UFC 137 Fight Card: Top 3 Things You Need to Know About Newcomer Hatsu Hioki
Hioki will face fellow veteran George Roop (12-7-1 MMA, 2-2 UFC) on the undercard of what is now, as a result of an injury to Georges St-Pierre, a fight card headlined by welterweights BJ Penn and Nick Diaz.
Though many casual MMA fans have likely not heard of Hioki, the Japanese featherweight is a true veteran of the sport, and is likely to quickly make a splash in the UFC.
As UFC 137 approaches, and fight fans begin getting their UFC foam fingers back out, here are the three most important things you need to know about Hatsu Hioki.
He's a Top-Notch Grappler
A Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Hioki has used his grappling prowess to earn 12 of his 24 victories by way of submission.
What's more, Hioki is uniquely equipped to handle strong wrestlers with his penchant for triangles, having earned half of his submission victories with either a triangle choke or triangle armbar.
Even when he's unable to submit an opponent, his advantage on the ground is outwardly apparent, such as in his recent victory over Marlon Sandro (skip to minute 1:49 in the above video). Hioki nearly submitted Sandro twice during the fight, and ultimately worked his way to a unanimous decision victory.
Hioki's dangerous grappling, bolstered by serviceable striking, allows him to be a threat anywhere in the cage/ring. He is good enough everywhere to keep a fight competitive, but shines on the ground, making him a particularly difficult opponent.
In his last 14 fights, Hioki holds an outstanding 12-1-1 record, with his only loss during that time coming in a controversial split decision to Michihiro Omigawa.
In fact, his entire career has been outstanding with only four losses—all by decision—to his name. Oh, and no, he hasn't exactly been a "can crusher."
Hioki holds victories over notables such as Marlon Sandro, Takeshi Inoue, Ronnie Mann, Rumina Sato, Mark Hominick and Jeff Curran.
His list of of opponents is a veritable who's who of MMA featherweights (by weight), and Hioki could possibly end up facing off against several familiar faces in the UFC.
Though many criticize Japanese MMA for inconsistency in the level of competition, Hioki is no stranger to tough opponents.
He's Recognized as a Top Featherweight
Hioki is widely recognized as one of the best featherweights in the world.
Amongst other sites, the USA Today and SB Nation consensus rankings, as well as Sherdog.com, have Hioki as the No. 2 featherweight, while MMAWeekly.com has him listed as the No. 3.
Without a doubt, Hioki is deserving of the -300 or greater betting line currently trending.
Given his status as one of the world's best, Hioki needs an emphatic statement against Roop to announce his arrival. A lackluster performance is likely to keep him from facing the champ anytime soon, though he may be another one or two fights away from a title shot, given his name recognition (or lack thereof) with a casual fan base.
Despite the turmoil UFC 137 has already experienced at the top of the card, Hioki should provide an entertaining undercard bout, and a good start to the pay-per-view portion of the evening's fights.
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