The UFC was quick to mend UFC Fight Night 99 once it lost its headliner in Gunnar Nelson vs. Dong Hyun Kim, replacing it with an interesting middleweight rematch between Gegard Mousasi and Uriah Hall. Mousasi has not looked better since debuting in the UFC in 2013 and the enigma of Hall’s career continues as he is on a two-fight losing streak following his career-high victory over Mousasi a year ago.
On the surface, the obvious conclusion is this is Mousasi’s chance to correct a mistake on his professional resume. At the same time though, the timing is so odd it begs the question of just how much juice Mousasi can potentially squeeze out of this — sure, he can avenge a bad blemish, but at this point, how much does it actually mean?
It was about mid-day local time when Mousasi and Hall stepped into the Octagon in the middle of the famous Saitama Super Arena in Japan for UFC Fight Night 75. Mousasi was justifiably the favorite going in, holding about 4:1 odds over Hall. After all, Mousasi certainly had more and better experience going in, and Hall’s UFC career had been anything but consistent or predictable.
Mousasi utilized his wrestling prowess, which is often forgotten about in light of his striking technique, successfully, controlling Hall for the entirety of Round 1. Things looked like they were well on their way for Mousasi’s hand to get raised in the end.
Round 2 begins and as Mousasi starts to pressure Hall toward the fence again, Hall suddenly throws a jumping spinning back-kick; Mousasi manages to duck right into Hall’s incoming foot. He goes reeling when Hall sprints forward with a flying knee that also connects to the head, and after some brief follow-up strikes on the ground, the fight is called.
Just like that, Mousasi’s seemingly easy approaching victory was flipped on it head and Hall’s unpredictable, flashy striking that he sometimes manages to pull out, landed in somewhat Hail Mary fashion.
It was not too long ago Nate Diaz insisted a fighter is not a real fighter if he does not want another chance to beat the man who managed to beat him — defending Conor McGregor’s obsession with getting a rematch against himself following UFC 196.
It is a competitive spirit that exists in all forms of competition, and you certainly cannot blame Mousasi for wanting another shot to prove his superiority over Hall — which he clearly thinks he has. Quite frankly though, after the events of the last year since they fought, you have to think Mousasi’s desire for redemption is much more of personal value than it is career value.
The hardcore MMA fans have known about Mousasi for years with the work he did outside the UFC in North America and Japan since 2008. Once he finally arrived in the UFC though, his entrance was a slow one. It took some time, but it was only after the Hall loss that Mousasi has now seemed to hit his stride again.
Over the last year, Mousasi has gone 3-0, with each successive victory more impressive than the last. First he picked up an impressive unanimous decision over veteran Thales Leites. At UFC 200, Mousasi crushed Thiago Santos in a Performance of the Night KO. And in one of his most impressive wins to date, Mousasi managed to systematically pulverize Vitor Belfort at UFC 204. Not only that, but Mousasi managed to finally make a splash in the division as a personality after the bout, taking verbal jabs at middleweight champion Michael Bisping and calling out Anderson Silva — finally making his presence well known as a top fighter in the division.
Meanwhile, Hall has continued his career just in the way we have all come to expect . As noted, since defeating Mousasi in such spectacular fashion, he has dropped his two recent bouts. First, fellow Ultimate Fighter alum Robert Whittaker out-pointed him at UFC 193. And just a few weeks ago, Derek Brunson scored his best career win, catching Hall with a vicious hook early in Round 1 that dropped him hard to the canvas, prompting ref Herb Dean to wave it off in a semi-controversially TKO stoppage.
It has been the story of Hall’s career. He came through The Ultimate Fighter with people hailing him as the next big thing in the middleweight division, only to lose to the season’s young underdog Kelvin Gastelum in the finals. And since then his career has been up and down, mixing spectacular performances with lackluster wins, and losses thrown in between for a mess of inconsistency.
Coming off two losses, how much weight would a redemption win over Hall mean for Mousasi?
Arguably, it’d be all looks and no substance to toss that on his resume now. Something to consider, though, is the aforementioned ebb and flow of Hall’s career, where catching him coming off losses has not proven beneficial for several fighters in the past. As if MMA weren’t unpredictable enough already, Hall-Mousasi I added another chapter to that chronicle, and who’s to say Mousasi is not walking into another trap just as he has ascended so high.
Following his Belfort win, Mousasi seemed to have no direct interest in fighting Hall again — calling that 2015 loss merely a “fluke.” Mousasi was going after a bigger fish in “The Spider,” which obviously means that could not be worked out or Mousasi leaped on a chance for a short notice redo in the wake of a main event cancellation.
Either way, you’ve got to think Mousasi should have probably held out for a bigger fight. Just as he has reached his career high point in the UFC, he is gambling with it over a fight that simply does not hold the same value at this point in time, potentially cutting off his momentum just as it was starting to take off.