by: Brent Wilson
It's the last single gender show for a while, what better way to see the show off than with both semi-final tilts leading to this weekend's finale. The two brightest prospects are Josh Samman and ESPECIALLY Uriah Hall, who is on the most impressive, devastating run in TUF history. Let's see if they can avoid the upset train.
The winning coach and fighter will each get a Harley Davidson....after Jose Aldo's crash, and Will Ribeiro's career ending accident, and even Kyle Kingsbury's Vespa wipeout the UFC should really follow other major sports lead and try to limit their athletes riding and especially shouldn't be encouraging it.
SEMI-FINAL FIGHT #1
Josh Samman (9-3), Notable Wins: Chris Cope. Notable Losses: Dan Cramer.
Strengths: Samman is athletic, light on his feet and displays fast, clean striking. His clean technique and quick hands also give him legit knockout power. His athleticism has been enough to outclass a number of his foes, easily taking them down then laying on hard ground and pound.
Weaknesses: Samman has had issues with his wrestling, most prominently displayed in his loss to Dan Cramer. Samman struggled to disengage, create any movement or space off his back, and was unable to take the fight down himself against an opponent he couldn't simply out-strength.
Samman does have the athleticism to mitigate this concern and has some of the most potential of any fighter on the show.
Kelvin Gastelum (4-0), Notable Wins: None really. Notable Losses: None.
Strengths: At 21 Kelvin is the youngest competitor ever on TUF. Gastelum's been able to completely outmatch lesser competition on the Southwest scene. Gastelum has shown power in both hands and the ability to throw around opponents, but given the opposition level there's really not a whole lot you can take from his prior fights, the competition on the show is going to be a big step up for him. Gastelum's strength, toughness, and wrestling ability allowed him to finish a very strong opponent in Bubba McDaniel in the opening round.
Weaknesses: Gastelum's stocky and stand only 5'9", pretty significantly undersized for Middleweight. Gastelum's tough but his striking is really raw, with winging shots and plodding footwork. He's young, inexperienced and raw, he has power and toughness but without the top level athleticism or skills to consistently top more skilled or well rounded opponents. His striking and maintenance of top control continued to look very raw against McDaniel resulting in a wild scramblefest.
Samman is much longer and lighter on his feet landing leg kicks and pumping his jab to try and keep Gastelum at bay. Once Gastelum starts closing in Samman stops moving his feet and Gastelum is easily able to trip him down to full guard. Samman's very active from his back and rolls for an armbar attempt. This activity does leave Samman open for shots and Gastelum lands a few nice hammerfists.
Samman is able to scramble to his knees and back up as Gastelum leaves a lot of room for him to move when passing to side. Samman tries to wrench Gastelum down from the clinch but ends up falling backwards into a horrible position, pinned sideways against the cage with half-guard. Gastelum takes advantage and lands several hard punches. Gastelum lands some more good shots as Samman fights to regain guard.
Back in full guard Samman again tries to work an active open guard but Gastelum shows tremendous poise, remaining patient, postured up high and landing some solid clean punches when the opportunities present themselves. Gastelum passes to side and Samman again tries to roll to his knees, this time Gastelum sinks a hook in and LOCKS UP THE REAR NAKED!
Gastelum falls back and sinks in the other hook and Samman has no choice but to tap out.
WINNER: Kelvin Gastelum by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 3:59 of Round One
Tremendous finishing instincts shown by Gastelum in his last three fights, two of which he quickly locked up the choke when his opponents tried to scramble up. He still is very raw in striking and footwork, and is far from an athletic dynamo for the division but he's got big power, is strong, tough as hell, and has shown the ability to grab finishes when the opening is there. I don't think better fighters will give him those openings, but kudos to him for progressing this far as the last pick to Team Sonnen.
Josh Samman still has a fair deal of potential as an athletic, quick striker with clean technique and power, but his footwork when pressed, defensive wrestling and positioning are huge limiting factors against better competition.
Uriah Hall (7-2)
, Notable Wins: A whole bunch of journeymen...which isn't an insult, there's value in handling Mitch Whitesel, Aung La Nsang and co.
Notable Losses: Chris Weidman, Costas Phillipou.
