appeared to have been broken physically. By the final round, Hall’s head was hanging in apparent defeat, even as he launched the occasional desperation strike. It was not to be, as Strickland took a clear and decisive decision unanimously at UFC Vegas 33 tonight.
The win gives Strickland four consecutive wins at middleweight and five overall. None of those contests have been particularly close either, so it feels safe to call him a contender as opposed to just being a name to watch. Don’t be fooled by his declaration that he doesn’t care about who he’s fighting... all fighters have an ego and want to declare themselves the best. A title shot is probably two more wins away, but he wasn’t even on the radar a year ago.
Even though he was dominated, the loss doesn’t really hurt Hall. In many ways, this result was expected as Hall tends to be losing fights until the instant he wins one. That instant never came and he maintains his spot hovering around the fringe of the top ten as a gatekeeper. Maybe next year he can have a decent birthday....
As for the rest of the card....
- For all the crap about Cheyanne Buys and Gloria de Paula being in the co-main event slot – and I agree they shouldn’t have been there – Buys made sure nobody could complain about her performance, scoring a brutal head kick on de Paula. A few more punches and elbows later and Buys had her first UFC win in the bag.
- A week ago, Jared Gooden wasn’t on the radar of this card. Now, I have a hard time believing he won’t be taking home a $50K bonus. He caught Niklas Stolze with a clean combination, dropping the German and sending him to la-la land even before the follow up punches. Hell of a way to score his first UFC win.
- Melsik Baghdasaryan and Collin Anglin entered the night largely unknown, both making their UFC debut. Baghdasaryan left with a few more people very aware of the bright future he has, piecing up the larger Anglin before finding a flush head kick in the second to score an impressive win.
- Through two rounds, Bryan Barberena couldn’t have been more disappointing. The favorite was listless, allowing Jason Witt to have his way with him. The third round rolled around and Barberena came to life, knowing he needed to go for the finish, coming thisclose to getting it, only for Witt to just hang on for dear life in one of the best single rounds ever put on in the history of the sport… no hyperbole.
- No one debated whether Rafa Garcia was a better athlete or harder hitter than Chris Gruetzemacher heading into their contest. The first round clearly showed that. However, Gruetzemacher proved to have more cardio, absorbing Garcia’s early offense and providing a steady stream of offense to take the last two rounds in a classically gritty performance for a win.
- Kai Kamaka should have taken the W. Unfortunately, a pair of inadvertent fouls – eye poke and groin strike – actually convinced the referee to take a point. I’m not complaining, just surprised. Instead, the point deduction resulted in a majority draw with Danny Chavez, creating a decision that may not have left anyone satisfied, but was appropriate given the amount of fouls.
- I don’t know who got through to Jinh Yu Frey, but convincing her to let her hands fly was the best thing for her career. Rather than looking to outwrestle the large Ashley Yoder, Frey was aggressive with her hands and cowed Yoder for large chunks of the fight. It gave Frey her second consecutive win, the judges unanimously giving her every round.
- All Zarrukh Adashev had to do was avoid Ryan Benoit’s power… and he nearly failed in that despite attacking Benoit’s mobility. Benoit continued moving forward and hurt Adashev a couple of times, but Adashev was the far busier fighter, giving the youngster his first UFC win and likely sending Benoit packing from the organization.
- The reputation of the Cosce brothers is fast start, fast fade. Orion Cosce lived up to that to perfection. In his UFC debut, the older Cosce brother dominated Phil Rowe in the first round, only to slow considerably in the second and let Rowe tee off. Rowe eventually found the finish late in the second after a brutal onslaught from the lanky welterweight.