UFC 144 preview: Bart Palaszewski looks to spoil Hatsu Hioki’s return to Japan

Bart Palaszewski will face Hatsu Hioki at UFC 144 in Japan

The UFC 144: Edgar vs. Henderson event will feature a featherweight fight between Japan’s Hatsu Hioki and WEC veteran Bart Palaszewski that’s set for Saitama, Japan, on Saturday night. It’s an important fight within the featherweight division as the current champion Jose Also is in desperate need of challengers. Hioki is thought to be one of the top three featherweights in the world, but certainly didn’t fight like it in his UFC debut back at UFC 137. An impressive win here could put him in line for a title shot against Aldo. A win for Palaszewski has to put him in the conversation as well, but more than likely he would need one more win to face Aldo. Let’s see how this fight breaks down.

Bart Palaszewski comes into this fight with a career record of (36-14) with 17 wins via TKO/KO and 11 wins via submission. He was last seen blasting UFC veteran Tyson Griffin via TKO in his UFC debut last October. Palaszewski has won five of his last six with the lone loss coming via split decision in his last WEC fight against Kamal Shalorus. Palaszewski is well rounded and has only been stopped four times out of his 14 losses.  It should also be noted that Palaszewski lost his first four MMA fights, so his record can be a bit deceiving.

Hatsu Hioki comes into this fight with a career record of (25-4-2) with 12 wins via submission and four wins via TKO/KO. Hioki was last seen winning a split decision against George Roop which also took place at UFC 137. Hioki has gone (13-1-1) since the end of 2007 with the lone loss coming via split decision to UFC veteran Michihiro Omigawa in November 2009. All of Hioki’s losses have come via decision with three of them being split decision losses. Hioki has fought almost exclusively in Japan, so this fight will be sort of a homecoming for him after fighting in Las Vegas in his UFC debut. He is an excellent grappler that’s well versed in submissions while excelling in transitions.

Hioki is the favorite at (-170) and Palaszewski as the underdog at (+140).

Those odds are about right considering Hioki’s performance in his UFC debut. I think he’ll perform a bit better in his native country, but you certainly can’t count a veteran like Palaszewski out of this fight.

Hioki has faced dangerous strikers before in Marlon Sandro and Mark Hominick while winning in convincing fashion. So I doubt that Palaszewski will bring anything to the table that he hasn’t seen before. Hioki will also enjoy a three inch reach advantage on the feet. However, Hioki will more than likely look to counter an aggressive Palaszewski while looking for opportunities to take him down. If he’s successful in taking Palaszewski down, he should be able to do damage from the top position while looking for submission opportunities. Palaszewski is well versed on the ground and hasn’t been submitted in MMA since 2007.

Palaszewski simply needs to keep this fight on the feet and try to out strike Hioki. Palaszewski isn’t one to look for takedowns often, so he’ll have the challenge of trying to hit an elusive Hioki on the feet. Hioki avoids strikes on the feet at a 68% clip according to Fightmetric.

I really think Hioki’s UFC debut performance can be chalked up to UFC jitters and fighting outside of Japan for the first time in almost three years. If his training camp was in Japan, jetlag certainly could have been a factor as well. I think Hioki will be able to avoid most of the stuff that Palaszewski throws at him, and he should be able to take Palaszewski down. He should do well in that position as Palaszewski will likely look to get back up to his feet instead of trying to submit Hioki. We also have to take into consideration that Palaszewski has had to make the plane ride over to Japan which could certainly affect his performance.

I think Hioki wins this one via unanimous decision using takedowns and a strong top game.

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