The UFC is bringing along a great featherweight fight with it when the promotion makes its New Zealand debut in June. According to a report from Brazilian news outlet Tatame, Hatsu Hioki will square off against Charles Oliveira in a three-round featherweight bout at UFC Fight Night New Zealand, which takes place June 28 at Vector Arena in Auckland, NZ. This is an excellent matchup between two 145ers with excellent ground skills and underrated striking skills and it should be in contention for “Fight of the Night” when it’s all said and done. Despite being only 3-3 overall in the Octagon and saving his job with a decision win over Ivan Menjivar in his last fight, I still believe in Hioki and at only 30 years of age I still think he has what it takes to make another run to the top of the UFC featherweight division. A gifted submission grappler with underrated standup, Hioki has had trouble travelling to the U.S. to fight but since this bout against Oliveira takes place in a similar time zone to where Hioki trains in Japan, I believe that we will see a good performance out of him this June, especially since a win over Oliveira would help raise him back up the standings after his nasty three-fight losing skid from 2012 to 2013. As for Oliveira, the 24-year-old is 5-4, 1 NC so far in the UFC, having made his debut back when he was only 20 years old in 2010. An amazing fighter to watch on the ground, Oliveira has shown some better standup in recent fights including in his “Fight of the Night” loss to Frankie Edgar at UFC 162, and after picking up a “Performance of the Night” bonus in his most recent fight against Andy Ogle, the UFC once again views Oliveira as a possible contender and they are matching him up against Hioki to see just where he fits in the division. I think this is an excellent matchup on paper and I’m having a hard time deciding who I am picking. On one hand, Hioki is a much more proven and consistent fighter, but on the other hand I believe Oliveira has more upside and is the fighter who could look most improved from his last outing. This is a tough fight to call, and I definitely have to look deeper into it, but right now I’d give an ever-so-slight lean to Hioki to pick up the victory. That being said, I expect the line for this fight to be close to a Pick ’em, and that’s for good reason as it’s a tough one to predict.
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