Continuing onward with Bloody Elbow's coverage of Saturday's UFC on Fuel TV 5 show from Nottingham, England, we arrive at the England vs. England match up that pits John Hathaway vs. John Maguire. The event's 6-fight main card, which is captained by heavyweights Stefan Struve and Stipe Miocic, begins at 4:30 p.m. ET on FUEL TV and airs on the heels of the 6-piece Facebook stream at 1:30 p.m. ET.
John Hathaway (16-1) and John Maguire (18-3) have atypical fighting backgrounds. 25-year-old Hathaway was a rugby player lured to the sport after watching the UFC on television; 29-year-old Maguire, an authentic English traveler who wears pink as a tribute to professional wrestler Bret "The Hitman" Hart, touts himself as a practitioner of "Gypsy Jiu-Jitsu." Say that five-times fast.
Maguire is a recent entry, having debuted successfully in the Octagon with a decision win over Justin Edwards at UFC 138 before validating his potential with a 2nd-round armbar on DaMarques Johnson in his sophomore effort. "The One" has been billed as a grappling specialist, as evinced by winning 10 of 18 by submission (with 3 TKOs), but has demonstrated a functional grasp of striking and wrestling. When entangled in the clinch or on the mat, Maguire is deceivingly clever in achieving a good position by slipping around into the rear-waist cinch in standing tie-ups or with smooth sweeps and passes on the floor.
More UFC on FUEL TV 5 Dissections
Hathaway, a considerably long and lanky welterweight (6'2", 76" reach), is a unique study. He's managed to succeed at the top level by applying his length with basic boxing skills and sturdy takedown defense. As a youngster plunged into the sport learning MMA as a whole rather than a specialist who built off prior combat sports experience, Hathaway's instincts and athleticism are more integral to his style than elaborate technique.
While he continues to improve in the technical department at the respected London Shootfighters camp, Hathaway started out tackling people more so than executing fundamental takedowns and, in his marquee wins, relied on balance, leverage and agility to stave off aggressive wrestlers in Diego Sanchez, Rick Story and Kris McCray. While he was taken down by those fighters on occasion, Hathaway's feisty scrambling only allowed for brief grappling encounters before he was back upright and loosening strikes. It's no coincidence that, in his only career loss, Hathaway was finally contained on the canvas and buried under the methodical top-side onslaught of Mike Pyle.
Continued in the full entry.
Maguire's striking and wrestling are still somewhat unproven at the top-level but there's no question that his ground game is for real. Thus far, he's done well in trading on the feet in order to set up his takedowns and clinch advances without forcing the issue or telegraphing his intent. From the southpaw stance, he's also been wise to gradually walk his opponent down and seek out the clinch position before pursuing trips or throws, usually from the body lock, instead of springing for single- and double-legs from a distance.
This tactic is a safer and more methodical approach that lets him keep the fight in his preferred range and repeatedly chip away with low-risk attacks. In close quarters, Maguire can also distract with knees and dirty boxing to camouflage his takedown attempts and avoid predictability. His wrestling -- the gleaming key to access his grappling acumen -- was an imperative factor against Johnson, a crisp and explosive boxer. Having passed that test, the emphasis on Maguire's effectiveness with takedowns will continue to increase as he rises up the divisional totem pole to face better competition.
And the threat awaiting him is a prime example: Hathaway's core competency is a rock-solid sprawl-and-brawl routine that represents a tremendous step up from Edwards and Johnson. While they're not the most decorated welterweight wrestlers, Sanchez and Story have cemented their top-shelf takedown prowess but were unable to upend Hathaway effectively enough or prevent him from implementing his rangy boxing. "The Hitman" excels in hammering a well-timed knee to aspiring takedown artists and pelts down nasty punches and elbows from the top position.
While this reinforces that Hathaway is a particularly formidable match up for Maguire, my previous elaboration on Hathaway's "instinct over technique" leaves a few open doors for Maguire. For a guy who doesn't even come close to meeting the standards for reputable wrestling credentials, I'm extremely impressed with how calculating and composed Maguire is in his endeavors.
Much like Maguire's puzzling adeptness against BJJ black belts despite having no official belt or rank, his lack of a reputable wrestling background has not stopped him from putting his foe on the canvas thus far. He's also cerebral about it: against Edwards, a wide-bodied tank with a burly clinch game, Maguire fished for a standing kimura with his back against the fence but then slickly transitioned to rear waist control; from deep half-guard when Edwards was still on his feet, Maguire dug in an underhook for leverage, took a knee and launched into a double leg to reverse position; while wrenching a guillotine from the front headlock position, Maguire immediately dropped levels for a single leg the moment Edwards popped his head out of the hold.
When he's not chaining together these clever transitions, Maguire looks to lock horns and move from the over-under clasp into double underhooks or a body lock, where his low center of gravity facilitates inside and outside trips. He's completely in his element once the fight hits the ground -- he's not much of a ground striker, but he pressures constantly without sacrificing his position, he's constantly looking to advance or submit and he baits his opponent with decoy attacks to set up his counter attacks.
Maguire's not devoid of flaws either though. Standing, he maintains decent defense with a closed stance but has a tendency to retreat in a straight line when pressed and drop his hands. He was floored early by Edwards, but by an unorthodox combination -- a massive overhand right after landing a spinning back kick to the body -- and he regained his wits quickly.
I think Maguire has the grappling chops to beat Hathaway on the floor, but it'll be tough to get him there and even tougher to keep him there long enough to mount offense. Hathaway's nullified higher-profile wrestlers in the past and his lengthy boxing should keep him in the driver's seat, as his hefty lead on the betting lines suggests. For whatever it's worth, Maguire's clinch takedowns are eerily similar to those of Mike Pyle, who employed a clinch-centric set of trips of throws from the body lock to hand Hathaway his only loss.
My Prediction: John Hathaway by decision.