A fun middleweight matchup helps set the tone this November 15, 2015 at the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia.
The Match Up
Middleweight Robert Whittaker 14-4 vs. Uriah Hall 12-5
Middleweight Robert Whittaker +120 vs. Uriah Hall -140
3 Things You Should Know
1. The 24 year old Whittaker is better than your above average Aussie, and finally coming into his own.
There’s very little science involved when it comes to prospect development other than that 24 years of age is a pretty good sweet spot for learning new tricks, and integrating those tricks into existing muscle memory.
Whittaker hasn’t experienced some sort of dramatic shift in his game, but subtle improvements have made for dramatic results. Brad Tavares was a big win for Whittaker, but this matchup will tell us a lot about just how dramatically he’s improved in the areas we know he’s good at.
2. Hall is finally making good on his TUF promise. If he gets better, so will Joe Rogan’s reactions.
I could probably tolerate Goldberg if all of his exclamations were perfectly synchronized with Rogan the way Brendan Schaub is in this video.
The Mousasi TKO was obviously a big deal for Hall, who has struggled to put his premium talent on display against premium opposition. The real challenge for Hall is proving that he’s the guy who beat Mousasi rather than the guy who lost to body model Rafael Natal. Or if he’s somewhere in between.
3. This won’t necessarily be an action fight, but it’ll deliver.
Whittaker’s real talent is his ability to set up his money punch (the left hook) without relying on it. He does a great job of throwing combinations and using his jab to establish the other facets of his game. He’s pretty stout in the grappling department, which should also prove to be a factor if he can get Hall on the ground like Mousasi did.
Hall is still a liability here. But it’s not a dramatic defect; his takedown defense is good, but I’d argue that much of it relies on the base he keeps when threatening with strikes. He’s patient, to a fault, and loves to counter. This means opponents have to work to close the distance rather than just capitalize on a predictable strike. Hall has a strong, puncturing jab, and his arsenal of spinning attacks (be it with kicks or punches) are well documented.
These guys aren’t just gonna slug it out. Despite Whittaker’s output, Hall’s power should keep him from being too adventurous or urgent. Which means plan B will be the narrative of the night. As good as the Mousasi win was, it wasn’t a sign of Hall’s progression so much as it was a sign of Hall’s capability in intervals. We already knew Hall could do that. The question is whether or not he can do that with consistency.
As I said. Whittaker will likely start out aggressive, and then move into the clinch, looking for takedowns; think a more measured approach á la Gilbert Melendez vs. Anthony Pettis. Hall will get his looks, but not enough to keep from being frustrated by the time the clock hits zero. Robert Whittaker by Decision.
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