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UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs. Hooker

Poirier vs. Hooker

UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs. Hooker (TV: ESPN/ESPN+)

Saturday, June 27th, Prelims 6:00 PM ET, Main Card 8:00 PM ET, UFC APEX (Las Vegas, Nevada)

Co-Main Event

Welterweight Fight: Mike Perry (13-6) vs. Mickey Gall (6-2)

Fight odds: Mike Perry -320 Mickey Gall +260

Main Event

Lightweight Fight: Dustin Poirier (25-6) (1 NC) vs. Dan Hooker (20-8)

Fight odds: Dustin Poirier -220 Dan Hooker +185

UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs. Hooker

The UFC will hold one more event from Las Vegas before making the move to Yas Island in Abu Dhabi for “Fight Island” with a full slate of fights set for July. Since making its return the UFC has been diligent with its protocols to make sure everyone involved is not taking unnecessary risks and contracting the coronavirus. Holding fights during a global pandemic is risky, but doesn’t pose the same risks as team sports do. However, with the successful returns of the Bundesliga, Serie A, La Liga and the Premier League it seems like the footballing world has figured out how to resume play which is welcome news for all soccer fans and clubs. The NBA will be returning by the end of July, but will take special precautions as all those involved will be in a bubble on the Disney campus in Orlando, Florida.

UFC 250: Nunes vs. Spencer took place on June 6th from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas. In the third fight on the card, two top bantamweight contenders squared off when Aljamain Sterling faced Cory Sandhagen. Sterling quickly took care of business locking up a rear naked choke in the 1st Round in a fight that only lasted 1:28. Sandhagen let Sterling take his back too easily and the superior wrestler locked up a body triangle that lead to his submission victory. Sterling left no doubt that he should be next in line to fight for the UFC Bantamweight Title against the winner of Petr Yan vs. Jose Aldo, a fight taking place on July 11th. Sterling looks to have the wrestling to compete with anyone in the division and his quick movements will make him difficult to beat on the feet. Sterling outclassed a fellow top bantamweight in Sandhagen to show that his time is now and he seems to have put his previous losses behind him as he is on a 5 fight winning streak.

The Co-Main Event at UFC 250 was a matchup of two bantamweights that were looking to re-establish relevancy when Cody Garbrandt fought Raphael Assuncao. This was mainly a cagey affair as both fighters were trying to get a feel for each other and didn’t want to get caught with any big punches. This is evidenced by the fight stats with Assuncao landing only 17 strikes and Garbrandt landing 20 strikes. While the fight wasn’t too action packed, the ending is right up there with KO of the year. Garbrandt landed a well timed right hand after ducking under Assuncao’s punch to land his own devastating punch that he was able to put his full force into as he rose up from a squatting position. The knockout came at the end of the 2nd Round reminding me of when Juan Manuel Marquez knocked out Manny Pacquiao at the end of the 6th Round on December 8th, 2012. Pacquiao was coming forward trying to land a few extra punches before the end of the round, but Marquez stopped him dead in his tracks with a beautiful overhand right that put Pacquiao down, similar to the punch that Garbrandt landed on Assuncao. With this emphatic win over a tough bantamweight in Assuncao, Garbrandt has set himself up well for a resurgence in his career following three straight knockout losses. There are many talented fighters in the bantamweight division, so it’ll be interesting to see who he fights next and if he can continue making improvements after making some changes with his coaching.

In the Main Event, Amanda Nunes fought Felicia Spencer in her first defense of her Featherweight Title at 145 lbs. Nunes dominated Spencer en route to a unanimous decision win after 5 Rounds. Nunes is the most dominant athlete in their respective sport, male or female in the world. Nunes has beaten the best fighters and there isn’t really any worthy contenders that could actually challenge her at 135 or 145 lbs. This double champion is no doubt the GOAT of women’s MMA and the question becomes who is going to fight her next. The fight stats show total supremacy in all facets of the fight game as Nunes landed 132 total strikes and had 8:01 of ground control time. Conversely, Spencer landed only 70 total strikes and had 9 seconds of control time as she survived 5 Rounds against Nunes. Even though Spencer is a bigger fighter, Nunes threw her around like a rag doll easily taking her down and out-striking her on the feet. Nunes stated she is considering retiring and with her fiancé having a baby soon, she’ll want to spend a lot of time with her family. Hopefully, she gets the itch to compete again and the fight against Spencer won’t be the last time we see her in the octagon.

The next Event that took place was UFC Fight Night: Eye vs. Calvillo on June 13th. Cynthia Calvillo beat Jessica Eye by unanimous decision after 5 Rounds in what was Calvillo’s first fight at 125 lbs. Calvillo had the speed, wrestling and striking advantages against the slower and bigger Eye. Calvillo landed 150 total strikes and had 5:04 of ground control time. Eye only landed 70 total strikes and was completely outclassed on the ground, getting taken down 4 times during the fight. Calvillo looks like a promising contender at 125 lbs., but the truth is that Valentina Shevchenko is in a class by herself at flyweight and won’t be losing her Title anytime soon. Eye needs to work on her takedown defense and improve her speed if she ever hopes to be an elite fighter. It was a big win for Calvillo and while she may not be the most powerful striker, her speed and quick grappling fundamentals should allow her to continue to be successful at flyweight. But, the queen of the division, Shevchenko is the best women’s MMA fighter not named Amanda Nunes and Calvillo isn’t ready for that challenge yet.

