UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs. Hooker Preview

UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs. Hooker Preview

A preview of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night card, set to take place in Las Vegas.

Updated: June 25, 2020 • 10:50 AM ET

Las Vegas will host this weekend's UFC Fight Night event.

A lightweight fight with major title implications will headline the UFC’s return to the Apex in Las Vegas this weekend, as former interim champion Dustin Poirier will battle surging contender Dan Hooker.

Poirier, the UFC’s No. 3 ranked lightweight, will fight for the first time since challenging undefeated champion Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 242 in September. Nurmagomedov snapped Poirier’s six-fight unbeaten streak, which included a win over former featherweight champion Max Holloway for the interim lightweight title, by submitting him in the third round with a rear-naked choke.

Despite the loss to the lightweight champ, the 31-year-old Poirier has collected victories over some of MMA’s best fighters since making his UFC debut in 2011. Including Holloway (twice), Poirier also has key victories over Diego Brandao, Yancy Medeiros, Bobby Green, Jim Miller, Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje and Eddie Alvarez. And although he’s the betting favorite this weekend, Poirier isn’t looking beyond the No. 5 ranked Hooker.

“This guy is dangerous,” Poirier recently told MMA Junkie. “This guy is a top opponent, a top-five ranked fighter in the UFC for a reason. I don’t look past anybody.

“This guy is the only thing I’m focused on right now. Twenty-five minutes with Hooker, and we’ll see what happens. I don’t like the fact that fans and stuff are just passing him over, because this is a dangerous guy I’ve been preparing very seriously for.”

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The Louisiana native is also focused on the fight and not focusing on any trash talk that may be coming from Hooker.

“I’m immune to (trash talk) these days, I don’t care,” Poirier said. “I see some stuff on Twitter here and there like whenever MMA media pushes it out as a headline or something, but other than that, I don’t look into it or read too much on it. And he’s doing what he’s supposed to do.

“He better be saying all that stuff. He needs to believe all that stuff too, because next weekend, we gonna find out.”

If Poirier can defeat Hooker, he would have a good case for challenging the winner of Nurmagomedov and interim champion Justin Gaethje. While he lost to Nurmagomedov, Poirier has a TKO win over Gaethje; and if Gaethje can become the new undisputed champion, the storyline for a second fight with Poirier would be very intriguing.

Poirier’s second shot at a title will also depend on whether Conor McGregor will stay retired after rumors of him being the next to challenge for the title, regardless of who holds it.

Hooker has won three straight fights with his last being a close split-decision over Paul Felder. The 30-year-old Auckland native has also picked up key victories over Al Iaquinta, James Vick, Gilbert Burns and Jim Miller.

Hooker believes the back-and-forth battle with Felder gave him what it takes to go on a title run.

"Looking back on the fight, it was an incredibly tough contest; Felder's an incredible opponent and I feel like I gained more from that one single fight than I did in experience from the previous five fights," Hooker recently told ESPN. "Just going the full five rounds, being under the pressure of a sold-out arena in your hometown -- I gained a lot of experience going through that.

"It's something that you can mentally prepare for, but in terms of actually going through it, being in that kind of fight, being in a back-and-forth war for the full 25 minutes, I was glad I got to experience that in such a setting."

Like Poirier, Hooker may have to play the waiting game for a title shot even with a win this weekend. He would certainly have a great case for one with a convincing win over an accomplished fighter such as Poirier.

Co-main event

Saturday’s co-main event will be a welterweight fight between fan favorites Mike Perry and Mickey Gall.

Perry will try to rebound from two straight losses, the most recent of which coming to Geoff Neal by first-round TKO at UFC 245 in December. While the 28-year-old has a fan-pleasing, stand-and-bang style, violently exchanging with elite competition hasn’t worked well for him in the past. Perry has gained great experience against top level fighters, but he has more losses than wins against elite level competition.

Perry’s two biggest wins have come by decision over Alex Oliveira and Paul Felder, but he also has tough losses to Vicente Luque (by split-decision), Donald Cerrone, Max Griffin and Santiago Ponzinibbio. He’s just 6-6 in the UFC, but Perry’s power and willingness to fight have made an enjoyable fighter.

Gall’s jiu-jitsu skills make him a bad matchup for Perry, but a win would be just what Perry needs to get back on track and remind everyone why he’s a marquee name.

Gall (5-2 in UFC) is coming off a unanimous decision win over Salim Touahri in August, which was a big rebound after suffering a second-round TKO loss to Diego Sanchez at UFC 235 in March 2019. Gall gained notoriety with the fans after calling out CM Punk and Sage Northcutt, winning both fights by submission in 2016.

The 28-year-old Gall is still getting better, as he only has eight professional fights under his belt. Adding another victory to his resume over a fan-friendly name such as Perry would keep him going on the correct path to becoming ranked in the welterweight division.

 

The rest of the main card on ESPN at 8 p.m. EST

Middleweight bout - No. 13 Brendan Allen vs. Kyle Daukaus

Heavyweight bout - Gian Villante vs. Maurice Greene

Catchweight bout (150 pounds) - Sean Woodson vs. Julian Erosa

 


ESPN Prelims at 5 p.m. EST

Lightweight bout - Luis Pena vs. Khama Worthy

Women’s flyweight bout - Mara Romero Borella vs. Miranda Maverick

Heavyweight bout - Philipe Lins vs. Tanner Boser

Welterweight bout - Takashi Sato vs. Ramiz Brahimaj

Featherweight bout - Jordan Griffin vs. Youssef Zalal

Women’s strawweight bout - Kay Hansen vs. Jinh Yu Frey

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