The Undefeated Part 4: Welterweights

(Johny Hendricks one of an impressive group of undefeated welterweights- photo Hedges/ Zuffa)

This week, will explore the undefeated fighters throughout the world of Mixed Martial Arts. In our seven part series, we will profile the top fighters in each division who have yet to taste defeat. Fighters will be considered from the major organizations: UFC, WEC, Strikeforce, DREAM, Sengoku, and Shooto. Bellator will not be included in this series, as a special profile is in the works for the organization’s second season of action.

Each day will bring a new set of profiles for one of the seven major divisions in MMA:

Tuesday, 2/23 –Bantamweights
Wednesday, 2/24 –Featherweights
Thursday, 2/25 –Lightweights
Friday, 2/26 – Welterweights
Monday, 3/1 – Middleweights
Tuesday, 3/2 – Light Heavyweights
Wednesday, 3/3 – Heavyweights

The series continues today in the Welterweight division – weight limit: 170lbs.

Fighter’s Name:Dong Hyun Kim
Nickname: Stun Gun
Date of Birth: 11/17/1981
Camp:CMA Korea
Fighting Style: Judo
Record: 12-0-1, 1 No Contest
Organization: Ultimate Fighting Championship
Last Opponent: TJ Grant (UFC 100, 7/11/2009)

There was a great optimism surrounding the signing of Dong Hyun Kim with the UFC. Kim was the first Korean to compete in the UFC, dismantling Jason Tan at UFC 84. Though Kim has maintained his unblemished record through five UFC fights, his UFC career has had its share of controversy and misfortune.

Against Matt Brown at UFC88, Kim won a split decision that he probably should have lost. In Kim’s defense, travel took a greater toll than usual. Kim was not able to enjoy his typical level of conditioning for that fight, nor was his trainer able to accompany him to Atlanta due to visa issues.

The tables then turned for Kim. Against fellow judoka Karo Parisyan at UFC 94, Kim lost a split decision that he probably should have won. The decision would not stand, however, as Parisyan tested positive for an entire pharmacy worth of pain killers. The fight was ultimately ruled a no contest, but fans still witnessed another fighter’s hand raised instead of Kim’s.

Lately, Kim’s career in the Octagon has been beset by injury. Kim was scheduled to fight Dan Hardy at UFC 105, but he was injured while sparring with former UFC and Pride fighter Kazuhiro Nakamura. Instead, Hardy went on to beat Mike Swick and earn himself a title shot. Kim was to return to action atUFC 110 against Chris Lytle, but another training injury prevented Kim from fighting.

Maybe Kim wishes to fight in the United States exclusively now that he has signed with an American organization. Both of his training injuries occurred while preparing for fights outside of the US. In fact, in five UFC fights, four have taken place in Las Vegas. It should come as no surprise, then, that Kim’s next fight, scheduled for UFC 114 against Amir Sadollah, will take place in Las Vegas.

Fighter’s Name:John Hathaway
Nickname: The Hitman
Date of Birth: 1986
Camp: London Shootfighters
Fighting Style:Wrestling, Kickboxing
Record: 12-0-0
Organization: Ultimate Fighting Championship
Last Opponent: Paul Taylor (UFC 105, 11/14/2009)

Dave Meltzer has said that of all the British fighters in the UFC, Hathaway may be the best. With a win over up-and-comer Rick Story, Hathaway certainly has a compelling argument for that distinction.

Before his career in MMA, Hathaway played for local rugby team Hove RFC. Like so many fighters, he saw a UFC event on television and felt compelled to try his hand at the sport. Unlike most fighters, he’s taken an undefeated record through three fights in the UFC.

Hathaway uses leg kicks like jabs. He has a fairly good takedown, but he hasn’t shown the ability to pass an active guard. Fortunately for Hathaway, he has a long frame that allows him to ground and pound his opponents while inside of their guard. Hathaway wisely utilizes elbows while on the ground, the use of which played a key role in his victories over both Thomas Egan and Paul Taylor.

Hathaway is scheduled to fight Diego Sanchez at UFC 114 in Las Vegas on May 29. If Hathaway can beat Sanchez in his return to the Welterweight, it will be difficult to argue against Hathaway as Britain’s best UFC fighter.

