Greetings, fight fans! Another quality UFC card is in the books, and in the main event it produced a first-ballot Fight of the Year contender. Dustin Poirier and Dan Hooker were expected and all but guaranteed to put on a good show, but they delivered even beyond what many expected in a thrilling five-round affair. Elsewhere on the card there were a litany of upsets, finishes, and just plain bizarre happenings. Blanketing everything was what I believe the overarching theme of these fight results was: pace. In many of the fights, the fighter who could dictate and maintain the higher pace ultimately whittled their opponent down and won, even if it initially worked against them. Let's explore that further, and get down to what the hell happened!


The Main Card

Poirier outlasts Hooker in an instant classic

#3 Dustin Poirier def. #5 Dan Hooker by unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-46)

What a fight! These two engaged in an exciting show of skill, heart, and durability. Defense? Not as much, but that's part of what made it so entertaining! Coming into the fight I thought Poirier had a pretty clear advantage overall in that he's the quicker, more athletic, harder puncher, and that's a combination we've seen Hooker struggle with since he's one of the slower-footed, less athletic fighters in the division. That discrepancy showed itself often, particularly as the fight wore on, and Hooker's lack of head movement didn't help matters any better. Poirier has his own issues with head movement when he's throwing combinations, but Hooker tends to enter exchanges standing tall and with his on the centerline the whole time, which makes him pretty easy to hit once you get inside. Plus unlike Poirier, he usually does this all with his hands relatively low. Lucky for both men, they have chins that are out of this world, as both took some pretty hellacious punches from each other.

Yeah...these two threw down.

The first ten minutes of the fight saw Hooker having a lot of success at range, and this was because he did a surprisingly good job of disrupting Poirier's pressure. When Poirier would try to close the distance with punches, Hooker would frequently catch him with counter jabs to stop him from coming forward, and then land hard low kicks once he had him at long range. At mid-range, he did a great job of going to the body often, and this opened up Poirier's head for further attacks. It was an impressive display of diverse striking that really threw Poirier for a loop and forced him to rethink his entries, because while he was primarily a headhunter for the whole fight, Hooker was able to hit him from more often just by way of using more tools and launching at more targets. Once Poirier did start to figure out the timing, the tide began to change a bit, and he made two main adjustments in order to make that work: he began checking low kicks, and he started anticipating Hooker's body shots and countering him up top.

The combination of the pace (Hooker is generally not a high-pace fighter, and tends to tire) and the accumulating damage Poirier started to rack up visibly slowed Hooker down in the third round. His work to the legs and body fell off dramatically, I believe partly due to fatigue, and partly due to Poirier just countering effectively and gaining easier entry into the pocket. Hooker somewhat surprisingly held his own in pocket boxing exchanges for the most part, but the power differential was still clear, even if he was able to eat some ridiculous shots and keep coming. As impressive as those power shots were, on thing I was really impressed with regarding Poirier was his sneaky jabs and straight lefts. He would snap off jabs at odd angles and off-speeds, and those would tag Hooker pretty much every time. It was clear that he didn't even see them coming, much less try to avoid them. Often times he wasn't even able to tense up before they hit him, which is not only a testament to Poirier's speed, but an indictment on Hooker's speed and reaction time. Similarly with his straight lefts, Poirier would often find tricky ways to land them. One of my favorite things he'd do was initiate a stance switch, but throw the straight left almost like a jab once halfway through the switch and sometimes follow it up with a straight right from orthodox stance, making it some sort of tricky straight left-straight right combination. Since stance switches are normally a time when attacks aren't really expected, I think his throwing attacks in the midst of switching really threw Hooker off. Needless to say, Poirier found a lot of neat ways to take advantage of Hooker's lack of head movement and defense, and it was like he knew he'd have a more or less stationary target to play with.

