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UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs Hooker Preview

With the UFC back up and running, the U.S based cards have been considered weak in the eyes of fans. The smaller cage and a bigger stage for newcomers, however, has meant there have been some sleeper fights. This week we get back up and running with a big fight in the lightweight division between two of its top contenders. Dan Hooker v Dustin Poirier.

Dan Hooker has been on a 3-fight winning streak since his brutal loss to Edson Barboza. Still working under the tutelage of Eugene Bareman at Tiger Muay Thai, he has taken out James Vick, Al Iaquinta, and most recently, a Fight of the Night winner against Paul Felder. Hooker is showing signs of improvement almost every time he steps in the cage. As do almost all of Eugene Bareman’s guys tend to. With his ever-improving grappling and his crisp striking, he put on a clinic against Raging Al before his hard-fought victory over Paul Felder.

Poirier, on the other hand, amassed one of the most frightening title runs the UFC has seen before getting his Interim shot vs former featherweight King, Max Holloway. Max wasn’t the only former champ Poirier had to take out on his run. He faced Eddie Alvarez, twice. The former champ and the man that Dana White agreed with the fans’ assessment of being the most violent man in the UFC. Dustin won the first through an illegal knee, then went on to face the current UFC Interim Lightweight champ, Justin Gaethje, and then another former champ in Anthony Pettis. To top it off, he decisively stopped Eddie Alvarez in their rematch.

Dan Hooker

The New Zealander has been in the UFC since 2014. The lightweight is ranked #5 in the world, his highest ranking yet so far in his career. He has beaten and competed against some big names at lightweight already, including ‘Raging’ Al Iaquinta, Paul Felder and Edson Barboza, suffering a hard to watch loss at the hands of the latter.

Since that loss to Barboza, Hooker has really kicked on. In his next outing against James Vick, he managed to catch Vick with a lovely left hook to floor the Texecutioner. Knocking him completely unconscious with the follow-up ground and pound. Next up was Al Iaquinta. Hooker picked Al apart, beating up the lead leg of Raging Al with the inside calf kicks. Something he may be able to utilize to some success against Dustin. Hooker fights well moving backwards and forward. However, he has a tendency to struggle with guys that can get inside the pocket and cut of his movement.

Whilst being able to take a lot of damage, it can also be Hookers undoing. He has a granite chin, and unbreakable mental spirit, and therefore can withstand a significant amount of damage before being stopped. Edson Barboza was a good example. He was up against someone that was faster, more explosive, and he couldn’t deal with the bodywork from the Brazilian.

Despite being one of the tallest at the weight class, Hooker isn’t known for being a typically good long-range fighter. Whilst a good strong jab and crisp boxing are fundamentals that he has in abundance, Hooker has a high fight IQ and is comfortable wherever the fight ends up. He is always looking for a fight-ending sequence on the feet, whether it be from his feet or his knees, Hooker is always capable and always looking for an opportunity to finish the fight.

His nickname Hangman comes from his grappling being incredibly underrated, with chokes being his specialty. Guillotines especially, earning multiple submission victories to add some diversity to his range of finishes.

Hooker fights well out of both stances and has fantastic straight shots, such as his jab and straight right, as well as having a tendency to throw shots straight up the centre line every now and then, causing problems for guys like Poirier, who often ducks into range to land his hooks. The Hangman has a lead uppercut and a very fast knee that he will throw to catch anyone ducking into range or trying to change levels.

Dustin ‘The Diamond’ Poirier

Poirier’s last fight was a loss to the hands of Khabib Nurmagomedov, to unify his Interim title with the Russian. It was the end of a run that will be remembered forever as one of the most impressive in lightweight recent history. Whilst maybe not the length of Ferguson or Khabib’s runs, Dustin’s 6-fight streak was about the quality of opponents. He took out Ex-champions in Alvarez and Pettis. He took out the then-Featherweight champion Max Holloway, and also now-interim champ Justin Gaethje. All fights were finishes besides the Holloway fight, which was a fight of the year contender.

‘El Diamante’ has been evolving as a fighter in recent years quite like no other. He went from being a decent 145lb brawler with good BJJ to being a crisp, slick, fast boxer with consistent power. The check left hook from Dustin and the straight left are two of his most devastating shots. He throws both from awkward angles and with devastating power and speed, something Hooker has struggled with in the past.

Whilst being hittable, Poirier rolls with shots nicely. He takes the majority of the force off by rolling with the shots until he can circle out.

Poirier also has the Yoel Romero/Derek Lewis-esque style of lulling you into a false sense of security, looking more tired than he actually is, before catching a second wind to take him through the round. As much as he can wear the exhaustion more than others, 5 rounds are not new for The Diamond. He has previous experience and tends to do well in longer fights, as the accumulation of damage he can bring often favours the Lafayette native on the judges’ scorecards.

Whilst not something he has to use very often, Poirier is often forgotten about as a Black Belt in BJJ. With a submission victory over Max Holloway in their first bout the best example. A high school-level wrestler, Poirier can mix up the BJJ and boxing with fantastic takedowns. He was able to get Max Holloway down twice in round 4 of their second fight, in which Max is notoriously difficult to take down. Hooker only being a blue belt shouldn’t make it a victory by default in the grappling, as Hooker has submitted black belts before, numerous times.

Fight Prediction

I can see Poirier starting the fight by taking the centre and controlling the pace, whilst most likely trying to control the pace and range with his jab. Hooker has the reach advantage but isn’t especially good at fighting with range, he often likes to mix up the short, sharp quick strikes with long-range straight ones, something, I think, will play a factor in the smaller cage. I don’t know if Hooker will be able to keep the distance and control range. With 5ft less of cage, and a rampaging Poirier storming forward, the boxing exchanges may be one-sided in favour of Poirier.

To win, Hooker needs to keep Dustin at kicking range. Whilst also avoiding the jab-come-hook flurry that Dustin has a tendency to burst into. Whilst having a granite chin, Hooker remains very hittable.

If the fight hits the mat, then I imagine Poirier will have the slight edge. He will need to be wary of being in Hooker’s guard and will need to watch for the guillotines in transition if he shoots.

I think, in the end, the pressure, less space, power, and boxing of Poirier will pay dividends come fight night. I think by the 4th round, Hooker will have absorbed too much damage and will get stopped, most likely a TKO.


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