Two of the brightest welterweight prospects out of the UK will clash this Saturday afternoon (Sept. 29, 2012) as British standout John Hathaway takes on talented grappler John Maguire on the main card of UFC on Fuel TV 5 in Nottinghan, England.
Hathaway has been sidelined for a significant amount of time in the past two years but he finally put his injuries woes behind him in his last bout, a three round destruction of formerly unbeaten German Pascal Krauss. "The Hitman" is out to prove he's the best rising talent in the UK and there's no better way to do it than by beating his best competition.
John Maguire showcased some solid grappling talent in his UFC debut but it was his last bout, a dominant display of ground skill which really put him on the map in the welterweight division. He completely outclassed DaMarques Johnson on the canvas before the second round armbar and he's hoping to let that momentum carry over into his showdown against Hathaway.
Will Hathaway prove he's the best young welterweight in the UK? Or will Maguire rise to the occasion with the biggest win of his six year career? What's they key to victory for both men on Saturday?
Let's find out:
Record: 16-1 overall, 6-1 in the UFC
Key Losses: Mike Pyle (UFC 120)
How he got here: A former rugby player, John Hathaway became transfixed with MMA and made the transition at 19 years old. He got off to a stellar start in his MMA career, winning 10 straight fights on the local UK circuit including several impressive showings with the Cage Rage promotion.
Hathaway caught the attention of the UFC and made his debut in the promotion in 2009, defeating Tom Egan on the preliminary card at UFC 93 in London. He progressed quickly, defeating the likes of Rick Story and Paul Taylor before a career defining performance on the main card of UFC 114 when he crushed Diego Sanchez in his welterweight return, nearly knocking "The Dream" out with a brutal knee and controlling the bout from then on.
"The Hitman's" hype was derailed by veteran Mike Pyle at UFC 120 in front of his hometown fans, and since then, Hathaway has dealt with a wide assortment of injuries and delays. He barely squeaked by Kris McCray in his next bout and his return to the cage was delayed by over a year due to an assortment of injuries. He finally returned this past May, destroying Pascal Krauss on the preliminary card to announce he's back and strong as ever.
Now, he'll get an opportunity to prove it against John Maguire on a main card in his native England.
How he gets it done: Hathaway is a long and very athletic welterweight. While he's got some decent punching, it's his knees that are his (not-so) secret weapon. He's incredibly accurate with them, timing strikes during takedown attempts.
While Hathaway has some solid wrestling in his back pocket, he should probably first test the waters with his striking as the ground is where Maguire feels most comfortable. It would only be recommended that Hathaway go to the ground if he's extremely confident he can stay on top and drop ground and pound or perhaps if he drops Maguire with a shot on the feet.
Expect to see that wrestling used in reverse for this fight as the 25 year old looks to open up with his striking and get more comfortable and confident as the fight wears on.
Record: 18-3 overall, 2-0 in the UFC
How he got here: John Maguire started his fight career in 2006 and won his first eight bouts. He had his momentum halted at the World Pankration Championships but he bounced back and consecutive victories earned him an opportunity to fight for upstart UK promotion BAMMA.
His run in BAMMA was a dark spot in his career as he was defeated by current champion Tom Watson at middleweight in the inaugural event. He returned for BAMMA 3 as a welterweight where he dropped a unanimous decision to Simeon Thoresen.
Since those losses, however, he's looked terrific. Maguire signed up with London-based promotion UCMMA where he would win four straight which included both winning the promotion's title and defending it three times successfully. This earned him an invite into the UFC where he handled former Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 13 fighter Justin Edwards over the course of three rounds to win a decision.
He defeated another TUF veteran in DaMarques Johnson in his last bout, earning a second round submission in Sweden and he's hoping to propel himself into marquee status by handling his compatriot in Hathaway this weekend.
How he gets it done: Obviously, Maguire's strength has been his grappling. He took over against Edwards in his UFC debut and was able to dominate the wrestler and Jorge Gurgel protege over the course of three rounds with his top control, ground and pound and excellent positioning. He made it look easy on the ground in his next fight as well, slowly giving Johnson no chance of escape before finally tapping him out.
Maguire has some limited stand-up ability, but it's not on the same level as Hathaway and he definitely doesn't threaten much with power on the feet. If he stands, it should honestly just be long enough to create an opening to close the distance and get the bout to the canvas. He shouldn't mess around and give "The Hitman" a chance to land that dreaded knee.
If he can get Hathaway on the canvas, Maguire should adopt a similar approach to what Mike Pyle was able to do in controlling him on the ground with superior wrestling and top positioning. It's unlikely that Hathaway would be submitted but he can definitely be controlled. It may not be pretty or the most fan-friendly, but it'll give him the best chance of pulling out the win.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight is most likely the major step up in competition level for Maguire. Sure he's 2-0 in the UFC but fighting a legitimate stud in John Hathaway is a horse of a completely different color than his prior bouts against Justin Edwards and DaMarques Johnson. He's come up short in the past against some top UFC-caliber competition like Simeon Thoresen and Tom Watson so this will potentially be a defining moment for the Peterborough native.
The winner of this fight will become a bit of a mover and shaker in the welterweight division, potentially becoming one of the new faces of the UK so there is a lot on the line.
Bottom Line: This bout has potential to be entertaining but it's not a guarantee. Hathaway, while he possesses some wicked knees, has become a bit of a decision machine, going to the judges in each of his last six fights. Maguire is coming off a submission but it's highly unlikely he taps Hathaway out so if he were to win, it would likely be a three round grappling affair with significant top control. The odds of a stoppage in this bout are rather low.
Who will come out on top at UFC on Fuel TV 5? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!