While Hooker stayed in the fight pretty much the entire time, this fight was a perfect example of the fighter who can maintain the pace taking over. After a couple rounds, it was clear who the fresher fighter was, and that combined with Poirier's adjustments just led to him taking over the fight. A major component in Hooker staying in the fight was actually a pretty surprising one: wrestling. Poirier has never been much of a strong defensive wrestler, but Hooker has also not shown much offensive wrestling ability either, and it was impressive that he was able to take Poirier down four times in the fight. Meanwhile, Poirier only managed a single takedown himself. However, once on the ground, the difference in their grappling ability was evident. Hooker was never able to do much with his takedowns offensively, instead finding himself defending submissions and being hit from the bottom. Poirier's one takedown resulted in him almost mounting Hooker, jumping on his back, getting close with an armbar, and transitioning to an omoplata. So while Hooker's wrestling was impressive in this fight by itself, it really did nothing for him but give him a bit of a break at times, which were clearly needed since all of his takedowns occurred in the rounds he lost.

With the fight all tied up on most scorecards heading into the final round, things looked good for Poirier, who was the fresher man and had the momentum on his side. Further evidence of Hooker's fatigue showed itself in his more desperate attempts to wrestle in the round. Whereas he was able to land his takedowns at will in rounds two and three, the final round saw the timing of his takedowns regress and the setups nonexistant. He became easier to thwart and threaten with guillotines for his efforts, and Poirier made sure to punish him for trying with punches on the way out. It was a commanding performance by Poirier, and although he put forth a solid effort, it was clear that Hooker just didn't have enough left in the tank to put a stamp on the fight.

Next for Poirier: With this performance, Poirier once again reasserted himself among the elite of the division, and showed that he shouldn't be far from another crack at the title. After how he was handled in his title unification bout, I doubt the UFC is too jazzed about trotting him back out there for a rematch against reigning champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, so it wouldn't surprise me if he's rooting for Justin Gaethje to win the title. Seeing as how he has a stoppage win over Gaethje, he'd have a great case for a title shot. Barring that, a rematch with Conor McGregor (a loss I'm sure he'd like to avenge) or a bout with Tony Ferguson seem about right. With McGregor's plans up in the air, I lean toward the Ferguson fight, which would be another violent delight.

Next for Hooker: He put on a great fight, but this loss proved Hooker is not elite, and I'm not sure he ever will be, because his lack of defense holds him back. The aforementioned Ferguson has similar defensive liabilities, but he's at least able to roll with some punches, and his unorthodox attacking style and grappling ability make him more formidable against other elite fighters. There's really no shame in him losing to the #3 guy, and his next fight should be one that truly tests where he is in that mid-top 10 range. I nominate Charles Oliveira, who has looked improved in his striking and resolve, but won't put the kind of pace on him that Poirier did.

ADCC Perry debuts with a dominant grappling display against Gall

Mike Perry def. Mickey Gall by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

If you want to talk about bizarre, look no further than this fight. First, let's just get this out of the way: Perry opted to have no one in his corner but his new girlfriend Latory Gonzalez, who offered him such strategic gems as "Hit Mickey Gall in the face." The UFC apparently got a big kick out of this, because they insisted on going to Perry's corner in between rounds. The fight itself seemed pretty straightforward on paper: as long as Perry remained on the feet he'd win, and if he decided to take it to the ground, he would lose. Note the condition that Perry would need to decide to take it to the ground. This is because Gall is not a good wrestler, isn't as good as Perry is in the clinch, and Perry is certainly the type of guy to take down a better grappler and get submitted.

The fight played out very differently, and caused me to just question everything. Some things did stay consistent with my take coming into the fight: Perry was indeed a better fighter in the clinch. In fact, the clinch has been low key the best part of Perry's game for a while. He throws powerful shots in tight, is physically strong, and has a knack for timing and head positioning. Another consistent thing was that Perry still has punching power, which he exhibited when he knocked Gall down with a right hand in the second round and nearly finished him.

Always great to see a fighter listening to their corner.

Other than the guarantee that Perry would pressure and look for counters, and that Gall would get tired the longer the fight went, this fight was pretty much opposite day. If you told me ahead of the fight that Gall was going to go tit-for-tat with Perry over three rounds on the feet, even clearly outstriking him in stretches, I would've called you crazy. I would've doubled down on that if you were to tell me that Perry would put on a dominant grappling display against Gall, whose whole game is a supposed to revolve around being a solid grappler. Perry passed his guard six times, and at one point worked his way to a topside crucifix where he punished Gall with hard elbows. Other than a kimura sweep in the second round, it was Perry who looked like the superior grappler in the contest.

