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Unbeaten Hathaway Hopes to Continue Quiet Climb up Welterweight Division

For all the attributes John Hathaway has, it sometimes seems as though he could stand to have a little more British brashness.

Sitting alongside fellow countrymen Michael Bisping and Dan Hardy during a recent UFC 120 press conference, Hathaway seemed almost out of place. Quietly, with little fanfare or notice, Hathaway has surged towards a ranking in the world's top 10 welterweights.

He's not quite there yet, but at just 23 years old, he's getting close.

At UFC 120, he faces veteran Mike Pyle in another test of where exactly he stands. If he wins, he moves to a perfect 15-0.

His opponent has had much to say about him in the leadup to their bout. Pyle has said that Hathaway beat a "lesser" Diego Sanchez in their UFC 114 bout, that he's just a "basic dude" who doesn't blow anyone's mind with his skills, that he's "overhyped."

Yet Hathaway is hardly hyped, let alone overhyped. During the press conference, he sat off to the left side of the stage for 23 minutes before anyone fired off a question to him, and he wasn't even invited to the pre-fight conference call.

Hathaway has shown quite a bit inside the cage though. He's 4-0 in the UFC, and in his biggest test against Sanchez at UFC 114, passed with flying colors. Facing a tested veteran, He showed excellent striking, an old timer's poise and solid ground and pound. He also flashed another unexpected asset --the lack of which has sunk other British prospects -- strong takedown defense.

Hathaway came from a rugby background, and admits that because of his experience in that physical sport, wrestling was the easiest transition for him. It's a trait that will serve him well as he moves up the welterweight ladder, where top wrestlers like Georges St. Pierre, Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch are more the rule than the exception.

In some ways, a matchup with Pyle is a lesser profile bout than that against Sanchez, except for the audience involved. While UFC 114 was seen on pay-per-view, Hathaway has the chance to be seen by big numbers on free TV. More that that, fighting in a featured bout, he has the opportunity to become a new MMA hero in his home country.

"I try to improve every fight and just try to come out a new fighter and a better fighter each time I perform for the UFC," Hathaway said. "I guess I'm a little bit of a marked man where I keep improving and keep putting on good performances, but I just look to continue these kinds of things."

While he's answered at least some questions about his wrestling, now we may get to see another area of his game tested: jiu-jitsu. Pyle is an aggressive grappler who has 17 of his 20 wins by way of submission. If he can survive the ground with the wily vet, it's another notch on his belt.

As seems to be his custom, Hathaway has gone under-the-radar, even while in a featured fight, but with more wins comes more attention. It's hard to get to 15-0 or 16-0 or 17-0 without people realizing you've accomplished something truly special.

The other day, fellow welterweight Carlos Condit described Hathaway's countryman Hardy to me as having "a mouth that gets him places." That's partially true of course, but what does it say about the anti-Hardy, Hathaway? I guess that when you're as modest as he is, you have to earn everything the hard way.

He goes by "Hitman" even though "Quiet Man" might be more accurate. But if he keeps winning, he'll be known as something more important: contender.

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