TUF China Finale Fight Breakdown: Hatsu Hioki (-420) vs. Ivan Menjivar (+375)

Ivan Menjivar A bout I believe has the potential to be “Fight of the Night” at the TUF China Finale is a featherweight bout between Hatsu Hioki and Ivan “The Pride of El Salvador” Menjivar. The current betting line for the fight at Several Bookmakers lists Hioki as a -420 favorite (bet $420 to win $100) while Menjivar is a +375 underdog (bet $100 to win $375). MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas originally opened up Hioki at -350 and Menjivar at +250, meaning the early action has come in on the favorite Hioki. I agree with the line movement, as I’m also going to pick Hioki to win this fight. Here’s why. Hioki (26-7-2) is the former Shooto, Sengoku and TKO featherweight champion. The 30-year-old Japanese fighter is excellent on the ground as 12 of his career victories have come via submission, and he’s also a very technical striker on the feet. A decade-long veteran of the sport, Hioki made it to the UFC in 2011 and has so far gone 2-3 overall with the three losses coming in his last three fights. Although Hioki has a ton of talent and skill, for whatever reason he just hasn’t been able to put it together in the Octagon. Still, it’s not like he’s been blown out — his three decision losses to Darren Elkins, Clay Guida and Ricardo Lamas were all competitive fights. But being close in MMA doesn’t matter — you have to come away with the victory, and Hioki hasnt’ did that. He’s being given an opportunity this weekend to right the ship and take on Menjivar in China, but there’s no doubt this is a must-win fight for Hioki and so, with everything on the line, look for the best Hioki we’ve seen in the UFC yet. Menjivar (25-11) is a long-time veteran of the sport who has competed in many of the world’s top MMA promotions over the course of the last decade. The 31-year-old has been inconsistent since returning to the UFC in 2011, going 4-3 overall in the bantamweight division including two-straight losses in his last two fights. To be fair to Menjivar, though, he only lost to Urijah Faber, Wilson Reis and Mike Easton — all of whom are ranked in the top 15 — but his wins came over Nick Pace, John Albert, Azamat Gashimov, and Charle Valencia — four fights who don’t fight in the Octagon anymore. If Menjivar loses to Hioki it will be his fourth loss in his last five fights and he could be potentially be cut from the roster. So in a last-ditch effort to remain in the UFC, Menjivar has decided to move back up to 145 and the UFC has booked him against Hioki, who is a very difficult matchup for Menjivar. Although Menjivar is a well-rounded fighter with good submissions and underrated striking, his wrestling is rather poor and against Hioki it’s likely he’ll be put on his back quite a bit. And if he spends the majority of the fight on his back, he’ll be hard pressed to have the referee raise his hand at the end of 15 minutes. I expect an extremely fun fight to be put on by these two veteran featherweights. Look for a lot of quirky scrambles and transitions on the ground pulled off by both fighters, and also look for some interesting striking techniques to be shown on the feet. I think this fight is likely to go to the cards, but since I see Hioki being the more effective striker and grappler over the course of three rounds, I expect him to snap his three-fight losing streak and pick up the judges’ decision. At -420, I believe the line is a little high on Hioki, but if it drops down to near the opener again I think he could be worth parlaying. Despite Hioki’s recent losses, I just have a hard time seeing Menjivar winning this fight and I wouldn’t even consider playing him as a dog unless he hit +400 or something crazy like that. So for now, the fight is a pass but the lean is definitely Hioki and as far as the total goes I believe the OVER 2.5 rounds prop, which is currently -245, should be a winner, although the line is a tad high for my liking. Also keep your eye out for the Hioki by decision and submission props and see what kind of plus money they pay.

Written by Adam Martin.

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