In case you missed the update to yesterday’s rumor, top-five featherweight Hatsu Hioki will be facing Ricardo Lamas at UFC on FX: Maynard vs. Guida (June 22nd, Atlantic City), and Erik Koch is indeed the leading candidate to be the next challenger to Jose Aldo‘s belt.
If it seems that Koch is being pushed to a title shot a little too soon — especially coming off of a lengthy injury layoff — well, it’s not his fault. As UFC president Dana White explained to FOX Sports, Hioki was next in line, but insisted on getting “one more test before going for the belt.”
Let us now dissect the wisdom of Hioki’s decision…
From a competitive standpoint, Hioki made the right call. Though he was widely considered Japan’s top featherweight during his stint in Sengoku, his UFC debut saw him barely squeak by George Roop. In February, he turned in a much more impressive performance, dominating (but not finishing) Bart Palaszewski at UFC 144 in his home country. One more lap through the Octagon on U.S. soil would make him a comfortable UFC veteran, better prepared for the unique pressure and atmosphere of the promotion. And let’s be honest, one does not simply walk into Jose Aldo.
But from a career perspective, Hioki might have screwed himself here. Ricardo Lamas has looked outstanding since dropping to featherweight, earning a first-round TKO against Matt Grice last June, then picking up a Submission of the Night bonus for his arm-triangle choke of Cub Swanson at UFC on FOX 1. If Lamas scores an upset (which is entirely possible), Hioki will plummet down the 145-pound contender’s ladder, and it could take years to claw his way back. Even if Hioki wins, his place in line isn’t guaranteed. In general, the UFC doesn’t hold guys who turn down big opportunities in high regard. When Joe Silva calls, you say “yes” even before he has the chance to say “sup, bro.”
What do you think? Will Hioki’s decision come back to bite him in the ass?