Hatsu Hioki was viewed as maybe the last hope of a great Japanese fighter to come to the UFC and compete among the best in the world in his weight class.
It almost came crashing down around him at UFC 137, but Hioki managed to pulled out a very close split decision win over George Roop.
For the former Shooto and Sengoku champion this fight was all about where it took place. It was apparent from the onset of the fight that Hioki wanted Roop on the ground.
Hioki executed a beautiful trip takedown in the 2nd round where he slipped right into mount and started to look for one of his signature triangle chokes. For all his effort however, Hioki only controlled Roop and never put him in any serious danger.
On the feet however Roop was the much stronger fighter, hitting kicks with combinations at several points in the fight, but never quite getting that shot needed to stun or put Hioki down.
The end result was a very close fight and the judges saw it the same. Two judges scored the fight 29-28 for Hatsu Hioki, while the third judge gave it 29-28 for Roop.
Hioki wins in his UFC debut, but not without some critics noting that once again for a fighter ranked as high as No. 2 in the world by some media outlets, he didn’t dominate like many expected he would.
“It was tough. He was stronger than I expected,” Hioki admitted after the fight.
It was a tough fight all the way around for Hioki, but ultimately he got the win and now moves on in the UFC’s featherweight division. He also made a statement following the fight about the current state of mixed martial arts in his home country.
“I want to say something to the world, even though we are in a tough situation, Japanese MMA is not dead,” Hioki stated. “It’s time to change.”