It is safe to say that a familiar face has returned to the UFC title contest.
In what may be a fight for the candidate of the year, Dustin Poirier won a brutal battle against Dan Hooker in the UFC Fight Night main event on Saturday in Las Vegas. Both fighters exchanged evil shots from the opening bell, and Poirier took control of the fight in the subsequent rounds.
The victory was fundamental for Poirier, who in September was losing ground against the world champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. Nurmagomedov is expected to face tentative champion Justin Gaethje in a unification match later this summer.
Mike Perry also had an impressive victory, and apparently all he needed was his physical tools and moral support at UFC Apex.
Perry looked sharp and fit by defeating Mickey Gall by unanimous decision, and he won with his girlfriend, Latory Gonzalez, in his corner.
The ESPN panel of experts from Ariel Helwani, Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim assesses the victories of Poirier, Perry and others.
7;s your biggest takeaway from the main event?
Helwani: That fight was just as good as we thought it would be. It is practically everything that comes to mind. If you remember earlier in the week, my bold prediction for this card was that the main event would go far. Well, at first, that prediction looked like it would have been turned off due to the blows they were throwing and landing. However, I knew it would be 25 minutes because of how extremely tough both of them are. And it’s been 25 minutes. What a struggle. What a show. What a demonstration of tenacity, heart and determination. These are the fights that make us love this sport so much. I hope Hooker won’t go too low after this. Will come back. It can stay with the elite at 155. Also, the curse of Paul Felder, or that all those who beat him continue to lose their neighbor, is alive and well.
Okamoto: We need to fight for more consistent and lighter titles. This cannot continue. Since Conor McGregor won the light championship in November 2016, there have been four undisputed 155 pound title fights. Four. It’s not right. This division is full of talented and deserving title challengers. Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Justin Gaethje was as frustrated as anyone else. It took Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson back to pieces for the opportunity to fight for a temporary belt and prepare for a real title shot. I hate watching a fight like that on Saturday, in which both boys leave a piece of themselves in there, and not knowing what awaits us for the winner because this division never moves. The UFC must do everything possible to make this division work more consistently.
All UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs. Fights Hooker will be available for viewing on ESPN +.
• Dustin Poirier against Dan Hooker
• Mike Perry against Mickey Gall
• Gian Villante against Maurice Greene
• Brendan Allen against Kyle Daukaus
• Jason Witt against Takashi Sato
• Sean Woodson against Julian Erosa
• Luis Pena against Khama Worthy
• Philipe Lins against Tanner Boser
• Jinh Yu Frey against Kay Hansen
• Jordan Griffin against Youssef Zalal
See the complete sheet on ESPN +
Raimondi: Dustin Poirier is still an elite lightweight. It is still evolving. My favorite moment in the fight was when he had Hooker on a Khabib ride in round four. Poirier is not only one of the best people in the sport – honored on Friday with the inaugural UCF Forrest Griffin Community Award – but he is also one of the toughest and most cerebral, a true ambassador of the game, and he will not go anywhere at any time. soon. Hooker is excellent. He worked in the first two rounds. But Poirier, wounded and tired, survived him as the fight continued. Let’s not forget that Poirier has a victory over the current UFC provisional champion Justin Gaethje. Poirier is right there in the division, despite Nurmagomedov’s loss last year.
Wangenheim: If I’m an UFC matchmaker, I’m looking to book someone from the American Top Team against a fighter from across the Pacific. This once again proved to be a magical combination. In March, the usual Chinese promotion champion, Zhang Weili, mad, was subjected to the fight of the year by ATT’s Joanna Jedrzejczyk. That meeting had a run for his money from Poirier, who also trains in the South Florida gym, and Hooker. If Saturday’s main event had been just for a belt, it could have overcome the glorious 115-pound brawl in my eyes. What a show of skill. What a show of will.
Who is next for the main event winner?
Helwani: I need to see Dustin Poirier against Tony Ferguson later. It has all the sense of the world. Poirier has lost to Nurmagomedov recently and Ferguson has lost to Gaethje. Also, on paper, it would be phenomenal, with high odds attached to it. Here we go. As for Hooker’s future, that’s a little more complicated. He will obviously need some free time. Maybe Kevin Lee, who is currently reshaping an injured knee? Charles Oliveira would be fun, but he fought (and won) the last time in March, so times don’t work. A Drew Dober guy would be fun, but I’m not sure Hooker would take him. And you know what? I wouldn’t hate to see Paul Felder versus Dan Hooker 2, considering I thought Felder had just won their first fight in February.
Damn!! Let me rest bruh !!! https://t.co/RgP5aOV0Co
– The Diamond (@DustinPoirier) June 28, 2020
Okamoto: For Dustin Poirier, why not Conor McGregor? Why the heck no? When I spoke to Poirier this week, he told me that he has a habit of living and dying with every result in his fighter career, and has put a lot of pressure on him over the years. Having said that, he also believes that the way he thought influenced him negatively before the McGregor fight in 2014, when he lost by knockout in the first round. McGregor is apparently frustrated by the UFC because he wants to fight. Well, here it is. Poirier is above him. This and that. Does McGregor want to prove he is still an elite? Fight Poirier.
