Based Off Octagon Debut, Bart Palaszewski Says Hatsu Hioki “Overrated”
By Kelsey Mowatt
After ten years of professional fighting and 50 fights on his record, Bart Palaszewski doesn’t want to waste any time staking his claim at the top of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s 145lb. division. In October, Palaszewski made the most of his Octagon and featherweight debut by knocking out vet Tyson Griffin in the first round. In order to follow up that noteworthy win with a chance for another, Palaszewski let the UFC brass know that he was interested in fighting one of the word’s top ranked featherweights, Hatsu Hioki.
“It’s actually a fight that we asked for,” Palaszewski (36-14) told FCF, while discussing his upcoming, February 25th, UFC 144 match-up with Hioki. “We made a list in case I lost or in case I won–you always do your best but sometimes things don’t work out–so we made the list and after I won we turned it in. Hioki was at the very top of that list so that’s the match-up we wanted and I’m super happy about it.”
Last year, Hioki’s (25-4) UFC arrival was welcomed by many throughout the sport, as thanks to a run which includes wins over noteworthy opponents like Marlon Sandro and Takeshi Inoue, the Japanese fighter is widely ranked near the top of the featherweight division. Hioki’s Octagon debut was far from a dominating performance, however, as the Shooto champ narrowly got by George Roop at UFC 137 with a split decision win.
“After his showing against Roop, who is a good fighter, I don’t want to take that from him, he’s tough, but Hioki is number two or three in the world, and the performance he had, I think you’re as good as your last fight,” Palaszewski said. “I think based on that fight he’s overrated.”
“Maybe, don’t know,” Palaszewki added, when asked if he thought nerves may have played a factor in Hioki’s first UFC bout. “I had some nerves in my first UFC fight too. Maybe it was UFC jitters, maybe you can blame it on jet lag, blame it on whatever you want…Maybe George Roop just doesn’t get the credit he deserves. He’s tough; maybe Roop’s underrated.”
While Hioki has often drawn praise for his ground game and submission skills, the veteran has also scored wins via his striking and by making effective use of his 5’11 tall frame.
“He does have a solid ground game obviously,” Palaszewski said while breaking down Hioki as an opponent. “Am I worried about that? Not really. I’ve been grappling for 13, 14 years and I’m a jiu-jitsu black belt. Not an honorary one; I’m actually a legit black belt, but I like to stand and bang with people.”
“I don’t think he has the power to knock anybody out,” the 5’9 tall, IFL vet furthered. “I believe I do, and I think overall I’m just a better striker than him technically, and I’ve seen some of his fights and he was getting dropped. The only thing that saved him in Shooto was that they had standing 8 counts. He has fought some good strikers though and pulled it off, so I’m sure it’s something he works on a lot.”
If Palaszewski can indeed play the spoiler and defeat Hioki in his native Japan, the Jeff Curran trained fighter will move into the division’s title shot mix.
“Obviously the ultimate goal is to get at the gold,” Palaszewski noted. “I broke into the top ten with the win over Tyson, and I would like to break into the top five with Hioki, and hopefully get a contender fight after that. I’m working hard, taking the right fights and working my way up.”