Dana White: Uriah Hall 'mentally broke' against Kelvin Gastelum

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

LAS VEGAS, N.V. -- After compiling a season of devastatingly violent finishes, UFC President Dana White had high expectations for The Ultimate Fighter 17 finalist Uriah Hall.

Hall, a middleweight prospect who sent four men to hospital over the course of the series, entered Saturday night's finale sporting a hype train a mile long, with proclamations of top-10 status seeping into his ears before ever making his UFC debut. Yet Hall came out flat, electing to launch into his best Anderson Silva impression by lowering his hands and theatrically leaning against the cage early in the fight.

Unlike Silva, Hall's performance failed to impress 21-year-old opponent Kelvin Gastelum. The last pick of Team Sonnen continued to defy expectations, just as he had all season, taking the fight to Hall and ultimately earning a split decision victory on the judges' scorecards.

Not surprisingly, White, who prior to the event proclaimed Hall to be the scariest fighter in TUF history, was disappointed by what he saw from the Tiger Schulmann product.

"I didn't think he showboated. I think he mentally broke," White said. "I think that you saw what he had this season. But when you find out what a guy really has is when he's under pressure. When you're under pressure, you find out who the Anderson Silva's and the Georges St-Pierre's are, those type of guys."

Given the circumstances, Hall seemed to be taking the loss in good sprits, smiling and joking both throughout and after the post-fight press conference.

Hall entered the TUF house a fighter brimming with raw talent but muddled with self-doubt. Under the tutelage of coach Chael Sonnen, he developed into a ferocious striker with seemingly supreme confidence.

Yet without Sonnen in his corner, Hall believes those demons crept back just enough to alter his aggressive approach.

"A big part of it is, it's kind of hard," Hall explained. "Because I trained with the guy and I like him. It was kind of like that emotional side I was trying to get rid of. So it was kind of weird, just going into the ring I was like, ‘Oh, s--t. Here we go again.' That side kind of got the best of me, but there's no excuse. Kelvin's a great guy. He's a tough kid. I think he's going to go really far in this sport and I'm happy for him."

Considering the amount of time and resources invested into him, Hall undoubtedly still has a future in the UFC's middleweight division. However, as the post-fight commotion died down, White made it a point to let the 28-year-old know that ultimately his success will rely on just one thing.

"He's got a lot of skills, and his wrestling looked really good tonight. Everything looked good tonight," White said in closing. "He's just got to work on his head. I just told him, ‘You gotta get that head straight, man. You've got to get meaner. You're not mean enough.'"

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