TUF China: Dong Hyun Kim vs. John Hathaway preview and the prognostication

Photo by Paolo Tabuena

Dong Hyun Kim takes on fellow Welterweight, and long time no fight prospect John Hathaway after a battle with Crohn's Disease, for the TUF: China Finale this weekend. It's a battle of top control specialists for five rounds in what should prove to an intriguing contest.

Dong Hyun Kim vs. John Hathaway Welterweight

When we last left our heroes...I'm tempted to play the revisionist when reflecting on Kim's status. His loss to Demian Maia was unusual to say the least. His loss to Carlos Condit was great for Condit, but that's generally a competitive matchup 9 times out of 10 right?

This kind of revisionism is always dangerous, and more than a little dumb. It's the sort of slippery slope thinking that somehow manages to validate any position you can think of: Fedor was overrated and fought too few elite HW's, Liddell had too many favorable stylistic matchups, etc.

Yet it feels worth pointing out here, because I don't know that Kim's losses tell us as much as we'd like. I think he's more durable than his loss to Condit indicates, for example. He's 18-2-1-1 NC, and I feel like he's still in the thick of it.

Hathaway is basically the British version of Kim; an underrated fighter with solid wins, very few losses, and yet not enough of either to tell us where they're headed in the division. Hathaway stormed out of the gate with wins over Rick Story and Diego Sanchez (right after Diego's fight with BJ Penn), only to stumble against Mike Pyle at UFC 120.

How has such a fighter managed to find himself withdrawn from the spotlight? He drew Mike Pyle in England when Pyle was 2-2 in the UFC with losses to Jake Ellenburger and Brock Larson. I suspect the UFC figured Pyle was a showcase fight for Hathaway in his hometown in a bout that seemed decent for Hathaway stylistically. He's on a three fight winning streak.

I should add: over the course of four years. Injuries have held him back, so how he'll bounce back (his last bout was in 2012 against John Maguire) is anyone's guess. Also, when I say injuries, I mean Crohn's Disease. It's possible Hathaway is trying to ice skate uphill here, but he's been cleared, so we'll see.

What both men can do: Hathaway is an interesting case study in what British fighters can and cannot do. With his background in freestyle wrestling, he uses it to great effect in his bouts. There's absolutely nothing flashy about Hathaway's style: he has a real blue collar worth ethic to the way he fights.

His single leg is particularly effective. While he's a little too robotic, his raw strength makes up for his lack of agility. He's not a great striker but he maintains a strong and steady right hand, complimented by a well timed knee that he loves driving in his opponent's face. He uses his reach well from top control to land punches as well.

Before Kim entered the UFC, he had five TKO/KOwins in his last six, and would end up TKO'ing his opponent Jason Tan in his debut at UFC 84 in 2008. He hadn't had a win by TKO or submission until his last bout, against Erick Silva in October.

Kim is not normally a powerful striker, but he executes crisp kicks that anyone should be mindful of. The punch he made Joe Silva Houston lift off out of his chair with is not the type of punch you'll expect to see him land often, if ever, but it highlights his ability on the feet in general. Not powerful, but accurate...not fast...but knows how to time strikes.

However, Kim is most effective as a top control grappler. With a wide array of takedowns, he's effective trying to pass guard, and land punches. In many ways, these guys are mirror images of one another...except...

What both men can't do: Kim is quicker, more agile, and more talented. One of the things I always found perplexing about Hathaway is how he wins so much. He's so slow and robotic in pretty much everything he does that you'd think he'd have lost to someone explosive and athletic by now.

I feel Hathaway has experienced some favorable matchups. Sanchez was in a weird spot at the time, and the Grand Canyon Penn opened up on his forehead may have still rattled him, and Story had just debuted in the UFC, and hadn't yet developed his current brand of hook the body striking.

Again, here we go with this revisionism logic, but I think it highlights John's matchup with Kim. Kim has excellent takedown defense, and should be able to kick his way to a decision while staying upright. Hathaway doesn't have much power on the feet, though he seems to generate more when in top control.

X-Factor: Hathaway's knees. He's very very sneaky with them, either in close, or from afar when timing an opponent coming in with their head down.

In-Fight Soundtrack: Not sure why this song seems fitting. It just is.

Prediction: Dong Hyun Kim by Decision.

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