UFC 144 fight card: Hatsu Hioki vs Bart Palaszewski prediction, preview and breakdown

Hatsui Hioki (L) and Bart Palaszewski (R) square off at the UFC 144 weigh-ins on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Photo by Esther Lin via SBnation.com.

It must be a grim prospect to exist as a featherweight contender, knowing that the menacing Jose Aldo reigns on the throne, awaiting mortals who might dare challenge him, as Mike Tyson used to say, with their primitive skills.

That aside, there’s still plenty of business in the being a featherweight contender, and Hatsu Hioki and Bart Palaszewski -- who will touch gloves in the center of the Octagon later this evening (Feb. 25, 2012) at UFC 144 from the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan -- is an interesting revelation on whom belongs where in the pecking order, which is significantly slimmed down since "Scarface" decimated top contender Chad Mendes in January.

Hioki is the perfect fighter to put on the pay-per-view (PPV) main card, as the return of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) to Japan kicks off the mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion’s drive to become a truly global attraction. In the heart of where PRIDE and numerous great rivalries were born, Hioki is an impressive product – decisioning the outstanding Marlon Sandro last December, he debuted at UFC 137, with a somewhat-disappointing split decision over George Roop.

Palaszewski, who spent much of his career battling bigger lightweights, has proven himself a live wire against most tough opposition, often surprising them with his power and ability to suck them into gut-check-style slugging matches. He’s one of the most fan-friendly fighters in the game.

And that’s precisely the reason he’s here against Hioki.

Follow me after the jump for a complete breakdown of the UFC 144 fight between Hatsu Hioki vs. Bart Palaszewski:

The Breakdown

Finally, with a card in the "Land of the Rising Sun," it’s good news for Hatsu that he won’t have to worry about the adjustment factor of competing outside of his native Japan. That’s something that’s clearly dogged other Japanese stars in the UFC in recent years, such as Takanori Gomi. Palaszewski isn’t likely to win a grappling match, but he has a good enough jiu-jitsu and wrestling game to create some openings in scrambles, where he’ll have to land big shots to shake up Hioki.

The Pick

This fight has decision written all over it.

Hioki isn’t really a finisher, and is incredibly durable, while Palaszewski is exceptionally tough to stop himself. Palaszewski’s got to make something happen early with his big hooks and spirited assaults, or he’s going to get grappled-smashed, run out of options and ridden to a decision loss.

That’s precisely what I see happening here, with Hioki proving too tactically smart to get sucked into a brawl, scoring takedowns and plenty of top-position time to win the fight via decision, with a scare or two along the way as Palaszewski lands heavy shots only to be clinched up and planted on the floor.

Hioki via decision

Be sure to join MMAmania.com this evening for LIVE, detailed UFC 144 results of all the "Edgar vs. Henderson" pay-per-view (PPV) action. It will include blow-by-blow coverage of the Facebook video stream, FX "Prelims" bouts, and of course, the PPV broadcast. We'll start RIGHT HERE at around 7:30 p.m. ET and carry straight on through early Sunday morning.

See you then!

Jason Probst can be reached at www.twitter.com/jasonprobst and at jason@jasonprobst.com.

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