Rising English welterweight, John Hathaway, takes on South Korean judo ace, Dong Hyun Kim, this Saturday at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "China" Finale inside Venetian CotaiArena in Macao.
After a promising (10-0) start to his mixed martial arts (MMA) career, Hathaway was recruited to fight for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) on a fight card in Dublin, Ireland. The then-22 year old quickly hammered away at his opponent with elbows for a technical knockout victory, proving that UFC had made the correct call in bringing him up.
Though his trend of success continued in his next seven bouts, in which he only lost a single time to the crafty Mike Pyle, his streak of finishes ended. Outside of his debut, Hathaway has securely defeated six opponents, but was unable to finish any of them.
Can he finish his next foe within five rounds?
Let's find out.
At 6'1", Hathaway is a lanky welterweight, although he still has a considerable amount of muscle packed on. Using his size advantage, Hathaway looks to pick apart his opponents from the outside.
Though the techniques they use are different, Hathaway and fellow Brit Michael Bisping have a few things in common on the feet. Both move around the Octagon very well, rely on high volumes of strikes, and have excellent conditioning. This results in fewer knockout victories but makes them much more difficult to take down.
Hathaway starts all of his fights the same, circling around his foe and frequently switching directions. As he does this, he'll keep his jab in his opponent's face and mix in hooks as well. If his opponent attempts to throw a combination while Hathaway is circling, he'll use his left hook to interrupt and counter.
In between his constant movement, Hathaway will step into combinations. They rarely extend past three or four punches, but Hathaway is fairly accurate with them. The issue is that Hathaway doesn't always move his head as he goes forward with punches, something he's good about on the outside, which leaves him at risk to counters.
One thing that Hathaway does rather well is use his right hand when his opponent chases him. As he's being followed, "The Hitman" will hide his punch with a bit of a stutter step then burst forward with a single right cross. After throwing the punch, he'll exit at an angle, usually back in the center of the cage. If his opponent's defense is relaxed, he'll step into the punch more or turn it into an overhand.
Though he primarily punches, Hathaway has done a very nice job working more kicks into his game. In addition to standard low and high round house kicks, Hathaway occasionally utilizes a hard front kick to back his opponent off and kicks after switching stances. He usually throws his kicks far enough away and with enough diversity that he's safe from counters.
After Hathaway lands his combination, he often looks for a quick clinch. Inside the clinch, Hathaway is very good at attacking with elbows but is especially dangerous with knees. The Englishman transitions between wrestling and the clinch extremely well, allowing him to land quick, hard knees to his opponent's skull if he's not careful.
Hathaway's use of knee strikes is not limited to the clinch. He uses a stepping knee after throwing a high strike often, which baits his opponent to shoot. Or, he'll just wait until his opponent shoots from too far out with no set up, which is how he landed the strike on Diego Sanchez. Finally, Hathaway really likes to explode into a flying knee when his opponent is trapped against the fence.
One of the few exceptions to the "British fighters can't wrestle" rule, Hathaway actually came into the UFC primarily as a takedown specialist. In addition to freestyle wrestling experience, Hathaway also uses rugby background to drag opponents into the mat.
Hathaway's method of forcing the fight to the mat is not unlike a rugby tackle. When he shoots, he doesn't get particularly low or skim the mat with his knee. Instead, he lowers his upper body and rushes through his opponent. Regardless of whether it's a single or double leg takedown, Hathaway uses this style of takedown to drive through his opponent's defense and overpower him. Hathaway will also mix a knee pick attempt in with his shots, adding a bit of unpredictability into his attack.
Although his wrestling is aggressive and powerful, Hathaway can get sloppy. Occasionally, he lets his opponent get an advantageous position and will still attempt the takedown. When this happens, he can leave himself open to strikes or wind up on the bottom.
For the most part, Hathaway's defensive wrestling is quite good. Against standard wrestle-boxers like Rick Story and Diego Sanchez, Hathaway's rangy striking made their shots look slow and easy to counter. However, against a craftier grappler in Mike Pyle, Hathaway had no answer to the veteran's clinch takedowns and was utterly controlled on the mat. Against a clinch fighter like Kim, it's important for him to work on this flaw.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)
With only two submission victories in his career, Hathaway's full grappling abilities aren't exactly clear. Throughout his UFC stint, he's showed some promise and made a few mistakes.
From his back, Hathaway uses a high guard offensively to threaten his foe with basic attacks, primarily the armbar and triangle. He has yet to finish any of his opponents from this position, but it was enough for him to create get up opportunities and prevent damage against Rick Story.
In his bout against Kris McCray, Hathaway displayed the clearest picture we have of his grappling skill. The two fighters traded position and submission, with Hathaway attacking with a twisting foot lock and armbar. McCray survived these attempts and managed to get positions by sweeping Hathaway with his butterfly guard, as well as takedowns. Overall, Hathaway did pretty well with "The Savage" on the mat, who is a Renzo Gracie-trained grappler.
Hathaway showed clear improvement on his top control following that bout with McCray. Pascal Krauss is a solid grappler, but Hathaway was able to completely shut down his butterfly guard with heavy hips even if he was unable to pass. Then, he showcased further improvement by passing John Maguire's guard in his next fight, whose entire game is to submit his opponent.
Though he clearly lost to Pyle, Hathaway did prove his submission defense and toughness. Pyle is a sneaky grappler and managed to land in dominant positions, like the reverse mounted triangle, but Hathaway hung in there and refused to give up anything.
Best chance for success
Hathaway should be extremely pleased that this is a five-round bout, as his cardio is phenomenal, while "The Stun Gun" has slowed down in three round affairs. If Hathaway is able to push a hard pace, the fight will be his to take in the later rounds.
Hathaway needs to delay Kim's clinch as long as possible. This means that he needs to be hyperactive with his movement and avoid the cage, where the South Korean's strength is very difficult to fight. He really needs to work his jab constantly, anything to keep Kim away and frustrate him. It also wouldn't be a terrible idea to incorporate more push kicks into his attack, as they're difficult to catch and are excellent distance keepers.
When Kim forces his way into the clinch, Hathaway's objective should be to land knees to the body. Body shots in general are a good idea for the Englishman, but he has to be aware that Kim's game plan involves heavy clinch work. The more Hathaway wears him out in these exchanges, the sooner the tide will turn to his favor.
Should Hathaway wind up on his back, it's vital that he doesn't allow Kim to pass his guard, something Kim has done to many of his past foes. If Kim secures a dominant position like mount, Hathaway is stuck, has lost the round, and failed to fatigue his opponent at all. Hathaway should get his feet into his opponent's hips and kick as often as possible, as it's incredibly tiring to hold down a kicking opponent.
Can Hathaway outlast the powerful "Stun Gun," or will Kim take one step closer to a title shot?