Raimondi: Poirier is still outside looking all the way down to the light trail. The next Nurmagomedov will defend the title against provisional champion Gaethje. McGregor is still out there lurking, with the UFC wanting it to fight Nurmagomedov as soon as it’s feasible. Maybe McGregor would be interested in a Poirier rematch. It could be a lot of fun. Otherwise, Poirier is probably stuck with another rising contender, someone like Hooker. Charles Oliveira comes to mind as a possibility.
Wangenheim: If life were right, Poirier would be able to wait for the winner of the Nurmagomedov title defense against Gaethje. Other than that, he would have had the opportunity to avenge his 2014 loss to McGregor and make a huge bank deposit later. But all is not right in love, in war and in promoting the fight against money. Considering that Poirier lost to the champion less than 10 months ago, I am thinking that he will be overcome if Nurmagomedov maintains his throne. If the challenger wins the belt, perhaps the plot of Gaethje who tries to avenge a 2-year TKO loss to Poirier will bring the day, but an immediate rematch of Khabib seems more likely. Poirier could be left to fight against a boy above him who is losing a defeat (Tony Ferguson) or one below him who is in a winning streak of seven fights (Charles Oliveira).
What do you think of Mike Perry’s corner experiment?
Mike Perry returns to his corner and receives some words of encouragement from his girlfriend, Latory Gonzalez.
Helwani: Hard to hate him because Perry won and he looked good. I heard from fighters who said they didn’t give much emphasis to the corners during the fights, so I guess Perry supported this claim tonight. But seriously, I don’t think this is something that should be replicated, and it’s a little strange that a week after telling me they would investigate Robert Drysdale-Max Rohskopf’s situation, Nevada agreed with this. Either way, it worked for Perry and generated attention, but I think he knows it’s not sustainable. I suspect that Perry will join another team before his next fight. Maybe it’s American Top Team, as suggested by its manager Malki Kawa on Twitter, or maybe it’s elsewhere. Who knows with Mike Perry. He always makes us guess, which is why many people love him. But one thing is certain: Latory Gonzalez is undefeated as a corner woman. Respect his name.
Okamoto: You know what? I am 100 percent good. I think it was a brilliant move, actually.
Now I’ll add to this: I don’t think it’s the smartest thing to go on. At the end of the day, is it a good idea for a UFC fighter to enter a high-level matchup without anyone in his corner able to offer advice, recognize injuries or provide experience? Obviously not. But I think most of us would agree that Perry looked … different … all week. Maybe he needed to do it once – prove a point, do it alone, anyway – so he can go out on his own and get a win this weekend.
If he advances with this peculiar strategy, again, I don’t think it’s a good idea, but the truth is that Perry will probably never win a championship. He is an entertainer. To borrow his words, “He can fight.” If, from a mental point of view, you feel safer about going there with your girlfriend, it’s not something I would recommend someone to do, but I don’t even think it’s the end of the world.
Thanks Perry, now my wife thinks the next fight will come out with me 😅
– Ricky Simón (@RickySimonUFC) June 28, 2020
Raimondi: It worked, especially since Mike Perry is far better than Mickey Gall. Perry’s strength and athleticism was too much for Gall, and this had nothing to do with who was in Perry’s corner. The biggest takeaway for me was that Perry was in great shape, and he was lucid. Yes, his girlfriend, Latory Gonzalez, was in his corner, but it was clear that Perry was taking conditioning and training seriously.
Overall, however, an inexperienced person in a fighter’s corner is a bad precedent. It is something that the Commission should take a look at if it happens again. Tonight was fun because Perry is such an exaggerated character. But it is also a health and safety issue. A corner person is a state authorized position. It should be taken seriously by the commission, with those licenses going to expert people who are there to take care of their fighter. MMA is not a game; it is a brutal and dangerous sport.
Wangenheim: Perry fought a more disciplined fight than I’d ever seen from him. Maybe coaching complicates things for the boy, he gets him out of his instinctive rhythm. Then again, perhaps what we saw was something miraculous, a deceptive byproduct of a senior veteran opposition expert who was in the Octagon with an opponent who had less than half of many professional fights. Would Perry have been able to get by without coaches in his corner if he had competed against someone of the caliber of Donald Cerrone or Paul Felder, to name two names in his resume? Who knows? We say this to Mike Perry who is Mike Perry.
What perspective did the bigger statement make?
Kay Hansen and Jinh Yu Frey exchange huge blows against each other at the start of the third round of their match at UFC Fight Night.
