TUF China Finale’s Ivan Menjivar “Not Scared” of Hatsu Hioki’s Reach or Height, Weighs in on Opponent’s Recent Struggles
By Kelsey Mowatt
While some critics and fans have written off Hatsu Hioki’s contender status in the UFC, as a result of three straight losses, it doesn’t sound like the featherweight’s next opponent is one of them. In a couple of weeks time, Ivan Menjivar will head to Macau to battle Hioki on March 1st, and he doesn’t attribute his opponent’s recent struggles to a lack of ability. In fact, Menjivar sees some similarities between his career and Hioki’s.
“The different of the sport in the cage; the cage makes a big difference for a lot of the fighters like us,” Menjivar noted on Full Contact Fighter Radio recently, while discussing what’s behind Hioki’s three fight losing skid. “We started our careers in the ring, so it was so different with the ropes…Not the rules, the fighting. The level of fighting is higher in the UFC, so it’s a mix of everything.”
“The sport is so big now,” added Menjivar, who made his pro debut back in 2001 while competing in a ring. “The rules, the way you have to use the cage is so different. Maybe the adaptation takes longer for a guy like him, even for me. When I started back in the Octagon, in the cage, it’s different compared to fighting in a ring.”
When Hioki signed with the UFC in 2011, he was widely regarded to be one of the planet’s best 145’ers, thanks to his impressive run in Sengoku and Shooto. After scoring wins over George Roop and Bart Palaszewki in his first two Octagon bouts, Hioki reportedly passed on a title fight with champion Jose Aldo. Since then the 30 year-old vet has been decisioned by Ricardo Lamas, Clay Guida and Darren Elkins, who are all noted wrestlers and grapplers.
Menjivar, on the other hand, is more known for his diverse striking and dangerous guard. In addition, the 5’6 tall fighter will have to negate the reach and length advantage of Hioki, who is 5’11.
“Yeah, he’s taller, so long reach, I’m going to try to move,” said Menjivar, who ultimately decided cutting down to 135 is too taxing on his body . “Punch and make everything my advantage. Right now I’m really lucky to fight. I have a lot of sparring partners that are really long like him. So that’s gone well.”
“The training is perfect; I have good partners to prepare for the fight,” the Tristar fighter added, who is coming off losses to Urijah Faber and Wilson Reis, after tapping out Azamat Gashimov in November, 2012. “I’m not scared of his reach, or how tall he is. Let’s see what happens in the ring.”
While Hioki’s reach and size poses a threat to opponents in terms of striking, the BJJ black belt is also revered for his submission and guard game.
“He has long legs, so he’s the kind of guy you don’t want to be in between his legs, because his triangle-choke is really good,” the 31 year-old relayed about Hioki. “Right now I work on that too; to not give him any advantage. I’m training with Ryan Hall, I’m training with many guys here at Tristar, and they know what Hioki does, so they try to imitate him.”
The TUF China Finale will be hosted by Macau’s Cotai Arena, and will feature Dong Hyun Kim taking on John Hathaway in the main event.