UFC Fight Night 43 will get underway on Saturday from Auckland, New Zealand, and it features one of the least talked-about must-watch fights of 2014.
Hatsu Hioki vs. Charles Oliveira.
The featherweight clash has flown under the radar since being booked, but it is one that MMA fans should be clamoring to watch. It is worth the subscription price for UFC Fight Pass by itself. These are two high-level grapplers who also love to strike.
The featherweight clash will not have much significance for the rankings, as neither fighter is currently ranked in the top 15 of the division.
Hioki joined the UFC in 2011 with plenty of fanfare, but he was unable to put together a strong run. His UFC debut was a split-decision win over George Roop, and he followed that up with a victory over Bart Palaszewski. What happened next was three straight losses to Ricardo Lamas, Clay Guida and Darren Elkins. Hioki got back into the win column against Ivan Menjivar in March.
Hioki has fought a consistently high level of competition inside the Octagon, but he has not been rewarded. A win against Oliveira should put him back in the mix at 145 pounds.
Oliveira burst onto the scene as a lightweight but dropped to 145 in early 2012. His featherweight debut was stellar. A calf slicer to Eric Wisely moved him right into the meat of the division.
“Do Bronx” picked up his second straight against Jonathan Brookins before losing back-to-back fights to elite competition—Cub Swanson and Frankie Edgar. Oliveira would pick up a win in his latest bout against Andy Ogle.
These two fantastic fighters will try to put on a show on Saturday, and the winner should leap back into the rankings. It would be a travesty if they do not. There is little doubt that these are two of the most talented featherweights on the planet.
The matchup between Hioki and Oliveira could easily take Fight of the Night at UFC Fight Night 43, and it could top all of the bouts at UFC Fight Night 44 as well.
It could end up as a stand-up exchange, and stand-up battles can be fun. Oftentimes they are sloppy brawls. That is not likely to happen in this battle. If they exchange strikes, it will be a fun technical display, but not two guys winging haymakers.
The real fun with this fight is if the two grapplers hit the canvas. That is where the gold is. We could be in for a real treat come Saturday.
If you have UFC Fight Pass, you will not want to miss this fight. If you do not have UFC Fight Pass, I stress to you that you need to subscribe just for this bout. It will be well worth the price of admission. Hioki vs. Oliveira is the diamond in the rough—very rough—slate of fights on Saturday.