Bart Palaszewski will put his well-rounded skills and 50 professional fights worth of experience to a serious test when he faces the gifted Hatsu Hioki at UFC 144 “Edgar vs. Henderson” on Saturday at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
As far as how their styles compare, Palaszewski feels he has the clear edge in the standup game. Though he emphasizes the fact that he does not take his world-ranked opponent lightly, he does not seem all that concerned with Hioki’s weaponry, either, choosing to instead focus on the punishment he can dish out in the striking realm.
“I’m a little more durable than most people, as well, as far as kicks and punches, but whatever he throws, I’m going to answer,” Palaszewski told Sherdog.com. “If he throws a kick, he’s going to be getting kicked, trust me. I’m not going to be one of those guys who just takes kicks and tries to prove he’s tough and lose like that.
“If he kicks me, I’m going to punch him twice and finish it with a kick,” he added. “I’ll go toe-to-toe with the best of them, I don’t mind. I’m pretty durable, and, against Hioki, I know I could take his worst shot on my best day, so, as far as standup goes, I’m not worried about it.”
His longtime trainer, Jeff Curran, describes Palaszewski’s ground game as “dominant” and believes it will stack up well against the most advanced aspect of Hioki’s attack.
“I’ve competed in jiu-jitsu over in Japan,” Curran said, “and I feel like they’re still a step behind, to be honest with you.”
Although Hioki seems likely to work for body locks, trips and other judo-style takedowns, Curran does not think such a strategy will prove fruitful against Palaszewski.
“I think that’s what Bart defends best,” he said. “He’s trained with more jiu-jitsu guys than he has wrestlers over the years, since the beginning of his training, so that kind of stuff sticks with you.”
Still, Palaszewski expects Hioki to try to take the fight to the mat. He believes he will be well-prepared for the former Shooto, Sengoku and TKO Major League MMA titleholder’s ground game.
“He might think he has an advantage, but I’m not really worried about it,” Palaszewski said. “Obviously, it’s something to be aware of and I’ve got to not take it lightly, but I’m a jiu-jitsu black belt and not an honorary one; I did earn it through many many years of hard training, and I’ve fought black belts before and they couldn’t do anything to me. So while I’m going to be aware of his grappling, I’m not going to be afraid and just try to tie him up on the ground.
“If the fight hits the ground, by my doing or his doing, I’m going to scrap on the ground,” he added. “I don’t care, but I definitely have an advantage standing up, so that’s where I’m going to try to keep the fight as long as I can.”
Although Curran himself lost to the Japanese submission specialist inside the Pride Fighting Championships promotion in August 2006, he remains confident this fight will end differently.
“I don’t think Hioki has the power to hurt anybody like Bart, to be honest with you,” Curran said. “I see Bart hurting him pretty bad and either putting him out cold or having the refs come in. That’s how I envision it; that’s how we’re all seeing it right now. I don’t see this fight going to three rounds, and if it does, it’s going to be three rounds of Bart beating on him, if Hioki’s got the heart and his country behind him and he can stand there and take it.
“I don’t see him being able to get Bart to the ground, and if he does, I don’t see him doing anything with it,” he added. “If Bart gets on top of Hioki, I see him making him a bloody mess. With Bart coming down in weight and doing what he did at the [155-pound] weight class, I think Hioki’s in for a nightmare.”