Analysis, Betting, Predictions – UFC Belfast: Mousasi vs. Hall

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After the utter insanity of UFC 205 week it’s up the road to Belfast we go on Saturday night for the UFC’s last sojourn into the European market this year.

Initially, Gunnar Nelson was supposed to headline the card in an interesting fight with Dong Hyun Kim but that was cancelled after the SBG man picked up an injury in training. Instead, a rematch in the middleweight division tops a pretty lacklustre bill as Gegard Mousasi tries to defeat Uriah Hall for a second time.

To many people, this rematch even happening is a bit of a shock because, since they first met in September 2015, both men have taken different trajectories in their form.

Hall, who won the first meeting, is 0-2 over the last twelve months. Firstly, he lost a disappointing but clear decision to Robert Whittaker before getting knocked out in an early, controversial fight with Derek Brunson. And that has really been the whole story of his career. Impressive wins where you think he might have turned a corner followed by disappointing losses.

Credit: SevereMMA

For Mousasi it has been a very different year with three impressive wins in 2016. Thales Leites did manage to take him to a decision but fellow Brazilians Thiago Santos and Vitor Belfort both fell early. That brings him to 7-3 in the UFC and to 40-6-2 overall, meaning that this could be a pivotal moment in his career. Win this and Mousasi puts himself into the very volitile middleweight reckoning, lose it and he’s unlikely to ever get back into it.

As a match-up, this one hasn’t really changed since I wrote this exact same preview a year ago despite all the upheaval.

Mousasi is a strong, technical striker with good wrestling who likes to push forward. Hall is an overly patient power striker who is devastating when he can land on the button but sometimes struggles to do that.

Over the last few years Hall has improved as a grappler and does throw more strikes but if you push him back and don’t allow him time to set up his shots he can run out of ideas quickly.

Mousasi it’s completely different. He is the type of fighter who will go anywhere and keep up his output. His jab and subsequent combinations are very good while his chain wrestling is also extremely useful for someone who doesn’t have a strong base in the art.

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When looking at how this one will go you just have to look back at the last one. Mousasi engaged the striking and grappling. Hall tried to land his big shot. On that occasion Hall came out on top because he landed that big shot and went in for the kill. Some called it a fluke but in actual fact it was a well placed, perfectly timed technique which landed because Mousasi kept entering the same way.

And there is the key to victory. If Mousasi changes up his modes of attack and doesn’t become predictable he will almost certainly win. But if he’s predictable and gives Hall the opening he has a good chance of getting sparked once more. That makes a Mousasi win probable, but a Hall win possible.

Outside of that, the most noteworthy fight on this card is undoubtedly the meeting of former Cage Warriors champion Neil Seery and former Tachi Palace Fights champion Ian McCall.

Seery – who fights from the final time on Saturday – has been a mainstay in Irish MMA circles since making his debut back in 2005. The Finglas man has fought up as far as 165 lbs and after starting his career with 4 losses in 6 fights it’s a credit to his heart and determination that he bows out in the UFC against one of the top flyweights of all time.

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McCall is currently ranked at number five in the UFC flyweight rankings but has struggled to get further towards the top after a spate of his scheduled opponents pulled out. With names like Dominick Cruz, Jussier Formiga, Brad Pickett, Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson on his back catalogue of opponents McCall will certainly be a well-schooled, tough task for Seery.

As a fighter Seery is a real throwback. He is more than willing to fire in the pocket with anyone, no matter how big or powerful. Sometimes, that leaves him open to be taken down but with a great submission defence and an extremely active striking arsenal from his back Seery is always a threat.

If Seery has a lot of gusto, McCall is probably a little more careful when it comes to taking one to land one. The American is one of the fastest men in the UFC and has a pretty technical striking game which he sometimes uses as a decoy to set up his effective blast double leg.

Overall I think this one will go to a decision and it’ll come down to how many takedowns McCall can get as well as how well Seery can curtail his movement to land his big shots. But however it finishes it will be a pleasure to see Neil Seery fight for one last time. Even if he is a Liverpool fan.

Also on the card are SBG Ireland Artem Lobov and Charlie Ward who, along with Seery, bring a little bit of local feel which was notably lacking after – quite surprisingly – no Northern Irish fighter made it onto the card.

For Ward it will be his UFC debut and a good chance to show his MMA craft to the masses after hitting the headlines for being the opponent of Joao Carvalho when the Portugese fighter unfortunately died following their bout in Dublin earlier this year – an incident in which Ward had absolutely no wrongdoing. Now 3-1, Ward is still very green but there is undoubtedly talent there and it should be fun to see how he goes inside the Octagon against another good prospect, Abdul Razak Alhassan.

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Speaking of fun, that’s exactly what the meeting of Artem Lobov and Teruto Isihara should be. Both know for their aggressive, wild styles of fighting this one could be a real barnburner. Lobov probably has an advantage in the power striking department while Teruto, who now trains with team Alpha Male, is more traditionally technical than the unorthodox Lobov and has the edge in grappling too – although Lobov did show his is well able to protect himself on the floor against Ryan Hall. All-in-all I fancy this one to be hard-hitting and exciting from the start.

Ross Pearson vs. Stevie Ray and Brett Johns vs. Kwan Ho Kwak are also worth watching while, buried midway down the prelim card, is the absolute gem of a fight between Kyoji Horiguchi and Ali Bagautinov which I fancy the Japanese star to win.

FIGHT PICKS

Gegard Mousasi vs. Uriah Hall – Hall is dangerous but Mousasi via TKO
Ross Pearson vs. Stevie Ray – Pearson via decision
Timothy Johnson vs. Alexander Volkov – Volkov via KO
Artem Lobov vs. Teruto Ishihara – Could go either way but I’m going Ishihara

Ian McCall vs. Neil Seery – McCall
Magnus Cedenblad vs. Jack Marshman – Marshman
Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Ali Bagautinov – Kyoji
Kevin Lee vs. Magomed Mustafaev – Lee
Anna Elmose vs. Amanda Cooper – Cooper
Justin Ledet vs. Mark Godbeer – Ledet
Zak Cummings vs. Alexander Yakovlev – Yakolev
Marion Reneau vs. Milana Dudieva – Reneau
Brett Johns vs. Kwan Ho Kwak – Kwak
Charlie Ward vs. Abdul Razak Alhassan – Ward

BET OF THE WEEK

Ross Pearson to win via decision at 9/5

START TIMES

Prelims – 5.15pm on Fight Pass

Main Card – 9pm on BT Sport 2

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For more on UFC Belfast and UFC 205, check out this week’s SevereMMA Podcast.

Podcaster, lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Sunday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Also write for Sherdog. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more. Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook Facebook.com/seansheehanmma