Fighter’s Name:Rory MacDonald
Nickname: The Waterboy
Date of Birth: 07/22/1989
Camp: Toshido Fighting Arts
Fighting Style:Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Kickboxing
Record: 10-0-0
Organization: Ultimate Fighting Championship
Last Opponent: Mike Guymon (UFC Fight Night 20, 1/11/2010)

At just 20 years old, Rory MacDonald is one of the youngest fighters to compete in the UFC. It’s hard not to have high hopes for such a young fighter who has already earned a victory in the UFC, but aside from youth, MacDonald appears to have the skill level, both on the feet and on the ground, upon which to build towards a bright future as a UFC fighter.

Against Mike Guymon, MacDonald showed a very capable submission game. MacDonald was able to put Guymon on his back, pass into side control, then work a kimura that MacDonald was able to transition into the fight-ending armbar. On the feet, MacDonald has some maturing to do. Guymon did manage to drop MacDonald, albeit briefly, with a right straight. While that was evidence that MacDonald can take a punch, MacDonald will likely not be able to recover as well against opponents of a higher caliber. MacDonald showed some decent striking of his own, utilizing punch/kick combinations with fairly clean technique.

MacDonald is expected to face former WEC Welterweight champion Carlos Condit at UFC 115 in Vancouver on June 12. It will be a huge step up in competition for the native of Quesnel, British Columbia. Good though he was against Guymon, there is nothing that MacDonald does that Condit doesn’t do better at this point in their respective careers. MacDonald will need to rely heavily on the support of the local crowd to motivate him to victory, which if earned would send MacDonald skyrocketing up the Welterweight ranks.

Fighter’s Name:Daniel Roberts
Nickname: Ninja
Date of Birth: 1980
Camp:Oklahoma Fight Club
Fighting Style: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Wrestling
Record: 9-0-0
Organization: Ultimate Fighting Championship
Last Opponent: Anthony Macias (5150 Combat League/Xtreme Fighting League – New Year’s Revolution, 1/16/2010)

Daniel Roberts, who is preparing to make his UFC debut, will enter the Octagon with impressive credentials. Roberts is a former All-American wrestler who has been practicing and competing in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for 12 years. A protégé of UFC veteran Mikey Burnett, Roberts has earned seven of his nine career victories via submission, two of which were due to strikes. In many ways, Roberts is a Welterweight version of WEC fighter Marcus Hicks, though Roberts isn’t as devoted to the guillotine.

It’s not all sunshine and roses for Roberts, though. While there is no question that he comes to the UFC as a highly-skilled competitor, particularly as a grappler, the problem for Roberts is that he is prone to making mistakes. He has a good top game and makes passing the guard seem effortless, but he’s puts himself into precarious positions far too often. He sets up his submission attempts well, but he’s had lapses in the past where, despite appearing to have his opponent dead to rights, his opponent has been able to escape. He has a decent takedown, but it lacks explosiveness. In the UFC’s Welterweight division, these shortcomings will be exposed to Roberts’ great detriment.

Roberts will fill in for the injured Anthony Johnson against John Howard on the first”UFC on Versus” event on March 21. Win or lose, Roberts is a very active fighter who should put on an entertaining performance.

Fighter’s Name: Tyron Woodley
Nickname: T-Wood
Date of Birth: 04/17/1982
Camp:American Top Team
Fighting Style: Wrestling
Record: 7-0-0
Organization: Strikeforce
Last Opponent: Rudy Bears (Strikeforce Challengers 5, 11/20/2009)

Tyron Woodley is one of the more celebrated prospects in MMA. Following his victory over Rudy Bears, Strikeforce color analyst Stephen Quadros compared Woodley to Georges St. Pierre. While that’s certainly a stretch, it’s not entirely without merit.

Woodley wrestled for the University of Missouri where he earned all-American honors in 2003 and 2005. As with nearly all credentialed wrestlers, they seem better than St. Pierre on paper, but we know better. The comparison between Woodley and St. Pierre, though supported by their shared in-cage wrestling abilities, is based on both fighters’ athleticism. While Woodley certainly appears to be a superbly conditioned athlete with speed and explosiveness to give, it’s difficult to take seriously a comparison between to St. Pierre when Woodley’s best victories have been over the likes of Zach Light and Rudy Bears.

While the rush to compare Woodley to the greatest Welterweight in the world is premature, it is understandable for reasons beyond their similar styles. As a Strikeforce employee, it must be difficult not to be excited for such a talented athlete who, in actuality, fell into Strikeforce’s lap.

