MMAjunkie Radio cohost and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom provides an in-depth breakdown of all of UFC Fight Night 124’s main-card bouts. Today, we look at the co-main event.
UFC Fight Night 124 takes place Sunday at Scottrade Center in St. Louis and is the promotion’s first trip to the city. The card airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.
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Uriah Hall (14-8 MMA, 6-6 UFC)
- Height: 6’0″ Age: 33 Weight: 185 lbs. Reach: 79″
- Last fight: Knockout win over Krysztof Jotko (Sept. 16, 2017)
- Camp: Xtreme Couture (Las Vegas, NV)
- Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
- Risk management: Fair
+ “TUF 17” finalist
+ 2x Ring of Combat champion
+ Regional muay Thai titles
+ 11 KO victories
+ 1 submission win
+ 6 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Fast hand and foot speed
+ Counters and reads well
+ Dynamic kicking attack
^ Accurate spinning assaults
+ Strong inside the clinch
+ Underrated grappling ability
^ Good defensive instincts
+/- 3-2 against UFC southpaws
Vitor Belfort (26-13-1 MMA, 15-9-1 UFC)
- Height: 6’0″ Age: 40 Weight: 185 lbs. Reach: 74″
- Last fight: Decision win over Nate Marquardt (June 3, 2017)
- Camp: Tristar Gym (Canada)
- Stance/striking style: Southpaw/kickboxing
- Risk management: Fair
+ Former UFC light-heavyweight champ
+ UFC heavyweight tournament winner
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt
+ 18 KO victories
+ 3 submission wins
+ 19 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Accurate left hand
^ Coming forward and off the counter
+ Dangerous kicking attacks
+ Superb killer instinct
+ Improved wrestling ability
+ Serviceable guard game
^ Looks for submissions or standups
– Dropped or stopped in 4 of last 6 fights
A legend who needs no introduction, Belfort has been banging it out with the best for more than 20 years professionally. Coming off of his first decision win in more than a decade, Belfort will be looking to continue his storied career by demonstrating that old dogs can learn new tricks.
Standing in the Brazilian veteran’s way is Hall, a talented martial artist who has paved a path of his own since his stint on “The Ultimate Fighter 17.” After turning around a three-fight skid in September, Hall will now test his skills against the sport’s first phenom.
Starting off on the feet, we have a pairing of two dynamic strikers who carry a similar spirit to their game.
Belfort, the southpaw, has had many iterations of his style since his first appearance at UFC 12. Initially storming the scene as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brawler with fast hands, Belfort steadily sharpened his technique, taking bits and pieces from the camps he would work with over the years.
By the time he returned to the octagon at UFC 103, we saw a much more mature fighter, one who could counter or come forward with accuracy that was almost spooky. And despite Belfort coming up short in title attempts to the likes of Anderson Silva and Jon Jones, he still strung together an impressive reel of finishes, including a trifecta of kick KOs in 2013.
After that, a lot changed for both the sport and Belfort.
Although the Brazilian legend went on to earn a 2-2-1 record after his last failed bid for the title in 2014, he continued to work hard at improving his game – even at the advanced stages of his career.
In fact, we have seen an even more disciplined version of Belfort since he has been working with Firas Zahabi in Montreal. Given that Belfort is a fighter who traditionally lives and dies by the sword, it was impressive to see him maintain his composure for three rounds.
Furthermore, Belfort’s triggers – though not as fast as before – still appear to be intact. Whether he is slipping and returning with his classic uppercut-hook combination or unleashing his lethal left crosses and kicks, the Brazilian can crack when he needs to.
Considering that Belfort is facing a fellow fighter who also heavily relies on his confidence, then I suspect he will need to exercise his veteran savvy early and often.
Hall – who was also a recipient of a lot of hype early on in his career – had heaps of pressure put on his plate after his performances on “TUF 17.”
Coming from a traditional martial arts base, we saw Hall hit scary spin kicks and unorthodox assaults throughout the entire series. A freeform striker, Hall’s dynamism does best when allowed room to breathe.
Usually working behind a steady dose of feints and fakes, Hall will attempt to draw out the reactions and offense of his opposition. Keeping a cannon of a right hand at the ready, the native of Jamaica can either sit back and counter or come forward should he find something to his liking.
When feeling in stride, Hall will spin with surprising accuracy, typically working off of his previously established reads. However, like his current counterpart, Hall has also traditionally struggled when pressured.
With that in mind, it will be interesting to see what improvements Hall has made since moving shop to Xtreme Couture. Despite the sample size not being a large one, Hall has shown improvements to his underhook awareness inside of the clinch, as well as upgraded fundamentals on the feet.
Should Hall continue to build around his game, then I suspect he will be difficult for a fighter like Belfort to pressure.
Nevertheless, Hall will still need to be careful when attempting to circle away from the fence. Belfort may not be known for shooting takedowns and clinging onto clinches, but he stalks with the best of them and could make Hall pay should his habit of circling right show itself here.
The oddsmakers and public seem settled with an opinion, listing Hall -300 and Belfort +250 as of this writing.
Given that each man carries underrated counter-wrestling skills, I suspect that this battle will be decided standing. And if that happens, then I believe that speed will make the difference.
Belfort still has the tools to get things done offensively, but his decreased ability to see shots coming is the thing that screams at me the most when watching his past few performances. Unless Belfort can bring out the first-round phenom that this matchup arguably calls for, then I see Hall riding out the turbulence en route to a crushing second-round stoppage.
Official pick: Hall inside the distance
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: UFC Fight Night 124 co-main-event breakdown: Speed could determine Vitor Belfort vs. Uriah Hall