UFC 193 Main Card Analysis – Hall v Whittaker

In the leadup to UFC 193 I will analyse the main card matchups, before weighing in with some good old fashioned prognostication.

To do this I will take a look at the career records and fight stats of each fighter to identify some of their individual strengths and weaknesses. This will help to pick the approach they will bring to the Octagon and should provide some insight into the result. We hope!

This article is the second in the series covering the main card matchups for UFC 193. The first article, covering the Struve v Rosholt fight, can be found here.

Second fight – Uriah Hall (10) v Robert Whittaker (14)

Their Careers!

Uriah Hall stormed into the MMA consciousness with some devastating performances on Season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter. His spinning hook kick of Adam Cella was just scary, and his vicious knockout of Dylan Andrews from the bottom shouldn’t really be possible (forgive the horrible quality of the vid).

The hype around this guy had Dana White and many top level pundits seriously considering him favourably in a matchup with the champ – Anderson Silva.

But – up till his last fight against Pride legend Gegard Mousasi – Hall always seemed to fall in contentious split decisions, right when he was about to take that leap into the top 10.

This tendency to mentally fold has certainly not been helped by some very negative views expressed by his (up to this point gushing) employer – Dana White.

Still, with the aforementioned victory over Mousasi, Hall is looking up finally and will hopefully be filling highlight reels well into the future.

Robert Whittaker also made his appearance in the UFC courtesy of The Ultimate Fighter. His season, The Smashes, was the first and so far only to be shot in Australia. He represented Australia against England and won the welterweight bracket. After going 3-2 as a UFC welterweight, Whittaker made the move to the middleweight division and is so far undefeated from 2 appearances. His main strength (and some might say weakness) throughout his UFC career thus far has been his overwhelming aggression and fearlessness. A fighter with mixed New Zealand and Australian nationality, he will enjoy a considerable home crowd advantage at UFC 193.

Let’s compare basic career stats –

Uriah Hall Robert Whittaker
Overall
Wins 12 14
Losses 5 4
Major Fights
Wins 6 5
Losses 5 2

While their records seem similar, Whittaker takes a slight advantage overall, and a significant cursory advantage in major fights. I have defined major fights as those that either take place in a major MMA promotion** or are against significant opposition at any stage of their careers.

In order to make some sense of those figures, let’s take a look at the records of their opponents to get some context. It is all well and good to have a stellar resume, but if your record is padded out with fighters who have never won, it can paint a very inaccurate picture.

Uriah Hall Robert Whittaker
Overall
Wins 197 128
Losses 73 43
Draws 3 3
No Contest 4 1
Fights per opponent 16.3 9.7
Major Fights
Wins 56 25
Losses 34 17
Draws 2 1
No Contest 0 0
Majors per opponent 5.4 2.4

Let’s look at the careers of the fighters in their wins and losses.This table illustrates the experience advantage of Hall’s opponents over Whittaker’s, especially in the major fight category – with more than double the experience. As they had similar career lengths (17 for Hall, 18 for Whittaker), it becomes even more evident when looking at the averages. This might be explained by the relative dearth of fights in Australia, where Whittaker’s career has largely been fought.

Uriah Hall Robert Whittaker
 Wins
Wins 145 80
Losses 58 23
Draws 2 2
No Contest 3 0
Win % in Wins 70% 76%
 Losses
Wins 52 48
Losses 15 20
Draws 1 1
No Contest 1 1
Win % in Losses 75% 69%

These figures speak highly of both men, with the winning percentage of their opponents in victory or defeat around 70% or higher. Bizarrely, the winning percentage of opponents who have vanquished Whittaker is lower than that of the people he has defeated. This can be explained by the quality of those fighters in terms of major fight experience.

Uriah Hall Robert Whittaker
Major Fight Experience
Wins 5.7 1.4
Losses 4.8 6

Whittaker’s wins have come against opponents with very little major fight experience, whereas Hall’s figures are the opposite. Given that Hall’s only undisputed loss (3 losses by split decision, 1 by majority decision, 1 by KO) came against the undefeated UFC middleweight king Chris Weidman, his career figures start making much more sense.

In total, Uriah Hall has fought the tougher, more experienced fighters during his career thus far. Even though Whittaker’s career doesn’t match up favourably, the trajectory of his career can give his local fans some comfort. His first two losses were against experienced foes early in his career. Since he moved to the UFC, he has utililised his own experience to marry his high energy style to a winning formula we will investigate below.

Their fights!

After all that, you can only fight the people who are put in front of you. With Hall taking the advantage of the opponent experience game, let’s take a look at their fights, and specifically, how the played out.

Uriah Hall Robert Whittaker
Wins
T/KO 8 7
Submission 2 5
Decision 2 2
Losses
T/KO 1 1
Submission 0 1
Decision 4 2

While both fighters have a relatively high Technical/Knock Out percentage (67% for Hall, 50% for Whittaker) they also have more than one submission victory, particularly Whittaker. Interestingly, even though he has more submission victories, they were all recorded from amongst his first 7 fights. He has not won via submission since 2011. Only one of Hall’s submissions was from a recognized grappling move – 4 fight and done Daniel Akinyemi submitting to a first round heel hook in 2012. Roger Carroll tapped out to a punching barrage in 2010. After having seen Hall’s demolition of Dylan Andrews above, I can certainly imagine someone how that one played out.

Just as every fight begins on its feet, so too will my in fight analysis. Let’s start by comparing their offensive statistics.

