LAS VEGAS - Hatsu Hioki was fighting for more than just himself tonight at UFC 137. He was dealing with the pressure of having Japanese MMA's reputation to protect. It wasn't the greatest performance tonight, but Hioki did enough to take a split decision win, 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28, over UFC veteran George Roop.
Hioki, ranked by some as high as No. 2 in the world at 145 pounds, was trying to snap a real dry spell from the top fighters from Japan, who have struggled in the U.S. recently.
Following the narrow victory, Hioki told UFC analyst Joe Rogan and the crowd, "Japanese MMA is not dead. It's time to change things."
The 28-year-old entered this one as a minus-450 favorite. He looked composed, but not explosive. His best round came in the second when he scored a takedown with 3:27 left.
Hioki quickly converted it to the mount. But once in the mount, he looked he had trouble picking an attack. That, and Roop did a nice job from the bottom of staying active.