If you like a good, old-fashioned fistfight, we got an instant classic for the “Just Bleed” crowd last night in Las Vegas.
A day after receiving a UFC award for volunteer work and community service, lightweight Dustin Poirier dished out one hell of an ass-whooping at a UFC Fight Night event, besting Dan Hooker via unanimous decision.
Hooker delivered significant punishment of his own, going toe-to-toe, punch-for-punch, elbow-for-elbow, and more against Poirier. And now, recency bias aside, fans, pundits, and even the odd celebrity are labeling the battle an instant classic, alongside some of the very best fights in UFC history.
Too bad UFC president Dana White missed all the action cageside, opting to Tweet images of a beachside Octagon (supposedly on “Fight Island”) during his badass respite (in Cabo, according to the UFC broadcast team) over one of the best fights his company has made to date.
The hyperbole is, well, not hyperbole at all. The contest, which was named Fight of the Night and is easily one of the two or three best fights of 2020, was a scorcher from the opening bell, with Hooker actually racing out the gate and putting a licking on Poirier early. Using his height, length, and the wicked step-in knee to the solar plexus, Hooker connected on impactful shots in the first round, including a pair of kicks which smacked right on Poirer’s cup.
Poirier, nicknamed “The Diamond,” shrugged off the low blows; giant, brass stones intact, matching Hooker shot for shot, eating punches at distance to move into boxing range, where he did significant damage on the inside.
Although both Poirier and Hooker each landed more than 150 significant strikes over the 25 minute contest, the fight, which was the final bout before the UFC ships off for Yas Island in Abu Dhabi for UFC 251 and their “Fight Island” events, also featured some expert groundwork.
With Hooker taking Poirier down in the third round, the wrestling and jiu jitsu took over after boxing and Muay Thai stole the opening periods. On the mat, Hooker managed to score with takedowns, but Poirier, a jiu jitsu ace, attempted a smattering of submissions off of his back before transitioning to ground-and-pound and clinchwork, putting hands all over Hooker. Well, more like fists, from a variety of violent and uncomfortable angles.
By the fourth round, Poirier’s championship and main event experience took over, and while Hooker actually managed to capture a slim striking edge, 155-153, it was Poirier who landed more strikes to the head, connecting 130 times with Hooker’s face, badly battering the New Zealand native, who was transported to the hospital on a gurney immediately after the fight.
Poirier also landed in the hospital, suffering a cut under his right eye and who knows whatever other damage elsewhere. Both fighters have been cleared by doctors and released from the hospital, although Hooker now has the long journey back to New Zealand, a country that successfully flattened the COVID-19 curve with a strict closing of international borders, where he’ll be forced to quarantine for two weeks, cuts, bruises, stitches, scars and all.
It was an absolutely valiant effort from both fighters, crafting perfect chemistry inside the Octagon. With only 25 feet of real estate to work with — the UFC has used a smaller version of its signature Octagon during the last month while promoting shows at their APEX arena facility — Poirier and Hooker left it all out there: blood, guts, and saliva, along with liters and liters of sweat. Those ingredients, when mixed together, created a unique fighting energy that equaled the excitement of some of the greatest barnburners and slobberknockers in MMA history, mixing refined technique and martial arts sophistication with reckless abandon and instinctual brawling.
For their efforts, Poirier and Hooker each took home an extra $50,000 fight bonus, so no doubt, they’ll be able to buy plenty of ice packs and painkillers to soothe those ailing bodies. But heal up fast fellas, because the UFC lightweight division is a shark tank, and pretty soon it’ll be time to dive right back into the deep end and deliver another classic.