Helwani: I know Tanner Boser is now 18-6-1 after his vicious Philipe Lins first round knockout on Saturday, but he’s only 28, and that was just his third UFC fight, so I’m going with the Bonnyville, Alberta native. In my eyes, it’s still a prospect. How funny is Boser? Hair, teeth, western Canadian accent … it’s a wonderful package. He is now 2-1 in the Octagon, with his lonely defeat for the irresistible Ciryl Gane, so I think it’s a name to keep an eye on heavyweight. Now, if we want to talk about who has the highest roof of the group, I will go with the twenty year old Kay Hansen. In case you missed it, Hansen, who is the youngest woman in the promotion and the second youngest ever (behind Chase Hooper) was signed only six days ago. It is a great prospect and will play 115 years for years to come. It was a big win for his Saturday against former atomic champion Invicta Jinh Yu Frey. That armbar presentation was a beauty.
Okamoto: I have to go with Kay Hansen, and he’s not particularly close to me. Although I wouldn’t say that his victory over Jinh Yu Frey was one of the most memorable on the card – Saturday there were many other finishes that stood out the most – a 20-year-old who made her UFC debut against an opponent with much more experience against better opposition? This result says a lot. Khama Worthy, Tanner Boser, Youssef Zalal, have all had great wins on the undercard, but there is something impressive about seeing a twenty year old in the Octagon. Not to mention, Hansen’s best skill (at least right now) – her wrestling – should continue to serve her well as she advances through this division and grows in her body.
Raimondi: Kay Hansen. It’s not just that he beat ex-atomic champion Invicta FC Jinh Yu Frey with a right arm in the third round of his UFC debut. It was that Hansen was able to fight adversity to do it. He clearly had a game plan to bring down little Frey and impose his will on the ground. Frey had none of this for most of the first two rounds, and he was making Hansen pay for his aggression, making her burst with his hard left hand. Hansen, to his credit, stuck to his strategy, eventually putting Frey in third place and ending the match he was tied heading for the final round. Hansen is only 20 years old, the second youngest fighter of the UFC. There is immense potential there.
Wangenheim: It is difficult to go against Kay Hansen, who at 20 years of age eliminated a much more experienced fighter who was a champion in another fighting organization. But I was very impressed with Khama Worthy, who scored his second straight UFC win in the eyes. Last summer he was a big loser when he won his UFC debut. Was it just a matter of him having the night of his life? No it was not. This time, he faced Luis Pena, who arrived with six fights in the UFC, including victories over some seriously legitimate opponents. After a good start from Worthy, Pena sported a dominant fight in the second round. But Worthy persevered, and when the fight returned to the canvas in Round 3, he was ready. Worthy sunk in a modified guillotine choke to squeeze the air from any lingering doubt.
Which fighter had the best finish?
– ESPN MMA (@espnmma) June 28, 2020
Helwani: There were so many coupons to choose from tonight, as this was a fun card with excellent finishes. Eventually, I will go with Julian Erosa’s choke D’Arce. First of all, the fact that he fought this battle with about four days’ notice and was a + 400 underdog against previously unbeaten Sean Woodson is impressive in its own right. However, that D’Arce was as fluid as possible and came to the end of a phenomenal fight. I love stories like that of Erosa: ex ally of “The Ultimate Fighter”, published in 2016 after 1-1, gets a second chance on Contender Series two years later, wins that fight, is signed again, goes 0-3 in ‘UFC is cut, wins a fight on the regional scene and then takes advantage of this opportunity after a visa release prevented Canadian Kyle Nelson from competing on Saturday. Way to persevere, Julian.
Okamoto: Julian Erosa. Four days’ notice against arguably the most promising prospect on Sean Woodson’s paper. Was it the “highlight reel” KO we usually think about when it comes to the best finish? No. Not at all, actually. But taking everything into consideration – fighting on four days’ notice, the biggest loser on paper, losing the first round, having been cut by the UFC before – is incredibly impressive. Erosa knew after that first round against Woodson that he had to bite, eat shots and make the fight ugly, and this is much easier said than done. Not only did he have the intelligence to recognize him, but he also had the courage and heart to do it. It is difficult not to feel happy for him.
Raimondi: Soon I won’t forget Tanner Boser, sporting an absolutely glorious mullet, former PFL heavyweight champion Philipe Lins with a combination of punches for a knockout victory. Boser, of Alberta, Canada, is modest. Maybe he took Lins by surprise. Boser went wild with a quick combination and slammed multiple punches from Lins’ head. Lins was out when he hit the ground, prompting referee Herb Dean to dive and make an almost judo shot to get Boser out of an unconscious Lins. It was a memorable knockout for a fight – and a fighter – many people didn’t circle in to attend this event.
Wangenheim: The second or third best finish this evening would have been in the running for top marks on many combat nights. At one point, there were five straight finishes, each one a beauty thing. But I have to go with the suffocation of D’Arce in the third round of Julian Erosa, who gave prospect Sean Woodson his first career defeat. Erosa, who was cut twice by the UFC, came with four days’ notice and was the biggest loser on the card. He looked at the part in the first round, absorbing a steady diet of straight left hands. But he ate them all and kept going more, and when he finally put Woodson on the canvas, he didn’t miss the chance, efficiently and surprisingly causing a tapout.