Uriah Hall’s performance on Season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter has earned praise from every angle. His coaches, opponents, media members, and even the President of the UFC found bigger and better superlatives as Hall racked up four wins in six weeks on the show.
Saturday night the Tiger Schulmann’s Mixed Martial Arts product faced off with fellow castmember Kelvin Gastelum to see who would be crowned the Ultimate Fighter Season 17 winner and earn a six figure UFC contract.
The matchup was a classic heavy favorite versus underdog scenario with an added storyline of vicious striker versus grinding wrestler. Hall’s spectacular knockouts during the season had earned him favorite status going in, but Gastelum, the last pick for Team Sonnen and 13th pick out of 14 fighters on the show, had also plowed his way through the competition. He racked up two submissions and a tko in his four victories.
There was even a third storyline as the two were consistent training partners during the six week show and developed a friendship as Team Sonnen members that would be tested inside the Octagon.
The fight started off with Uriah and Kelvin testing each other out for the better part of two minutes. Color analyst and TUF Season 1 alum Kenny Florian brought up similarities to Middleweight Kingpin Anderson Silva in describing the style Hall employed in Round 1. Ultimately the round didn’t feature a whole lot other than a takedown from Gastelum. Uriah was able to control from the bottom of half guard and eventually got back to his feet and shot a takedown attempt of his own as the round ended.
Round two saw things begin to heat up. Hall came out looking like a different fighter. He dropped the hands down style he used in the first round and instead began to fire straight punches that found Gastelum. Within the first minute he had also fired off multiple head kicks with both legs, backing Gastelum away.
Gastelum answered back the only way he knew how, with a takedown. Once again Uriah controlled from half guard and after a minute of trading shots with Uriah landing a vicious right hand from the bottom he was able to sweep Gastelum and gain top position in open guard.
Gastelum scrambled to his feet as the round hit the halfway mark. Hall was able to land a couple solid strikes as his opponent stood up and then Hall showed that Tiger Schulmann’s is more than a striking school with an inside trip of his own putting him on top of Gastelum. Kelvin also did a good job of keeping Uriah from landing any significant strikes from the top but then things got explosive.
Gastelum chose to give up his back in order to get back to his feet. As they came back to a standing position Uriah was able to get behind his former teammate and delivered a highlight reel suplex that saw Gastelum land on the back of his head!
Credit to Gastelum who was able to scramble back to his feet, but not after being on the wrong end of another “Primetime” highlight.
The third round saw an immediate jumping technique by Gastelum met by a Hall knee kick. It looked like a great shot to the abdomen, but the referee called it a low blow, thus taking the strike away from Hall on the judges scorecards.
Once again the clear advantage in striking was apparent as Hall used his incredible speed and feints to land shots on Gastelum. Once again the Arizona native went to preservation mode and shot a takedown, but this time Uriah countered beautifully and ended up on top of Gastelum in sidemount. He landed five seconds of unanswered ground and pound that had the announcers exclaiming Gastelum was in trouble.
The fight came back to the feet again and once again Hall was delivering shots from distance with Kelvin gamely throwing an overhand left and inside low kick back. As the fight wound down to nearly a minute left, Gastelum went back to his bread and butter and scored another double leg takedown but Hall actually scored better shots from the bottom.
Gastelum was looking for an armlock but it backfired as Hall reversed and gained top position as the fight ended.
It was an amazing performance by both fighters and one that is only going to gain Uriah Hall more respect from the Mixed Martial Arts world.
Ultimately the judges scored the fight a split decision, one judge scoring two rounds to one for Hall, with the other two judges favoring Gastelum in two of the three rounds.
Kelvin Gastelum is the winner of The Ultimate Fighter Season 17, but Uriah Hall was the winner in the eyes of the thousands of Tiger Schulmann’s MMA students who watched the fight.