Hatsu Hioki was widely considered the second best featherweight in the world prior to his UFC on FX 4 bout against Ricardo Lamas. Hioki had refused a title shot and was placed in a preliminary bout on a free UFC event.
Many fans were amazed that a fighter of Hioki's caliber was fighting on the prelims, but when you move past what he's done outside the UFC, it's exactly where the Japanese star belongs.
Hioki entered the UFC with enough support that if the UFC were to give him a title shot, there would be little backlash. Instead, Hioki faced George Roop.
The bout with Roop was scored a victory, but Hioki supporters wouldn't dare make a claim that he could challenge Jose Aldo based on those results. Then came Hioki's fight against Bart Palaszewski at UFC 144.
Hioki dominated the Polish fighter on his way to a unanimous decision victory. It seemed as if Hioki had finally gained enough recognition in North America to earn a showdown with Aldo. In one of the strangest moves of any fighter's career, Hioki said no to a title shot.
Relegated to a preliminary bout, Hioki was proven to be nothing more than a fabrication of hype by MMA fans and media. Of course, I don't mean to say that I'm not guilty of supporting the notion of Hioki being ranked as the No. 2 featherweight fighter as well.
But let's begin to realize Hioki isn't ready for high-caliber fighters just yet. Hioki is now 2-1 in the UFC with one lackluster win, a dominating performance and a derailing defeat by Lamas. That's not exactly the kind of resume title challengers should have.
Hioki's performance against Lamas was awful. Multiple times he achieved a takedown and solid top position, and Hioki was unable to capitalize on the openings. If he wants to finally realize the hype and potential fans have placed upon him, the need to inflict some damage while on top is crucial.
It seems Hioki was right in believing he wasn't ready for someone like Aldo. Perhaps it's a good thing that Hioki lost on a prelim fight that a few fans saw compared to the limelight of a UFC pay-per-view main event.
Now, Hioki can begin to add some substance to the hype that surrounded him and defeat names that can be found on everyone's lightweight rankings rather than opponents who have to be found through Google searches.
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