UFC 137 is a marquee event for the organization for a lot of reasons.
However, one bout in particular will be appealing for the head honchos, as Japanese import Hatsu Hioki makes his organizational debut against The Ultimate Fighter veteran George Roop.
The submission specialist has been a staple in the featherweight division for a long, long time. Hioki holds notable victories over the likes of former Sengoku and Pancrase champion Marlon Sandro as well as former UFC title challenger Mark Hominick, having defeated the Canadian on two separate occasions.
So, will Roop rise to the occasion and best the world-ranked fighter, or will Hioki continue his winning ways en route to an imminent title shot?
A black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Hioki has been one of the best to translate his skills to the mixed martial arts realm. A veteran of 30 fights, Hioki holds 12 of his victories by submission.
His go-to move, the triangle choke, has finished the likes of TUF vet Jeff Lawson, Bellator's Ronnie Mann and the aforementioned Mark Hominick.
Though Roop has a few submission victories to his credit, he barely holds a candle to Hioki, who has since transitioned to the famed TriStar gym in Montreal, which houses the likes of grappling aces Kenny Florian, Miguel Torres and pound-for-pound great Georges St-Pierre.
In his last few outings under the Zuffa banner, Roop has shown the skills he has developed under the late and great Shawn Tompkins. In his last outing, Roop came back from a disappointing showing against Mark Hominick when he took on the world-ranked Josh Grispi.
"The Fluke" was previously groomed for a shot at the featherweight title, though Roop halted the rise of Grispi when he wore down the Massachusetts native over the course of three rounds before finishing the bout with a hard hook to the body.
In his final WEC appearance, Roop took on the highly regarded Chan Sung Jung, who was recently removed from his "Fight of the Year" performance against former title challenger Leonard Garcia.
Though the hard hitting Garcia failed to put away the South Korean, Roop needed less than two rounds to ground the wily fighter with a devastating head kick, which earned Roop "Knockout of the Night" for his efforts.
Hioki is known for his skills on the ground, though the Japanese fighter has rounded out his game with a well adept knowledge of strikes. Hioki utilizes his kicks very effectively, moving both low and high with his shots—using the teep as a means of gauging the distance, much like a jab.
In his second outing with Hominick, much of the bout was decided on the feet, where Hioki was able to stave off the forward-plodding movement of "The Machine" by utilizing his significant reach advantage to stay on the outside and pick his shots.
Though Roop will not hold as significant of a reach advantage as he is accustomed to—Roop stands 6-foot-1, just two inches taller than the 5-foot-11 Hioki—he has proven on several occasions that he has the ability to end fights on the feet and that alone merits a slight edge.
Hioki is one of the more consistent performers in the featherweight division, while Roop is perhaps the most inconsistent.
Anchoring his list of accolades, Hioki has bested world-ranked opposition and is 9-1 in his last 10 outings, with his lone loss coming at the hands of current UFC fighter Michihiro Omigawa in a controversial split-decision against his fellow countryman under the Sengoku banner.
Roop, on the other hand, is 4-4-1 in his last 9 outings, having alternated wins and losses since entering the UFC fold in 2008 on the heels of his season eight run on the TUF series.
In the end, Hioki will likely find success using his strikes just long enough to lull Roop into a comfortable pattern just before planting the Team Tompkins product on the mat and hunting for the submission victory, which he will cinch in the later stages of the fight.