Photo: Dustin Poirier sticks out his tongue after the conclusion of his Lightweight bout against Dan Hooker. (Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
The final UFC event before Fight Island took place at the APEX in Las Vegas. The night hosted a solid lineup of matchups and featured devastating upsets, comebacks, and big names. However, it was the main event of the night that had everyone talking.
After losing to Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov last September, No. 3 Lightweight and former Lightweight Interim champion Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier re-entered the Octagon to face No. 5 contender Dan Hooker.
The hype was high for this matchup as both of these fighters want a title shot in the near future; it was a must win for both competitors, and it showed.
This was an absolute dogfight where both fighters showed championship-quality strikes and grappling. This was easily the most exciting fight this year.
When Hooker was able to create space and use his reach, his shots were deadly. When Poirier was able to get inside and brawl, he was brutal. Yet, their chins both held up and the fight went the distance.
Poirier came out on top by a unanimous decision, but no matter who won, both fighters showed unparalleled grit. I believe the decision was correct and Poirier will have a shot at the belt soon once the Lightweight title has been decided this fall.
Although Poirier out-struck Hooker 208-182, Hooker was landing devastating shots in the first few rounds, which left Poirier behind early. However, he was able to regain his composure and headhunted for the final 15 minutes.
“It was a tough one,” Poirier said in the post-fight interview with Jon Anik. “I trusted my team, my skill, and my work ethic and pulled another one out.”
Hooker was also able to land four takedowns, but Poirier often turned these opportunities into guillotine attempts. A few of these chokes were borderline suffocating and Hooker was barely able to avoid a submission.
In between submission attempts and takedowns, both fighters exchanged haymakers that would have knocked many other contenders. Poirier said that he was aware of Hooker’s ability on his feet and it posed a challenge early.
“A fight isn’t a fight until there is something to overcome,” Poirier told Anik after the fight.
If Porier is to be believed, then this was certainly a fight. Hooker notched 155 significant strikes in 25 minutes. Although Poirier was head-hunting, Hooker used leg kicks and body strikes to wear down his opponent. Ultimately, it was not enough for Hooker to seal the deal as Poirier always had an answer to every offensive attack.
As for what is next for “The Diamond,” even he doesn’t know. As a top Lightweight contender, a future title shot has to be talked about, but he told Anik that he plans to spend some time with his family and recover properly before getting back into the Octagon.
“Maybe I’ll fight at the end of the year,” Poirier said in the post-fight interview. “Maybe I’ll fight next year. I don’t know. I just want to go home to my daughter. I want to stay in love with this sport. I don’t want to push myself or work myself so much to where I hate this. I just want to do it right.”
Fans got a little bit of everything from this bout. Huge strikes to the head, knees to the face, armbar attempts and so much more made this fight the most exciting bout of 2020 and of recent memory.