As good as it was to see that Perry has clearly been working on his ground game, his striking looks to have regressed even more. There was a time where he seemed to have some real potential as a power puncher with quick reflexes, a sturdy chin, and a natural feeling for timing counters. Today it seems only the chin remains (maybe). Several times during the fight he just seemed to be caught unaware by Gall's punches, walked right into shots, and was slow to counter. In general he just looked a good deal stiffer than he has in the past. On the plus side, Perry did actually throw jabs during the fight, and a lot of Gall's early success could also be contributed to Perry pacing himself, which paid dividends when he was able to turn it up in the latter half after Gall had fatigued (there's that pace again!). And as mentioned...Perry looked solid on the ground! I guess all that training with Jacare paid off. All in all it's a good win for Perry, and while he'll probably never crack the top 10, he's a good litmus test for fighters looking to make their way into the rankings.

Next for Perry: There are a lot of choices for Perry, as he can take on almost anyone at or just outside the top 15. The winner of Elizeu Zaleski vs Muslim Salikov could be a good fight for him, as well as Belal Muhammad. It's a bit of a sentimental call for me, but I still really want to see him fight Niko Price because that fight would be insane.

Next for Gall: At this point Gall has pretty much looked like a bust in the UFC, despite his improvements. He came into the UFC so early in his career, and we still don't have much of an indication that he actually belongs there. No one he's beaten is currently in the UFC, and he's failed every real test he's gotten. It wouldn't be unreasonable to cut him so he can develop outside of the promotion, because there aren't many fights I'm optimistic about him in. Do you throw him in there with James Vick, Emil Weber Meek, or Court McGee in a loser leaves town fight? Perhaps, but it's too easy to see him losing those fights.

Greene ends an odd fight with an odd submission

Maurice Greene def. Gian Villante by submission via arm triangle choke (3:44, R3)

This fight was already abnormal from the get-go, with Gian Villante making his return to heavyweight after almost nine-and-a-half years at light heavyweight, and strategically making the move up by simply just letting himself go. If anything this is puzzling because speed has never been a trait for Villante, even at 205 lbs; you figure he'd want to preserve as much of it as he can so that he'd actually have an advantage in that department for once against bigger guys. Every once in a while he's shown a surprising deftness for low kicks, and he did do well to use them here against a much taller, longer opponent in Greene. He also mixed in quite a few body kicks, even appearing to hurt Greene briefly in the opening round with one. Overall Greene just had the slight edge in striking over the first two rounds, matching Villante's kicking game but letting his hands go much more up top than Villante was willing to. Greene wasn't able to land a many head strikes overall, which is surprising considering Villante is historically one of the easiest fighters to hit in the promotion, so perhaps that move up in weight did help him avoid shots a bit better against slower punchers after all.

With Greene up two rounds, Villante turned it up in a big way in the final stanza, immediately stunning Greene with right hands before dropping him with a left hook over the top to counter a superman punch from Greene. From there he followed him to the ground and landed some heavy shots that some thought may have warranted a stoppage. However, the fight wasn't stopped and apparently Villante gave all he had in that flurry, because once the punches stopped coming he rested in half guard while Greene clasped his head and arm from the bottom. At first it appeared to merely be a stalling tactic, but seemingly out of nowhere Villante tapped out!

It looked as though Villante would score the upset late.

It's not the first time we've seen an arm-triangle from the bottom, as Villante's former teammate Aljamain Sterling hit one on Takeya Mizugaki some years back, but Sterling had full guard and was able to put on a much tighter squeeze. Greene was in half guard, and it was wide open for Villante to pass, so one can only assume that fatigue was a major part of this submission. Villante was being pressed into Greene's chest and shoulder, was already struggling for breath due to fatigue, and just couldn't take it anymore. It was a shocking end to a fight that Villante looked on his way to winning or at least doing enough for a draw, and while I didn't have much hope for the fight being good coming in, at least it was interesting.

Next for Greene: Tanner Boser called him out for a bout on Fight Island, and he accepted, so I see no reason not to make that happen.

