Dong Hyun Kim owns a 9-2 record in the UFC. | Photo: Stephen Martinez/Sherdog.com
Dong Hyun Kim has a once-beaten Brit in his crosshairs.
The “Stun Gun” will put his three-fight winning streak on the line when he matches skills and wits with John Hathaway in the UFC Fight Night 37 main event on Saturday at the Cotai Arena in Macau, China. The winner will climb another rung on the ladder in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s suddenly wide-open welterweight division.
A brutish judoka who wields a suffocating clinch and top game, Kim last fought at UFC Fight Night 29 in October, when he knocked out former Jungle Fight champion Erick Silva with a second-round punch at the Jose Correa Gymnasium in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The result was made all the more surprising by the fact that the 32-year-old South Korean had not finished an opponent in more than five years. Kim has compiled a 9-2 record since arriving in the UFC in May 2008, losing only to onetime World Extreme Cagefighting titleholder Carlos Condit and 2007 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist Demian Maia.
Hathaway will enter the cage on a modest three-fight winning streak. The 26-year-old London Shootfighters export has not competed since he posted a unanimous decision over John Maguire at UFC on Fuel TV 5 in September 2012. Victories over Brave Legion’s Rick Story, “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 1 winner Diego Sanchez and “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 11 runner-up Kris McCray anchor the Hathaway resume.
The UFC Fight Night 37 lineup provides plenty of water cooler fodder. We discuss some of it here:
Whitman: Between the early morning kickoff and the lack of star power, this card is a tough sell. How many Dr. Peppers is it going to take for you to get up for this thing?
Knapp: I refuse to complain too much, as I feel fortunate beyond words to be able to cover MMA for a living on a daily basis. The more pressing question centers on what kind of domestic audience the UFC can expect. You would have to think few fans, if any, on the west coast will be firing up UFC Fight Pass with the dead-of-night start time. As for my plans to stay awake and alert, I have sworn off the carbonated stuff. A few glasses of Chick-Fil-A sweet tea should provide all the caffeine I need.
Whitman: Kim has remained one of the most consistent if not thrilling welterweights on the UFC roster, though it appears we have seen the 32-year-old’s ceiling given his struggles against the likes of Maia and Condit. Kim is riding another winning streak, but even if he beats Hathaway, how much does that really mean for him?
Knapp: You have to give him a pass against Maia considering the odd manner in which it ended, and there is no shame in losing to Condit. I still think Kim has a lot to offer at 170 pounds. He may never make a run at the title, but he can cause problems for virtually anyone in the division. Guys are not exactly lining up to face him. A win inside the Octagon always means something, especially when it comes in a main event. Beating Hathaway would give Kim four consecutive victories and keep him in the discussion as a top 10 welterweight.
Whitman: I think Hathaway has far more to gain from a victory here, considering the Brit has fallen out the spotlight in recent years. Do you agree that a victory over Kim would be Hathaway’s biggest since upsetting Sanchez in 2010?
Knapp: I would count it as his biggest -- period. Bouncing between lightweight and welterweight, Sanchez has gone just 3-2 since facing Hathaway; and it could easily have been 1-4 given the close and controversial nature of his wins over Martin Kampmann and Takanori Gomi. Kim is a legitimate top 10-15 welterweight with wins over Matt Brown, T.J. Grant, Nate Diaz, Siyar Bahadurzada and the aforementioned Silva. In my mind, he ranks as a much bigger fish than Sanchez.
Whitman: There is nothing like a couple of ex-football players duking it out in the old Octagon. In spite of their faults, Matt Mitrione and Shawn Jordan are still two of the best athletes in the heavyweight division. Who are you picking in this one and why?
Knapp: Mitrione will have a three-inch height and better than a six-inch reach advantage over Jordan. Those measurable factors, coupled with the fact that his standup has proven far more refined, makes him a clear favorite to me. Plus, I think Jordan will engage him on the feet. With that said, we are talking about heavyweights here, so it would not surprise me at all if Jordan blasted him with one of those clubbing right hands and ended his night in a hurry.
Whitman: This event will also stage the welterweight final for “The Ultimate Fighter: China.” Does either of the two finalists, Wang Sai or Lipeng Zhang, interest you as a legitimate prospect, or do you think we are simply looking at guys who will fill out a bill when the UFC revisits Asia?
Knapp: Based on past history and the experience level of the two finalists, you have to think we are looking at undercard fodder for future UFC events in Asia. Fairly or unfairly, Tiequan Zhang serves as the measuring stick for fighters from the region, and his performances inside the Octagon did not exactly inspire the masses.
Whitman: If Hatsu Hioki falls to Ivan Menjivar, can we officially classify his UFC career as a massive disappointment?
Knapp: This may sound harsh, but I already consider it a massive disappointment. He arrived in the UFC as the consensus No. 2 featherweight in the world, won his first two fights and then proceeded to fall off the wagon, losing three straight. His passive approach has done him no favors in the Octagon. Weighing the technical and size advantages he holds over Menjivar, this certainly looks like a fight that he should win. Then again, seeing is believing.