Strengths: The Team Tiger Schulmann property can do really do it all on the feet, he's crazy athletic with power and accuracy, firing superman punches, counter shots, switch kicks, head kicks, wheel kicks, and hard knees. He has also fought smart tactically tripping opponents down and riding out rounds on top to ensure he's winning, but it's his kickboxing that can be absolutely frightening.
Weaknesses: Hall is guilty of sometimes starting slow, or fighting passively or in bursts which allows a lot of lesser opponents to hang around. This could be due to him conserving energy or potentially having cardio concerns. Hall's defensive wrestling has always been a question and Weidman absolutely mauled him on the ground.....although that's no great sin. Hall has given up position in scrambles and doesn't have the tightest or most active top game.
Hall is the top prospect on the show and has the potential to be a top-10 Middleweight, we'll see if he can keep it up and reach that lofty ceiling.Dylan Andrews (15-4):
Kiwi. Losses to Jesse Taylor, James Vainikolo, Brian Ebersole. Wins over Ross Dallow, Shone Carter, Yuji Hisamatsu.
Strengths: The lanky Kiwi is a Muay Thai practitioner with flashy stand-up and big power in his hands, especially his right. Clean counter puncher. Good footwork until pressed, good athlete. Has shown opportunistic offensive wrestling ability to take down and control opponents flashing some good elbows from on top as well.
Weaknesses: Poor defensive wrestling technique which spells doom against better opposition. Paws with his lead hand.
Andrews takes the center of the cage but it's Hall who controls the striking. Hall really shows off the completeness and variety of his game, pumping home jabs, threatening with head kicks and throwing counter uppercuts whenever Andrews looks to close the distance.
This is the more passive Hall that often shows up, not the thirty second destroyer, but the kickboxer who looks to pile up points from the outside, circling and landing clean jabs, and a bunch of kicks high and low. Andrews does land a BIG counter right over a Hall jab.
Even when fighting more slowly Hall is dangerous, his kicks are crackling and his punching technique is clean. Hall starts to pick up the pace and Andrews has absolutely no answers, Hall landing more kicks and stepping in with combos.
Andrews steps in and lands a big left hand but Hall doesn't change his game at all, more kicks, more kicks, more kicks, more jabs, more jabs, more jabs.
Hall's round easily 10-9. When you look at his record and see lots of third round stoppages this is why, he's more than comfortable dominating rounds with jabs and leg kicks rather than exposing himself and looking for killshots.
Jab. Head kick. Jab. Head kick. Jab. Jab. Jab x infinity. Team Jones is SCREAMING at Andrews to close the distance and throw but Hall isn't giving him a chance, circling beautifully and throwing and landing jabs before Andrews can get set.
Andrews grabs a hold of Hall for the first time and is ragdolled as Hall easily pushes him away, Andrews tumbles backwards. Andrews is still throwing nothing, it's hard when every time you open up even a little you eat a jab from a faster, stronger, more technically proficient opponent.
Andrews is trying to open up more but Hall is able to move back and avoid. This does give Andrews the chance to pin Hall to the fence and drop for a double leg. Hall tries to turn out of it but gets lifted up and taken down for the first time this season.
Andrew's face is a mess from the jabs and he's leaking from the nose. Hall has a kimura on Andrews right arm from half guard, it's not threatening as a submission, but it does hold Andrews in place. Hall lets go once he can regain full guard and starts striking like crazy from his back.
Andrews covers up AND ROLLS OVER TO HIS SIDE! He gives up full mount almost voluntarily and Hall keeps pumping fists. Andrews has nothing left and Steve Mazzagatti has to jump in to say the prone Andrews with only seconds left.
WINNER: Uriah Hall by TKO (Strikes) at 4:46 of Round Two.
Uriah Hall is a beast, he kicks and punches like a horse. But lots of guys do that, what makes his striking scary is that he has clean technique, great footwork and excellent timing. He fought at a measured pace against Andrews and just completely picked him apart.
Hall has been guilty of starting slow, slower than he fought in the first round here, and his defensive wrestling is also an issue but it takes a high level fighter to be able to survive against him and take advantage of his weaknesses.
Hall will be a big favorite against Gastelum, he has top ten potential and I struggle to see how Gastelum's raw striking and footwork won't get completely picked apart, Hall's footwork and movement also limit the chances of him getting caught by a wild Gastelum haymaker.
This was a fun season, it had fights and I like fights.