John Hathaway recently caused a minor stir when he proclaimed that his UFC 120 opponent Mike Pyle was a “step up” from his last victim, former lightweight title contender Diego Sanchez. It was a statement that rang so false but also, simultaneously, worked so well in favor of the UFC marketing department that it was hard not to imagine them pushing him on stage and imploring him to say it. Remember that this match was originally supposed to be Hathaway vs. Dong Hyun Kim but an injury forced Kim to withdraw and the UFC to find a replacement. Pyle stepped in and all of a sudden the fight felt like another semi-gift wrapped step up the welterweight ladder for Hathaway. Currently he is undefeated including a 4-0 record within the UFC. Some critics have scoffed that Thomas Egan, Rick Story, Paul Taylor and Diego Sanchez don’t truly represent the stiffest competition he could have been served, but even if that is the case there is no taking away from the way he slowly but surely decimated Sanchez at UFC 114. Mostly using kickboxing techniques he went on to score a shut out victory in which one judge even awarded him a 10-8 round.
Pyle meanwhile is a veteran journeyman who has taken on some of the very best in the sport. He is the former WEC welterweight champ and has also fought in Strikeforce, EliteXC, IFL and of course four previous engagements inside the Octagon. Back in 2002 he choked out Jon Fitch and he also has a victory over Dan Hornbuckle to his credit that came more recently. His ground game is disciplined and methodical and has worked wonders for him over the years leading him to 17 submissions out of all 20 of his wins.
Still nothing here really works in his favor and the only question really is will Hathaway find a way to capitalize on his national TV audience and make a statement or will he just kick the legs out from under Pyle for 3 rounds and let then leave it in the hands of the judges? A sad reality of this sport of ours is that a finish means so much more in the eyes of the fans (and, let’s be real, the UFC execs) than a decision, no matter how lopsided the score. I’m going to go ahead and give Hathaway the benefit of the doubt and assume that he’ll bring a sense of urgency into the cage with him this Saturday. I see him controlling the action for two plus rounds before stunning Pyle with a nasty fist or two and then slipping on a rear naked choke.
Pick: Hathaway via 3rd Round Submission
Tags: diego sanchez, Dong Hyun Kim, John Hathaway, jon fitch, Mike Pyle, Mixed Martial Arts, UFC 120