Uriah Hall Robert Whittaker
Attack
Sig Strike 246 328
Sig Acc% 54% 38%
Total Strike 326 368
Total % 60% 40%
Sig % 83% 95%
KDs 3 6
Standing Strike % 67% 82%
Strikes Landed pM 3.21 4.83

While both fighters are clearly successful with their standup, evidenced by high KO percentage, their striking statistics bear out their differing approach. With 67% of his total strike output delivered standing (compared to 82%) and a significant strike percentage of total strikes at 83% (as opposed to a whopping 95% of attempted strikes) Hall clearly has a more varied approach to striking. Hall fires fewer, more varied shots at a much higher level of accuracy (good enough for 4th among active middleweights in the UFC).

Whittaker throws far more, and more powerful, strikes at a significantly higher pace than Hall. A key point to note though, while Whittaker has double the number of knockdowns, all of Hall’s 3 were fight changing and directly led to KO victories. Moral of the story – once Uriah Hall hits you clean – you stay hit.

Uriah Hall Robert Whittaker
Defence
Sig Strike 198 291
Sig Acc% 56% 66%
Total Strike 363 336
Total % 44% 63%
Sig % 69% 94%
KDs 0 2
Strikes Absorbed pM 2.59 4.29

Whittaker’s striking stats as a whole paint a very exciting picture. While his strikes absorbed per minute is relatively high, his rock solid defence (which would be good enough for 2nd amongst active middleweights when he meets the criteria of 350 attempted strikes) means that most of those punches aren’t getting through. He initiates high volume, high power strike frenzies in which both combatants try to blast each other’s heads off. Fortunately for Whittaker his defence has so far proven enough of an advantage to keep him more or less conscious in his 7 UFC appearances.

The defensive statistics suggest that both fighters are very adept at making their opponents fight at their pace – controlling the fight. Hall prioritises the incoming strikes, blocking 56% of significant strikes, while only blocking 44% of total strikes. His defensive profile reads similarly to his offensive – greater variation of attacks at a slower pace.

Will Whittaker’s defence be strong enough to frustrate the conservative Hall into a slug fest? Or will Hall use his varied approach to pick Whittaker apart and frustrate him into opening up his defences?

In any case, while both of these fighters are comfortable on their feet, they are also prone to take it to the ground. Let’s take a look at their grappling statistics.

Uriah Hall Robert Whittaker
Attack
TD 7 3
TD Att 16 4
TD% 44% 75%
Sub Att 2 0
Pass 1 3
Sweeps 3 0
Ground Strike % 22% 7%

In following with the striking statistics above, Hall continues to evidence variety in his grounded skill set. While his takedown percentage is significantly lower than Whittaker’s, the fact that he tries so often forces opponents to set their feet, which comes with some significant advantages, and helps to explain how he manages to control his fights. A fighter with feet set to defend a takedown is not in the optimum position to either throw strikes or defend against them – and they are also not in a position to attempt a takedown of their own.

Whittaker rarely tries to take the fight to the ground, but when he does, he uses his grappling chops to both get the job done and to help advance his position – evidenced by his 3 guard passes. What he seems to lack on the ground is any variation from there – only 7% of his total strikes are on the ground and he has never even attempted a submission in the UFC.

Uriah Hall Robert Whittaker
Defence
TD 7 2
TD Att 26 24
TD% 73% 92%
Sub Att 2 1
Pass 15 1
Sweeps 0 1

The defensive grappling statistics paint a nuanced picture for Hall. While his takedown defence is good enough for 7th overall he doesn’t hold a candle to Whittaker in 1st place. The Fightmetric website (and the official UFC fighter pages it feeds) continues to astound me with both their openness at sharing raw fight data, and also how dodgy they are at creative rounding and, in this case, just ignoring a fighter in the statistical top ten. By their own criteria – minimum 5 UFC fights and 20 takedown attempts – Whittaker is a mile ahead of the pack, with his next closest competitor (Anderson Silva no less!) at 78%. Anyway, I digress.

Hall is very adept at keeping position on the ground. While passing his guard appears to be somewhat of a formality he has only been in a position to offer a submission attempt twice, and he has never been swept from the top position. In summation, Hall is very good at using his wrestling skills to vary his attack, keep his opponents down while they are there, and use varying offensive tactics to try and win the fight early.

Whittaker uses his significant grappling abilities to keep the fight standing, and hence into the wood-chipperesque experience he so craves. It seems a shameful waste of talent that he doesn’t utilise his grappling prowess and defensive cunning for more than setting up crowd pleasing punch fests. A fighter’s career is short, and their brains need to work for far far longer.

In Summation!

This fight will begin in a storm of Robert Whittaker’s making, which could work in either fighter’s favour. If either fight can impose their pace on the fight, it will prove to be decisive. I personally believe that Uriah Hall will prove too tough, too varied and just plain damaging for Whittaker in front of his home country fans. After surviving the initial onslaught, Hall will take Whittaker apart with well-timed takedown attempts (which will probably fail) and a varied striking arsenal.

Uriah Hall by KO – Round 3

References!

*All UFC rankings are for active fighters with a minimum of 5 fights, unless specifically mentioned.

**This one should be fun, major MMA promotions are defined as being one of the following –

Jungle Fight
World Extreme Fighting
M1
Cage Rage
UFC
Deep
Pancrase
Shooto Japan
Bodog
IFC
Elite XC/Pro Elite
Bellator
WEC
Strikeforce
Pride

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Published by

James

Easing into my mid 30's, writing just crept up on me. I had to put something out there - no matter what. So here we are! I live in Canberra, Australia and work in statistical IT systems development and support and am a proud father of two

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