Hatsu Hioki Loss Hurts Japanese MMA Hopes After UFC On FX 4

Photo Courtesy of MMA Weekly

The one question everyone kept asking before UFC on FX 4 was why Hatsu Hioki vs. Ricardo Lamas was on the Fuel TV undercard. Considering it had potential title implications, as Hioki wanted at least one fight before he took a title fight in the UFC bantamweight division, it was a curious decision in light of both Spencer Fisher/Sam Stout and TJ Waldburger/Brian Ebersole being more Fuel worthy as opposed to main card worthy. And while it didn’t go the result many felt it would, as Hioki would lose to Lamas, it signals something bigger in the MMA world.

Namely Japanese MMA is going to wait a while, if ever, before someone from the Land of the Rising Sun ever gets back into serious UFC title contention.

After Yushin Okami’s devastating loss to Anderson Silva, the two best hopes for UFC hope were widely viewed as Hioki and Shinya Aoki. Aoki’s losses to Gilbert Melendez and Eddie Alvarez ended any serious discussion of him as a potential titleholder in the UFC as both losses exposed serious deficiencies in his game that will most likely keep him from challenging any elite lightweight fighter in the near future. Aoki is still perhaps one of the 10 best fighters in the division but a much better argument can be made against his conclusion based on those two fights.

Hioki was the man old Pride fans looked to as Japan’s last hope to challenge and potentially hold a UFC title. While he didn’t lose in prior fights to Lamas, Hioki didn’t look like a title challenger to Jose Aldo. After a devastating victory over Bart Palaszewski, a title shot seemed to be in order for Hioki. The memories of the fight world are short and he had momentum with the victory over Palaszewski than he did over George Roop. It made sense in a way; he came in with high expectations and a resounding victory would give him some momentum as opposed to a decision victory many felt he lost.

He didn’t look like he would have much for Aldo, of course, but in a division as shallow as featherweight that appears to be the case more often than not.

With Hioki losing to Ricardo Lamas at this point his ability to get a title shot isn’t dead in the water but it’ll take plenty more time to get back there. He was offered a title shot already and turned it down for this fight, wanting to get some more seasoning first, and the history of fighters getting title shots again after turning them down is short. Hioki’s momentum has ground to a halt right now and now he’s going to have to rebuild from this point forward.

Right now Hioki is going to the back of the line in the featherweight division. It may be shallow but it is slowly filling up with talent as fighters going up to lightweight to be in the UFC are now going down to a more natural fighting weight. Hioki had the opportunity to seize while the iron was hot and passed on it because he didn’t think his weapons were sharp enough. With a resurgent Cub Swanson kicking off the UFC on FX main card properly, and the Korean Zombie waiting for a title shot once Eric Koch has his, the line of contenders is starting to make the division more than just Jose Aldo and everyone else.

Hioki’s shot at being Japan’s UFC championship representative decreased exponentially when the judges’ scorecards were read off Friday night. And it’ll be a long time before JMMA will reach the heights of the UFC mountaintop again.

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