Sign up for ESPN+ right here, and you can then stream the UFC live on your smart TV, computer, phone, tablet or streaming device via the ESPN app.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday will return to Las Vegas with UFC Fight Night 181—the promotion’s first-ever fight card on Halloween. The main event provides the lead story, as Anderson Silva’s confrontation with Uriah Hall figures to be his last, bringing to a close one of the greatest careers of all-time. Elsewhere, another appearance from Greg Hardy mars an otherwise-entertaining main card. Bryce Mitchell looks for his most significant victory to date in his co-headliner with Andre Fili, while Kevin Holland and Bobby Green try to move forward with surprisingly successful 2020 campaigns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now to the preview for the UFC Fight Night “Hall vs. Silva” main card:
MiddleweightsUriah Hall (15-9) vs. Anderson Silva (34-10)
ODDS: Hall (-225), Silva (+185)
It appears the UFC will hold the last fight of a true great for a second straight week; and while results alone guarantee Silva a place in the Greatest of All-Time conversation, he will always have his own spot in terms of showing what this sport is capable of. Peers like Georges St. Pierre and Khabib Nurmagomedov were no less impressive in their ability to impose their wills upon their opponents, but a lot of post-fight discussion centered around game plans and execution. Most analysis around Nurmagomedov, for example, centered around how he managed to consistently funnel opponents into the most dominant aspects of his game and then follow a particularly brutal flowchart. However, Silva’s dominant victories spoke much more to the open-ended nature of mixed martial arts. Unlike the cold calculation of a St. Pierre victory, Silva’s wins felt improvisational, like great jazz, with “The Spider” seemingly just flowing and reacting to whatever was brought to him in the moment before he decided to close the show. While every contender for MMA’s proverbial Mount Rushmore is given a certain level of respect, the reaction to Silva has added an additional level of awe, which even carried over into his fights. Since Silva lost his middleweight title and shattered his leg against Chris Weidman in 2013, a few weird years have followed, as the Brazilian has had to rely more and more on the aura that he brings inside of the cage. Silva had obviously lost a step in his first few post-title bouts, but he could string together enough bursts of offense and flash enough of the old “Spider” to make himself a competitive out. After a two-year layoff from 2017 to 2019—the result of Silva’s second issue with drug tests, a cloud that looms over his career to an extent—he has essentially had to rely on his reputation and little else. His return bout against Israel Adesanya was a shining example of this reality. Silva flashed some of his old defensive reflexes but did little in terms of mounting effective offense, yet his aura alone was enough to keep him in the fight. Against opponents like Adesanya, who have partially been inspired to get into the sport thanks to Silva, the memory of his spectacularly embarrassing opponents is enough to imply a threat that no longer seems to exist. Contrast that with Silva’s last bout, a one-sided loss to Jared Cannonier at UFC 237. Cannonier apparently thinks he is a god in the flesh, and he gave Silva little respect as a result, simply throwing kicks to the leg until the Brazilian went down with an injury. It seems a shame to do so after an all-time great career, but it feels like analyzing Silva’s fights have more to do with his opponent’s mentality than anything the former champion himself brings to the table. As always, mentality is where things get interesting with Hall.
While Silva was preparing for his first bout with Weidman, Hall was capturing the public’s imagination with an all-time great run on “The Ultimate Fighter.” Hall has always cut an interesting figure, and his days on the reality show were the right introduction, with “Primetime” attempting to balance his roots in the sport—Hall initially took up martial arts to defend himself from bullying as a teenager—with the shockingly brutal knockouts that he was inflicting upon his fellow contestants. Hall’s spinning kick knockout of Adam Cella remains an elite-level highlight, and those types of performances had people discussing him as the next Silva—not only in terms of his imagination-capturing style, but also in mentioning that he could be the man to eventually take the middleweight strap from the then-champion. Of course, Hall spent the next few months dampening his own hype, as he dropped the Season 17 final to Kelvin Gastelum before suffering a huge upset loss to John Howard. Those fights showed the fatal flaw that has hindered Hall for most of his career: If he is not pressed, Hall is more than content to essentially have a sparring match with his opponent. Thanks to his knockouts, Hall has been described as fighting like a video game character, but that description seems to cut a different way; he basically has to accumulate damage in order to charge up his proverbial super meter, only choosing to unleash something crazy once he is in danger of losing the fight. It has resulted in a frustrating career filled with flat performances and beautifully violent moments of brilliance, though, as always, there is hope that Hall has finally turned the corner. Hall switched camps to Fortis MMA prior to his last bout, a September 2019 affair against Antonio Carlos Jr., and showed off some of the most aggressive form of his career in an impressive win. Of course, facing Silva is a completely different animal.
Honestly, there does not appear to be much hope for a Silva win, but how this plays out will all come down to Hall’s mentality. If Hall follows the same path as his last bout and starts fighting from the jump, he should be able to play with his food here. Silva may still have some defensive reflexes, but there is just not much of an offensive threat coming back at his opponents anymore. However, even if Hall was just matching Carlos Jr.’s aggression and fights a slower-paced fight against Silva, he should still be the much more effective striker and a harder hitter. Over five rounds, it is hard to see Hall being so inactive—or Silva throwing enough offense—that the Brazilian can win rounds, particularly with the former champion trying to rebound from another major leg injury at 45 years of age. Hopefully, this is just 25 minutes of entertaining strangeness before Silva calls it a career, but betting on the most depressing ending possible is usually a safe bet for legends in this sport. The pick is Hall via first-round knockout.
Continue Reading » Mitchell vs. Fili