Featherweight Ryan Hall frustrated his opponent, Gray Maynard, during their TUF 24 Finale card bout last week by staying out of range on the feet while peppering "The Bully" with kicks, and by repeatedly changing levels, dropping to the mat and threatening with leg lock submission holds. Hall won a decision handily, being more active and effective on the feet and mat, but Maynard was bitter afterwards, criticizing Hall's elusive strategy.
Fresh off his win and speaking with the Extra Rounds podcast, the submission wizard saw no reason to change his approach. "If I've gotten no negative result out of it, then I don't think it needs to be modified on any level," Hall said.
"I've yet to be countered. I've yet to have someone hit me effectively. I invite anyone to try."
True enough, Hall has not just maintained a perfect official record since committing to MMA in 2012, but the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt has also barely even gotten hit. The 50/50 jiu-jitsu academy leader and TriStar Gym fighter says he just tries to give opponents a difficult puzzle to solve.
Furthermore, he points out that it is usually his opposition, not him, that is reluctant to engage in real battle. "I do my best. You play with the cards you have, I think," he continued.
"As it stands right now in MMA, wrestling and boxing are relatively strong skillsets, and then maybe Muay Thai. Most people, their grappling level is mediocre, at best. I try to be a little bit different, and as a result of those threats, people respond a little bit differently to me and I find that they tend to not try their luck. I would encourage them to give it a shot, next time. Who knows what will happen?"
Hall is turning a lot of conventional MMA wisdom on its head - including the notion that it is only wrestling-based fighters who can decide where a fight takes place because of their offensive and defensive takedown skill. "Years back, the common wisdom was, 'oh the wrestler guy can just come forward and throw punches because if you shoot on him, he'll sprawl,' or something like that," Hall sniffed.
With Hall unafraid to be taken down and then fight off of his back, he is freed up to kick at will from an outside range. Wrestlers, like Maynard, then have plenty of opportunities to catch or corner Hall and take him down, but rarely risk getting within reach of the black belt.
Maynard ended up getting tagged by repeated strikes on the outside when he wasn't briefly tangled up on the ground by Hall, forced to defend submission, and ultimately always chose to get up and away from Hall. That's the fate Hall believes most of his opponents will face, unless someone ends up having the guts to grapple with him.
"I'm staying at a range where it's difficult for some people to do certain things on the feet, and it puts them at a little bit of a disadvantage if they want to use shorter-range tools. As a result, they either have to crash in or stay out where they're at," he explained.
"If they're not equipped to win the fight where they're at, then they're faced with the choice of getting pecked at or coming at me and gettin' it, and up to this point, no one has decided to do that second thing."