Prior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look ahead to the co-main event at UFC Fight Night 94 as Top 10 middleweights collide with ninth-ranked Uriah Hall taking on 10th-ranked Derek Brunson in an important clash in that division. Derek Brunson (Record: 15-3, -185 Favorite, Power Ranking: B) The Jackson’s MMA fighter is on the best form of his career, winning four fights in a row, including three straight by knockout. He continues to make his way up the middleweight standings with most notably making quick work of at the time Top 15 middleweight Roan Carneiro. Derek Brunson is certainly one of the up-and-coming middleweights in the UFC. At 6-foot-1 and with a 77-inch reach, he’s one of the most built athletes in the division. For Brunson, everything starts with his wrestling. At the University of North Carolina-Pembroke, Brunson was a three-time Division II All American. That ability in collegiate wrestling has translated over to MMA, as he’s secured a whopping 3.67 takedowns per 15 minutes in the octagon and has been successful in 40 percent of his takedown attempts. That includes three takedowns on Olympic silver medalist Yoel Romero. Defensively, he has never been taken down by an opponent inside the Octagon. In short, Brunson has dominated the grappling in his fights. In order to beat Brunson, his opponent must beat him on the feet. Brunson has made strides over the last few years to improve his striking. His boxing has become a weapon and he has certainly built confidence knocking out his last three opponents. With that said, if there’s an area where Brunson is vulnerable, it is in his defensive striking. He has been knocked out in two of his three career losses and needs to protect his chin better if he’s going to contend for UFC gold one day. Uriah Hall (Record: 12-6, +160 Underdog, Power Ranking: B-) One of the most hyped fighters in the history of The Ultimate Fighter has taken that momentum and turned it into a successful stint in the UFC. He’s gone 5-4 outside of the house, with three of those four losses coming to ranked opposition. Hall has won two of his last three bouts overall, including a stunning a spinning kick and follow up knee knockout over middleweight title contender Gegard Mousasi. The Jamaican-born Uriah Hall is one of the most feared strikers in the middleweight division. At a 79-inch reach, Hall is right near the top of the division. His physical gifts make him an awkward matchup for most fighters in the division. He’s not only able to strike from range, but it’s the creativity he has in the stand-up that makes him a big time threat. Hall uses a lot of spinning attacks and has opponents guessing what he’ll do next. If Hall lands clean, he can knockout anyone in the division. His problem has been that he can become a bit static on the feet. There period of inactivity in his bouts where he simply doesn’t exchange and has ended up on the wrong side of the total strikes in a fight and therefore takes a loss. Hall is a difficult fighter to finish with only Chris Weidman being the only fighter to beat Hall inside the distance. Hall can be controlled on the ground. His takedown defense is decent at 71 percent, but he has been a bit overwhelmed by fighters who can limit his mobility and score points in the ground exchanges. Matchup This is a really good middleweight fight between fighters next to each other in the UFC’s middleweight rankings. Both fighters are threats in different ways. While Brunson has had a lot of success with his striking in recent bouts, Hall is very hard to finish. If Brunson is going to win this fight, he’ll need to go back to his bread and butter to get a result. Brunson has a big advantage in the fight in the wrestling department. If he focuses on it, he should be able to take Hall to the mat with regularity and win this bout by decision. For Brunson, this fight is about winning and using it as a stepping stone to get fights with the truly established middleweights that are contending for a championship. For Hall, he needs to keep this fight standing and confuse Brunson with his striking. He’s very capable of landing a spectacular kicking and putting Brunson away. Ultimately, that’s what this fight comes down in this bout. Can he knock out Brunson? It’s certainly a prop worth looking at once the lines comes out. Another good angle on this fight is the Hall = Scorecards no bet line. Hall is the much more likely finisher in this bout, and there could be some value on him here as the pre-fight underdog. As for the moneyline, Brunson is the deserved favorite given his ability to take the fight to the mat and really control where this fight takes place. At -185, the line is a bit rich for me given Hall’s ability to finish this fight.
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