One of the more appealing battles taking place on Saturday at UFC 120 in London, England will feature undefeated British standout John Hathaway (14-0, 4-0 UFC) as he battles Xtreme Couture fighter Mike Pyle (20-7-1, 2-2 UFC). As you may recall, Hathaway's coming out party took place at UFC 114 against Diego Sanchez. Over the course of three rounds, Hathaway absolutely dominated Sanchez in all aspects of the fight, even earning a 10-8 round from one of the three judges. Most fans didn't know who Hathaway was until that fight, and it looks like the UFC has plans to continue promoting Hathaway as one of Britain's best young talents.
It probably doesn't make sense that Hathaway has drawn Pyle, but Hathaway's original opponent, Dong Hyun Kim, was forced to withdraw from this card due to injury. Kim's loss is Pyle's opportunity to impress, although it's probably pretty apparent for many fans that Pyle has some huge obstacles to overcome against Hathaway. Nonetheless, Pyle is coming into this contest with a win over Jesse Lennox at UFC 115 under his belt, a small confidence boost for Pyle after being knocked out by Jake Ellenberger at UFC 108.
Hathaway's stand-up game looked sharp in his last outing against Sanchez, and the combinations in conjunction with nicely-timed knees proved to be Sanchez's Achilles' heel in that contest. Pyle really doesn't offer anything better than what Sanchez offered Hathaway, and most fans would say Pyle is a step down the ladder. I would tend to agree with that opinion, although Pyle does present a proven submission threat on the ground. The only problem is that Hathaway will likely be drilling to maintain his feet and pepper Pyle, a gameplan that has worked well against him in the past.
So, how can Pyle actually make this a competitive contest? The ground game is probably his only shot at a victory on Saturday, and even that's a tough proposition considering Hathaway's wrestling is very good. But that's where Pyle needs to get this fight, sooner rather than later. If he can work Hathaway to the ground, quickly transition and catch Hathaway off guard, he may have a chance at upsetting the British lightweight in front of his hometown crowd. Pyle does have a wide range of submissions at his disposal, so don't count him out completely.
Look for Hathaway to stand and pepper Pyle with strikes for most of this fight. He'll want to avoid the ground at all costs due to Pyle's fairly slick transition skills, and I doubt he'll want to take this to the ground late either. Pyle has had a knack for submissions in the later rounds in the past. If this fight hits the floor early, I'd be a bit nervous for Hathaway. Pyle seems to have the skills to surprise us when we think he's out, but I'm going with Hathaway here via a striking clinic. He'll take out Pyle via TKO inside the three-round limit.