Uriah Hall vs. Chris Leben: Two Middleweights At Crossroads

By Rick LaFitte
Uriah Hall
Winslow Townson USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t that long ago that UFC middleweight Uriah Hall was being portrayed as one of the most devastating finishers in the sport. Now the struggling alum from the Ultimate Fighter Season 17 finds himself in a true must-win scenario at UFC 168 against veteran Chris Leben.

Hall, who became a sensation on TUF by sending opponents to the hospital with his devastating highlight-reel knockouts, is truly at a crossroads with the promotion.

He was an upset loser to huge underdog Kelvin Gastelum in the TUF 17 middleweight finale. The younger Gastelum simply showed he wanted it more during the course of the fight, and Hall was never able to match his opponent’s heart and tenacity. While that loss could be attributed to such things as jitters and an off-night, it was his next performance that has him facing the risk of being cut from the roster.

At UFC Fight Night 26, the powerful Hall seemed more interested in tapping gloves than punching the face of opponent John Howard in a fight that drew plenty of boos from the crowd in Boston. Howard emerged with a decision victory in a fight that was a dreadful disappointment.

In his post-fight remarks, UFC President Dana White was highly critical of the man he had heavily hyped during the Ultimate Fighter, as he questioned whether Hall had the mental makeup to be a fighter.

If there’s one fighter that should help bring back Hall’s killer instinct, it should be Leben. The long-time veteran, who became familiar to fight fans during the Ultimate Fighter Season 1, is a guy who comes to fight. He’s obviously had some personal demons to deal with during his career, but has always shown a willingness to absorb punishment in the hopes of landing one of his bombs.

He’s been in some classics during his UFC tenure, but has struggled mightily in recent fights.

“The Crippler” has dropped his last three fights, including a decision loss to Andrew Craig at UFC 162 in his last outing. He was also suspended for a year after a positive drug test after his TKO loss to Mark Munoz in England at UFC 138. His last few performances have been a far cry from the fighter who knocked out Wanderlei Silva in just 27 seconds at UFC 132.

The veteran knows another loss could be the end of the line for him in the Octagon.

The matchmaking logic definitely seems to make sense. The UFC wants to see whether Hall has the fighting spirit to climb out of his current funk, or if he’s just another example of someone who received too much hype and was unable to deliver. In the veteran Leben, the organization knows they will be getting a fighter who has shown he will keep throwing until he goes out on his shield.

It has the potential to be a fun fight, and it is definitely a contest where both men desperately need their hand raised in victory on December 28.

Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports

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