The next Event on the UFC’s calendar took place on June 20th with UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs. Volkov. In the Co-Main Event one of best fights all year took place between two featherweight warriors in Josh Emmett and Shane Burgos. Emmett, the slight underdog ended up winning the fight by unanimous decision in what was an instant classic. Emmett landed 136 total strikes and had 1:24 of ground control time. Burgos landed 148 total strikes as neither fighter wanted to take a step back. Burgos tends to fight with his head leaning forward, therefore taking some unnecessary punishment that could be avoided if he stood more upright and used better head movement. Emmett fought the smart fight as he was able to floor Burgos twice, once with a beautiful left hook that Burgos was expecting to come from the right hand. Emmett was landing the right hook during the fight so that’s the punch Burgos was expecting, but when he changed it up and landed the left hook, Burgos didn’t see it coming and it caused more damage. This was a great back and forth fight, but Emmett looked to have better power and defensive instincts that lead to a well earned victory. What made the win even more impressive was that Emmett suffered a torn ACL early on in the 1st Round and still fought with great determination and didn’t quit despite having limited mobility. It was a very exciting fight that is not to be missed.

In the Main Event, two heavyweights looking for a Title shot competed with Curtis Blaydes getting a unanimous decision win after 5 Rounds over Alexander Volkov. Blaydes won the fight because of his superior wrestling and Volkov’s lack of quickness to defend the takedowns better. Blaydes landed 116 total strikes and landed 14 takedowns, a UFC heavyweight record. With 19:50 of ground control time in a 25 minute fight a majority of the bout was contested with Blaydes on top position and Volkov struggling to mount any sort of effective defense. Volkov landed 127 total strikes and surprisingly landed one takedown on Blaydes. If this was a standup battle, Volkov likely would have won the fight, but Blaydes was relentless in his wrestling and used his striking to set up his takedowns. While it wasn’t the most exciting fight, Blaydes did what he needed to do to win and showed that his wrestling is up there with the best in the heavyweight division. While Francis Ngannou deserves the next Title shot, Blaydes showed he is also an elite heavyweight. Volkov needs to improve on his quickness and takedown defense in order to become a more well-rounded fighter.

UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs.Hooker

The next Event on the UFC schedule is UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs. Hooker on June 27th from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas. The main card has some competitive matchups and it should be a great night of fights. In the Co-Main Event, Mike Perry will fight Mickey Gall in a welterweight matchup. Perry is 28, 5’10 and 171 lbs. with a 71 inch reach. Gall is 28, 6’2 and 170 lbs. with a 74 inch reach. Perry really needs a win as he’s coming off two straight losses, most recently losing to Geoff Neal by TKO in the 1st Round back in December of 2019. Perry has a record of 13-6, with 11 wins by knockout. Perry is mainly a brawler that likes to fight at close distance and push the pace. Don’t expect Perry to go for many takedowns as he will be looking to land heavy shots, with solid power in both hands.

Gall is 6-2 with 5 wins by submission. His two losses have come to Randy Brown and Diego Sanchez. Sanchez is also a brawler that likes to come forward and he was able to get the TKO win over Gall in the 2nd Round of their fight. Gall is coming off a unanimous decision win over Salim Touahri in August of 2019. Gall is not a very fluid striker and will be looking to make this a grappling match to mitigate the power of Perry. If Gall can take Perry down with consistency, then he will have a chance to get the win. However, Perry has more experience and has beaten tougher opponents in the past like Alex Oliveira and Paul Felder. This will be Gall’s toughest opponent to date and he will need to use his height and reach advantages to try to keep Perry on the outside. Expect Perry’s power to be the deciding factor that will lead to a knockout win over Gall.

In the Main Event, two top lightweights will fight when Dustin Poirier takes on Dan Hooker. Poirier is 31, 5’9 and 156 lbs. with a 72 inch reach. Hooker is 30, 6’0 and 155.5 lbs. with a 75 inch reach. Poirier is an excellent all around fighter that doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses and is a fighter with dogged determination and decent stamina. Poirier has been on quite a roll since 2017 beating Anthony Pettis by submission followed by two TKO wins over Justin Gaethje and Eddie Alvarez. Poirier then won the interim UFC Lightweight Title by beating Max Holloway by unanimous decision. However, Poirier is coming off a 3rd Round submission loss to the incomparable Khabib Nurmagomedov in his Lightweight Title fight back in September of 2019. No other fighter is on Nurmagomedov’s grappling level so that loss was expected. But, to beat great fighters like Pettis, Gaethje, Alvarez and Holloway shows just how much Poirier has improved since beginning his career in 2009. While Nurmagomedov reigns supreme, Poirier is a tough opponent for any lightweight and has beaten fighters better than Dan Hooker.

Poirier has a record of 25-6 (1 NC) with 12 wins by knockout and 7 by submission. This shows that Poirier can win on the feet or on the ground and he should have an advantage in both those facets against Hooker. Poirier is mainly a boxer that is great at using his size and combination punching to overwhelm his opponents. Poirier is also comfortable grappling and usually puts on exciting fights. Dan Hooker is 20-8 with 10 wins by knockout and 7 by submission. Hooker’s last loss came against Edson Barboza by TKO in the 3rd Round. Since then he’s won three straight fights, most recently beating Paul Felder by split decision in February of 2020. This should be a competitive fight since both fighters are decent strikers and can also grapple at an above average level.

Poirier should have the advantage in strength, stamina, power and wrestling. Hooker may have the advantage in unorthodox striking and explosive movements. There are levels to the fight game and Poirier showed with his recent performances that he is on a different level than Hooker. This should be a great fight with some back and forth action, but the fundamentals and experience of Poirier should be enough to get a decision win over Hooker. Tune in for a great night of fights from Las Vegas and don’t forget to watch UFC 251: Usman vs. Burns on July 11th.   

Mike Perry by 1st Round TKO
  

Dustin Poirier by Unanimous Decision
     

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