Next for Villante: Chris Weidman's BFF might have met his end as a UFC fighter. He's 7-9 in the promotion, and has lost 5 of his last 7. He's really just never been able to put together respectable run in the promotion, and every time he'd impress, he'd just go out and lose his next fight. If he does stay in the promotion and choose to stay at heavyweight, I don't know who he'd even fight. A rematch with Ovince St. Preux? Don'Tale Mayes? Does it matter at this point?

Allen banks the early rounds and survives late to top Daukaus

Brendan Allen def. Kyle Daukaus by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 30-27)

I said coming into this fight that I really didn't know either guy much, but they seem to be similar types of fighters and Allen was the more experienced guy. I guess that sort of played out, and overall Allen just appeared to be the stronger guy who was just able to get his way more often because of it. He dropped Daukaus early with a knee in the clinch and more or less dominate him on the ground for most of the first round, landing a huge elbow late in the round that cut Daukaus open badly. Daukaus did better in the second round, but still found himself outworked on the ground, as every time he'd find himself in a favorable position, Allen was able to reverse and end up on top. Allen ended the round emphatically by dropping Daukaus with a huge left hook right at the horn.

Or perhaps just a smidge after it?

The final round was promising for Daukaus, even if it wasn't enough for him to pick up the win. He was able to take Allen down early and have a lot of positional success for much of the round, including spending a lot of the round on Allen's back searching for chokes. Allen managed to escape with a little time left on the clock and go wild with ground and pound, which was apparently enough for judge Eric Colon to give him the round despite him being dominated for most of it (sigh...judges). It was an odd fight to showcase on the main card, but all in all it was entertaining and worth the price of admission (it was free, but you get the point).

Next for Allen: Allen has quietly rattled off some wins against notable talent in the UFC, and I think deserves a step up to enter the top 15. Ian Heinisch or Marvin Vettori should suffice.

Next for Daukaus: He's still young in his career and netted his first loss, so it's not so easy to narrow down a perfect opponent for him. He's a decent prospect, so maybe a bounce back fight against Separbeg Safarov would work. It's difficult because many of the middleweights lower on the pecking order have been pretty inactive.

Sato makes the most of last-minute main card slot, authors Witt's end

Takashi Sato def. Jason Witt by TKO via strikes (0:48, R1)

After some late reshuffling upgraded this fight to the main card, things couldn't have gone better for Sato. No stranger to first round finishes, he achieved the second-fastest stoppage of his career after blitzing Witt in just 48 seconds. Understandably, there wasn't much to it. Witt started off busy, landing a few low kicks and feinting heavily (almost comically) with his hands waving about. Not one for formalities, Sato leaped in with a pawing jab that batted away Witt's lead hand, and followed up with a laser of a straight left that dropped Witt where he stood. Witt attempted to recover with a single leg, but Sato limp-legged out, pushed his head down, and went to work with huge left hands on a turtling Witt until the referee saw enough.

Next for Sato: This was just the type of performance Sato needed after a disappointing loss to Belal Muhammad, who appeared to be a bit too much of a step up for him. I think Dhiego Lima would be a suitable followup for him, or the winner of Danny Roberts vs Nicolas Dalby.

Next for Witt: As a very late notice fill in for the debuting Ramiz Brahimaj after one of Brahimaj's cornermen tested postitve for COVID-19, who knows where to place him? Come to think of it, maybe he could be the next guy for Gall.


The Prelims

Julian Erosa def. Sean Woodson by submission via d’arce choke (2:44, R3)

As much as I've talked about surprises concerning this card, this was probably the biggest one for me personally. Woodson was the biggest favorite on the card, and for good reason; Erosa is a mobile, volume-focused striker, and Woodson on paper is far and away the better striker of the two. This was on display early on, as Woodson fired off quick, smooth boxing combinations that snapped Erosa's head back frequently. Erosa stayed persistent with his pressure and kicked Woodson's legs at range, but his opponent's reedy frame and educated jab meant he often paid for getting too close. In the second round he doubled down on his pressure, and we saw the signs of his pace starting to wear on Woodson, who still had a lot of success at range, but found himself at a bit of a loss as Erosa was able to get in and clinch with him more and more frequently. Erosa also went to the body liberally in the round, which further served to sap the energy from Woodson.

