Stop me if you’ve heard this one before; highly touted Japanese MMA star arrives on western shores and steps directly into the Octagon. We all know he’s awesome, we’ve saw the way he showed the Far East what was up and now we know that with one, maybe two UFC wins he will be in line for a title shot. Sounds familiar right? Well when Hatsu Hioki (24-4-2) battles George Roop (12-7-1) at UFC 137 Saturday night he will undoubtedly be well aware of the past failures of other Japanese fighters and he will look to write a new ending to that story.
Currently he finds himself perched near the top of every Featherweight top 10 list and most believe that after Jose Aldo disposes of Chad Mendes the fight to make will be Aldo vs. Hioki. Perhaps an indication of the UFC’s skittishness around their newly prized prospect is the fact that they are tossing him Roop, a much softer pitch than say Kenny Florian who was Takanori Gomi’s first challenge upon his arrival, but that hardly means Hioki can afford to take him lightly
Roop always produces his best work when he is playing the role of spoiler. He seems to win when he most certainly should not and then flame out afterwards against far lesser opponents. Josh Grispi was once next in line for a title shot but back in June Roop chewed him up as though it was no big thing. He was also a massive underdog going into his fight against the Korean Zombie but he managed to land one of the most devastating headkicks you will ever see and remains to this day the one man who has finished Chan Sung Jung. But remember, this is the same fighter who took a bout against George Sotiropoulos with only 7 days notice and still found a way to look so bad that UFC cut him despite the solid he had just done them. He also inexplicably moved down to Bantamweight at one point, presumably just so Eddie Wineland could kick his ass. Even against the most beatable guy in the entire UFC, Leonard Garcia, he could only muster a draw. So the question is which version will show up this weekend, the one that could potentially flatten Hioki or the one who will look like some dude they just plucked off the indy circuit?
Hioki is not a great finisher and because of that Roop will look to exploit his ever improving stand up game to win the fight. If they end rolling around on the mat together Hioki will more than likely score 30-27s from all three judges. His ground game has crushed the likes of Marlon Sandro (who looked amazing this summer in Bellator until he got hit with a perfectly timed head kick), Jeff Curran and Mark Hominick. I feel as though Hioki will be out there fighting to prove to the world that he is not just another Japanese clunker and will go in for the kill early. Roop has looked better since he joined up with the WEC but he always seems shaky and you can never quite trust the guy to show up. I’ve never seen a Hioki fight live but the man looks downright unstoppable on Youtube so I’ll buy into the hype like everybody else. Look for him to win and win in a way that makes him out to be the title contender we have all been told that he is.