It’s not every day you earn a win over a UFC Hall of Famer. It’s even rarer to finish them in less than one round. But that is exactly how Ryan Hall’s Saturday night went when he stepped into the Octagon against former two-division champion B.J. Penn at UFC 232 in Inglewood.
Hall, a multiple-time grappling champion, needed less than one round to submit Penn with his signature foot lock.
Against anyone else, this outcome was nothing but expected. But against Penn, the first American Gold medalist of the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship, not even Hall foresaw how quickly he would put away the proud Hawaiian.
“You can never be sure what to expect,” Hall told Luke Thomas during a recent appearance on The MMA Hour. “I wasn’t under the impression that B.J. was likely to tap but we ended up getting caught pretty quickly and the heel hook was on pretty tight. So, ultimately people have to make a choice there. But, it was absolutely a deep submission and I guess I wasn’t expecting him to tap but anybody could.”
Combined with his time on The Ultimate Fighter, this was Hall’s fourth submission win to come by way heel hook, making him one of the foremost specialists with the technique in all of mixed martial arts. For Penn, this marked his first ever submission loss of his professional career.
Walking through the finishing sequence, Hall credited his opponent for his defense of the tricky position while shooting down the narrative of Penn being out of his element on the canvas.
“If you look in slow-mo you can see he tried to kick my grip, he didn’t really try to roll,” said Hall. “He sort of tried to roll but mostly he was facing back to kick at my grip and his foot slipped off and he wasn’t able to make the contact he was looking for. I thought that was a good defense he was trying to mount. Ultimately, when things get locked in tight, in any submission, you’re always a little up against it as a defensive person. But I’ve seen some of the narrative that he made some sort of colossal error and doesn’t know how to defend the foot lock. I don’t think that’s fair to B.J. and I don’t find that to be accurate.”
But even with the ability to pull off this hellacious submission almost at will, Hall recognized Penn’s grappling résumé, combined with his world class boxing, likely wouldn’t offer him much of a shot at pulling off the submission. But in the end, it was another day, another heel hook for the master of the 50-50 position.
“You’re always trying to stop people from being able to mount the defense that they’d like,” said Hall. “Obviously, a guy like B.J. has phenomenal defense in general. Particularly when he gets on top, he’s incredibly dangerous. So I was just doing my best to mitigate those things and, of course, the punching issue is a huge deal in mixed martial arts. So, keeping him facing a direction where’s he’s not necessarily able to crack me upside the mouth if it goes wrong was pretty important. It just happened to work out and I’m glad to get the outcome.”