If the betting lines are any indication, Dong Hyun Kim should cruise to a victory in this week’s main event against John Hathaway. Kim opened as a -280 favorite with Hathaway the underdog at +200, but Kim was quickly bet up to -390. I agree that Kim should be considered the favorite to win this fight, but Hathaway is a much more difficult opponent than he’s getting credit for.
Kim’s biggest advantage will be in the takedown game, and it’s an advantage he needs to press. Kim lands 3.3 takedowns per 15 minutes at 48 percent accuracy and has landed at least one takedown in 11 out of 12 UFC fights. And while takedown offense is Kim’s biggest strength as a fighter, takedown defense is arguably Hathaway’s biggest weakness, as he’s defended takedowns at only a 61 percent rate. For the most part, Kim should be able to control Hathaway with takedowns.
On the ground, it’s a fairly bleak outlook for Hathaway. It was alarming to see Hathaway be taken down and controlled so easily when he lost to Mike Pyle – Hathaway showed very little ability to get back to his feet, or get out of bad positions. He survived to a decision, but not before taking a beating. Kim isn’t the type of fighter who dishes out beatings on the ground but he’s definitely a fighter who wins by maintaining top control.
The reason I think this fight is more competitive than expected is because it’s not guaranteed that Kim will be able to complete takedowns at will. If Hathaway can defy my expectations and keep the fight standing, then he should be able to enjoy a decisive advantage in distance striking.
Consider that Kim has only landed 2.14 significant strikes per minute despite landing takedowns so frequently. It’s not common for Kim to engage in a striking match, but when he does the results have been mixed at best. Kim was able to out-strike Sean Pierson for three rounds but was largely uncompetitive in periods of striking against Matt Brown and Nate Diaz. In his last fight Kim was well on his way to losing to Erick Silva before landing a knockout punch out of nowhere.
Hathaway isn’t as much a threat to win by knockout as fighters like Brown, Diaz, or Silva, but he’s a very good points striker. In total, Hathaway has landed 383 significant strikes and absorbed 190. Most of the success Hathaway’s opponents have had was in fights where Hathaway was unable to defend the takedown. When Hathaway has had the opportunity to engage in a boxing match, he’s largely excelled.
Hathaway is also a very capable offensive wrestler as he’s landed 2.7 takedowns per 15 minutes at 48 percent accuracy, numbers very similar to Kim. However, Kim’s takedown defense is much tougher than Hathaway’s at 81 percent, so I doubt Hathaway will be the one to control the takedown game here.
The point is – Hathaway can easily win this fight if he can find a way to shut down Kim’s takedown game. Also consider that this is a five-round fight, and Kim has been prone to gassing out in the past. It’s possible that Kim could succeed in the first two rounds but lose the last three rounds if he’s suddenly unable to land takedowns because of fatigue.
Ultimately, I do believe Kim will have consistent success with takedowns, and due to his excellent top control I have to favor him to win. However, Hathaway is a very tough opponent and will not be as easy to defeat as many seem to expect.
Pick: Dong Hyun Kim by decision
DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER
I think Kim should be somewhere between -150 and -200, but instead he’s -350. I don’t want to bet too much on Hathaway, because I do think he loses this fight the majority of the time, but at +290 I think there’s some definite value. I’m going to make it a minimum bet and risk $0.50 to win $1.45.