Can Hooker beat Poirier to cement status as title contender?

UFC insider Lou Finocchiaro joins Follow The Money to breakdown the match odds for Dustin Poirier vs. Dan Hooker and Mike Perry vs. Mickey Gall at UFC Fight Night this weekend.

Fight fans knew Justin Gaethje vs. Tony Ferguson would be incredible. It was. Fight fans knew the bantamweights would deliver at UFC 250. They did. Fight fans anticipated Josh Emmett and Shane Burgos would throw heavy leather until the final horn and that’s exactly what happened this past weekend.

There have been some memorable fights and performances during the UFC’s recent string of empty-venue events and on Saturday night Dustin Poirier and Dan Hooker are set to go toe-to-toe in a lightweight bout fight fans are convinced is a bona fide Fight of the Year contender.

On paper, this tilt shapes up to be an all-action fight primarily contested on the feet with the potential to go 25 minutes.

Poirier hasn’t fought since being submitted by undefeated champion Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 242 last September and even pondered retirement after that loss. Still, he remains among the handful of lightweights capable of defeating anyone in the 155-pound division on a given night.

Considering he beat former lightweight champs Anthony Pettis, Eddie Alvarez, current interim champ Justin Gaethje and former featherweight titleholder Max Holloway consecutively in the four fights before he faced Nurmagomedov, there’s no doubting he’s still firmly in the title picture.

That’s why a win over Poirier would mean so much to Hooker, a 30-year-old Aukland, New Zealand native who’s a teammate of current UFC champions Israel Adesanya and Alexander Volkanovski.

Hooker is riding a three-fight winning streak highlighted by a five-round Fight of the Night barnburner against Paul Felder in February. Hooker has won seven of his past eight overall with five wins coming by stoppage, including a first-round knockout win in 2018 over current No. 1-ranked welterweight contender Gilbert Burns.

Hooker’s the No. 5-ranked contender in the lightweight division yet nearly a two-to-one underdog on the betting lines against Poirier who is ranked behind only Nurmagomedov, Gaethje and Tony Ferguson.

Poirier (25-6, one no-contest) is the more active and efficient striker of the two, landing 5.51 strikes per minute compared to Hooker’s 4.76, and the former interim champion absorbs 3.97 strikes per minute whereas Hooker eats 4.67 shots per minute. Poirier is also the more accomplished and talented grappler.

Since his 2014 knockout loss to Conor McGregor back when he competed down at featherweight and his 2016 KO defeat to lightweight Michael Johnson – both via left hands – Poirier’s striking defence has drastically improved.

There aren’t many people on the planet better capable of analyzing a fighter’s strengths, weaknesses and evolution than Jack Slack, who below gives you the 411 on Poirier’s style.

Hooker’s lone loss since moving back up to the lightweight division was a TKO to Edson Barboza when his constant aggression and forward pressure ended up working against him. He can’t get reckless against Poirier either, even though he has a phenomenal chin. Hooker is taller and rangier and might be best served taking advantage of that.

Hooker (20-8) is a switch-stance fighter who, like Poirier, has knockout power in both hands. He tends to carry more power in his left hand, which as mentioned above Poirier has been susceptible to in the past, but he’s also partial to accurate and devastating counter knee strikes that he has used to end several fights throughout his career.

The main event really does have the potential to be a classic and the winner should find themselves in another high-profile matchup their next time out.

Theoretically a fight with Ferguson would make sense for whoever gets their hand raised.

The co-main event sees Mickey Gall take on fellow welterweight Mike Perry.

Canadian featherweight Kyle Nelson of Huntsville, Ont., was supposed to fight Sean Woodson, however a visa issue forced Nelson off the card. Woodson now faces Julian Erosa at a 150-pound catchweight.

There is still some Canadian content as Alberta heavyweight Tanner Boser meets Brazil’s Philip Lins on the main card.

This is the UFC’s final event before a two-week break. Then the organization heads off to Fight Island for four events in a 14-day span.

Here’s a look at the entire card for UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs. Hooker.

MAIN CARD
• Dustin Poirier vs. Dan Hooker
• Mickey Gall vs. Mike Perry
• Gian Villante vs. Maurice Greene
• Brendan Allen vs. Kyle Daukaus
• Philipe Lins vs. Tanner Boser
• Sean Woodson vs. Julian Erosa

PRELIMINARY CARD
• Luis Pena vs. Khama Worthy
• Takashi Sato vs. Jason Witt
• Jinh Yu Frey vs. Kay Hansen
• Jordan Griffin vs. Youssef Zalal

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