Woodley tried out for The Ultimate Fighter: US v. UK, and wound up being one of the final fighters to be cut. Considering that Demarques Johnson is the only American fighter from the show still with the UFC, it seems like a foolish decision in hindsight. In all likelihood, Woodley would have beaten James Wilks in the finals and the UFC would be enjoying the fruits of his talent and success. Instead, Strikeforce caught wind of this up-and-coming free agent and signed him to a six-fight deal.

After just two fights with Strikeforce, Woodley is probably the number two contender to Nick Diaz’s Strikeforce Welterweight championship. Although that says more about the state of Strikeforce’s Welterweight division than it does about Woodley, it does mean that we should see Woodley against tougher competition in the not-too-distant future.

Fighter’s Name:Johny Hendricks
Nickname: N/A
Date of Birth: 09/12/1983
Camp:Cobrai Kai/Xtreme Couture
Fighting Style: Wrestling, Boxing
Record: 7-0-0
Organization: Ultimate Fighting Championship
Last Opponent: Ricardo Funch (UFC 107, 12/12/2009)

If you were to make a list of the greatest wrestlers in MMA, not only would Johny Hendricks need to be included, he’d be near the top of the list. A four-time all-American at Oklahoma State University, the alma mater of Randy Couture, Hendricks won two national championships in the 165lbs. weight class. It’s no surprise, then, that Hendricks was snatched up by World Extreme Cagefighting after just three career fights.

Hendricks was not the only OSU wrestler to go into MMA. He and his teammates Jake Rosholt and Shane Roller began training for MMA under the Team Takedown banner following their final wrestling season. Of the trio, only Hendricks remains undefeated despite competing in the toughest division of the three, the UFC’s Welterweight division.

Despite his impeccable wrestling credentials, Hendricks has only gone to a decision just twice in seven fights. Hendricks packs good power into his punches to support his impressive ground and pound. Against Amir Sadollah, Hendricks earned a TKO victory in just 29 seconds. Though the stoppage may have been a bit premature, knocking down a striker on the level of Sadollah is a good sign of Hendricks’ progression.

Hendricks is still considered part of Team Takedown, which is a brand for himself, Rosholt, and Roller rather than a dedicated training facility. When it comes to improving his skills, Hendricks trains with Marc Laimon at the Cobra Kai Jiu Jitsu Academy and hones his other skills at Xtreme Couture.

Hendricks is scheduled to fight TJ Grant at UFC 113 in Montreal on May 8.

Fighter’s Name:Nick Osipczak
Nickname: Slick
Date of Birth: 12/30/1984
Camp:Team Rough House
Fighting Style:Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Sanshou
Organization: Ultimate Fighting Championship
Last Opponent: Matt Riddle (UFC 105, 11/14/2009)

Like Dong Hyun Kim, MMA fans have seen Nick Osipczak suffer defeat. In the semi-finals of The Ultimate Fighter: US v. UK, Osipczak lost to Demarques Johnson via unanimous decision. Unlike with Kim’s loss, there were no extenuating circumstances; Johnson was simply the better fighter in the house.

Now? Well, it’s less certain.

Since The Ultimate Fighter, Osipczak has shown a marked improvement to his game. In particular, Osipzczak’s improvements were on display against Matt Riddle, who was undefeated going into the fight. Was undefeated. Osipczak’s striking was too much for Riddle, who Osipczak was able to mount and pound out in the third round.

As part of the premier fight camp in England, Team Rough House, Osipczak trains with the likes of Paul Daley and Dan Hardy, the UFC’s top Welterweight contender. Some may consider them the British version of the American Kickboxing Academy’s Welterweight trio (Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, Mike Swick). In that comparison, Osipczak would line up most closely to Swick, both in terms of style and relative accomplishment thus far in the UFC.

Osipczak is a Sanshou practitioner, but no one will mistake his style for that of Cung Le. To Osipczak’s great benefit, his jiu jitsu is exponentially superior to Le’s, which he’s used successfully to end three of his five career fights. Even against Riddle, though Osipczak did not win by submission, his jiu jitsu abilities allowed him to improve his position and mount Riddle, from where Osipczak ended the fight.

Osipczak will next face Rick Story at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi on April 10. The winner of the match is sure to see a large bump in the level of their competition, but if Osipczak can defeat Story convincingly, it will be very difficult not to believe that he’s better than Demarques Johnson. In that case, it will be difficult to consider Osipczak as anything other than one of the best up-and-coming Welterweights in the UFC.

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