UFC 144 – Hatsu Hioki vs Bart Palaszewski

Hatsu Hioki finally came to the UFC after much hype from his Japanese run. Sean Shelby had been interested in Hioki since he was in charge of the WEC matchmaking, but it would take a long time before he could finally acquire his services. Hioki had been on a great run in Japan, that was highlighted by a Shooto Champion (Hioki) vs Pancrase and Sengoku Champion (Marlon Sandro) fight. It was a classic five round battle, Hioki outstriked and outgrappled the Nova União Jiu Jitsu black belt. His first UFC fight against George Roop was rather disappointing though. Roop, who was just recently knocked out by Cub Swanson, gave Hioki a lot of issues throughout the fight. Roop even defended well when Hioki had the mount. Maybe Hioki just had an off night, but that decision really could have gone either way and Hioki is a bit lucky it went his.

Bart Palaszewski has only had one featherweight fight, but it was against a highly regarded lightweight who was now fighting at featherweight, Tyson Griffin. Palaszewski quickly knocked him out badly, becoming the second person to finish off Griffin (the first being Takanori Gomi, who is fighting on the prelims of this show). His lightweight run was solid but not great, his best win is what a lot of media consider to be a great decision robbery of Anthony Pettis at WEC 45.

Nevertheless, this should be a fun fight with both guys having clear paths toward victory. Hioki is phenomenal on top and on his back. He loves to get triangles from the mount too, which is always spectacular stuff. Palaszewski does have knock out power, but I can see Hioki outgrappling him for a decision here. If Hioki wins, he’ll probably get Jose Aldo next for the UFC featherweight championship. If Palaszewski pulls off an upset, I think he might be paired up with maybe Erik Koch.

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