The world of mixed martial arts is often a fickle one. With so many fighters competing across the world in small promotions, it's easy for experts and fans alike to dismiss the win-loss records of some of the professionals calling MMA their craft. There are very few better examples of the weight that a fighter's ledger of opponents can have on his or her career than John Hathaway. Even though his record is one that many fighters would love to have, the British fighter has never faced the level of competition that he will receive in Saturday’s main event when he faces Dong Hyun Kim at The Ultimate Fighter China Finale, and as such, he has never received his just due.
The main event set at the Coatai Arena in Macau, China will be Hathaway's ninth fight for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. With nearly eight years of professional experience, “The Hitman” has built a 17-1 win-loss record, including, at one point, a 14-fight win streak which concluded against Mike Pyle in 2010 after four straight wins in the Octagon. During that run he defeated both Rick Story and Diego Sanchez, who were considered two of the toughest opponents available in the welterweight division at that time. However, despite a 7-1 record in the UFC, very few mainstream fans or talking heads in the sport have ever talked about Hathaway as a potential candidate for a title shot in the 170-pound weight class. Injuries may have played a role in that (Hathaway missed all of 2013 and much of 2011 due to injuries), but other reasons may be who Hathaway has defeated, and how he has won, since joining the biggest stage in the sport.
According to Fight Metric, Hathaway has an average Octagon fight time of 13:42 seconds. He may have nine finishes in his professional career, but he only has one stop since 2009, which was when he defeated Tom Egan in his promotional debut at UFC 93. The wrestling- and grappling-based style that Hathaway uses is very effective, as his record shows, but the recent history of the sport has shown that if fight fans don't enjoy the way a fighter competes, he or she may not receive the same level of recognition as those putting together highlight reel stoppages.
Let’s also look at the fighters that Hathaway has faced at this level. Of his seven victories, Sanchez and Story are the only two competitors that have been able to break into the top ten at 170 pounds. His one defeat to Pyle was far from the kind of one-sided affairs we've seen Pyle put together in his recent run. The group of UFC opponents Hathaway has faced carry a total current win-loss record of 122-45, which equates to a win percentage of 73.1, but his level of competition is not considered the level that puts a fighter on the cusp of title challenger discussions.
But that can change after Saturday. John Hathaway will have an opportunity to make a statement against Dong Hyun Kim when he steps into the Octagon on March 1. While he may be fighting on Fight Pass in a main event that isn't as publicized as others, with an impressive victory, he’ll be able to make his strongest case to date for top ten consideration, and secure a win that will carry more weight than even his 17-1 record has.