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Is Uriah Hall a Legit Middleweight Contender?

Kelvin Ma/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

The UFC’s middleweight division is a weight class on the rise.

Undefeated champion Chris Weidman is in the driver’s seat, while guys like Luke Rockhold, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Yoel Romero round out one of the most exciting group of contenders the roster has ever seen. Chuck in veterans like Anderson Silva, Vitor Belfort, Lyoto Machida, Tim Kennedy and even Michael Bisping, and the 185-pound landscape becomes even more spectacular.

But when a fighter with the skill set of Uriah Hall is thrown into the mix, the division becomes unpredictable. That’s a weight class distinction that adds even more excitement to an already worthy title picture.

For Hall, who may very well possess the most explosive striking among middleweights, winning now is everything. He’s 31 years old, in the prime of his career and on the cusp of something special.

The current owner of a two-fight win streak, “Prime Time” is scheduled to take on Australian striker Robert Whittaker this Saturday at UFC 193. Whittaker has finished both of his fights since moving up from welterweight and offers an unorthodox style of fighting that would be a headache for any unsuspecting middleweight.

Needless to say, Hall has to defeat the 24-year-old this weekend in order to solidify his spot as an up-and-coming contender. Someone who has finally put it all together entering the pinnacle of his career.

Because if the former TUF standout can finish his third fight in a row (fifth overall in the UFC) then he would have to considered a title threat entering 2016, right?

Absolutely.

What Hall did to Gegard Mousasi back at UFC Fight Night 75 in September was nothing short of amazing. He knocked out an elite veteran with 45 professional bouts who has never been finished by striker before. This includes fights with heavy hitters like Dan Henderson, Mark Hunt, Melvin Manhoef, Hector Lombard and Lyoto Machida.

The fact that Hall ended Mousasi with a jumping back kick and flying knee is icing on the cake.

But despite his performance and ability to outpoint one of the most technical strikers in all of mixed martial arts, it is Hall’s strength of mind that remains his most improved skill. Escaping the mental restraints he put on himself a few years ago is absolutely detrimental to his evolution as a fighter.

In other words, how can Hall emphatically finish his opponents if he’s afraid to hurt them?

That’s the obstacle that the budding knockout artist has learned to hurdle over his past few Octagon appearances. And if his dominant performance opposite Mousasi is evidence of a long-lasting separation from in-fight remorse and caution, the sky is the limit for Hall entering 2016.

Of course, the athletic dynamo must work on other facets of his game before he meets the division’s upper echelon of contenders. This includes his wrestling defense, ability to fight off his back and his effectiveness on the judges’ scorecards (all three of his UFC loses came via split decision).

If Hall can conquer some of his weaknesses then it’s time to consider him a bona fide threat to the throne. And considering his upcoming bout with Whittaker will take place on one of the biggest stages in promotional history, it’s safe to say that the UFC is on board in assisting Hall’s growth as a blue-chip fighter.

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