Even though Erosa had the momentum heading into the final stanza, he faced some major adversity to start the round when he ran right into a stiff counter left hook that dropped him on his seat. He not only recovered quickly, but got right back up to launch a flying knee and continue his pressure, realizing that it was still really his only path to victory.

A short time later he grabbed a body lock takedown, locked in a D'arce choke as Woodson stood up, then snapped him back down and trapped his leg so he couldn't move counter-clockwise to alleviate the pressure. The tap came shortly after. It was an impressive performance by a fighter that historically didn't look UFC-caliber in his octagon performances. Woodson's lack of power could also play into that, as Erosa is someone who tends to at the very least force his opponents into dogfights before his shoddy defense gets him knocked out. That moment early in the third round was a classic instance where Erosa would normally find himself getting finished, but perhaps it was Woodson's low-power striking that his quick recovery can be accredited to. And honestly, he deserved to lose because he walked out to Tekashi 69 (I'm not spelling his name that stupid way). Either way, pace wins again and it was a breakout performance for "Juicy J," who might be showing that the third time's a charm for octagon stints.

Khama Worthy def. Luis Pena by submission via guillotine choke (2:53, R3)

If Erosa's win was the biggest surprise, this was a close second. Worthy was certainly always seen as a striking threat to Pena, but I don't think anyone thought he'd snag a submission win here. Once again, maintaining pace played a part in that, as Pena slowed down significantly in that final round. Until then it was pretty back-and-forth, with Worthy's quick counters and odd angles creating problems on the feet for the longer, but slower Pena. The right adjustments were made for the second round, as Pena wasted little time grabbing a takedown and displaying the gulf between the two when it came to grappling. He passed Worthy's guard repeatedly, mounting him a couple times, and forced him to fight off several close submissions. A bit of foreshadowing did occur as Pena's second takedown saw him leave his neck out and Worthy latch onto a guillotine, but Pena was able to land in half guard and pass to side control to threaten with a shoulder choke. The final round was competitive to start, but this time it was the dogged pursuit of wrestling that brought on Pena's downfall. After a failed hip toss, Pena persisted with a single leg attempt, and once again completely ignored his head positioning. He found himself in another guillotine, and while he was able to pass to side once again, the cage was in the way and the choke was too tight, forcing him to tap out. While Pena continues to disappoint considering the expectations of him people had coming of The Ultimate Fighter, Worthy has not banked two-straight sizable upsets that should definitely get him noticed. One might say he's been looking...worthy of his roster spot.

Tanner Boser def. Philipe Lins by KO via strikes (2:41, R1)

While I don't think anyone will mistake Boser for a top-flight heavyweight, he looked great in dispatching Lins here. He started the fight heavy on low kicks, but he was definitely testing his overhand right and inching it closer to Lins. It paid off pretty quickly when he caught Lins plodding forward into the pocket, and he tagged him behind the ear with it, stunning him. Speaking of quickly, how quick was that followup combination by Bozer that put Lins out? He rifled off a six-punch combo that dropped Lins about twice as fast as most heavies can throw, and he immediately followed with two brutal backhanded hammerfists before Lins' head was able to bounce a second time on the canvas. Needless to say he was out cold by the end. After a great run in PFL winning their heavyweight tournament, Lins has fully shown that the depth of the heavyweight division outside of the UFC just isn't good. Andrei Arlovski is essentially a test for whether or not you're worth any hype you've garnered, and he failed that. Now he finds himself brutally finished by Boser, who really wasn't on anyone's radar in the division. I guess considering his lackluster Bellator run I shouldn't be surprised.

Kay Hansen def. Jinh Yu Frey by submission via arm bar (2:26, R3)

In a fight that could've easily been the next Invicta FC main event, Hansen dispatched Frey with an impressive display of jiu jitsu. Things didn't quite go her way in the beginning, as her attempts at taking the figh to the ground were dismissed by the physically strong Frey, and she often found herself on the outside eating low kicks, but her fortune started to change in round two when she managed an early takedown. The majority of the round was spent with Hansen showing a heavy top game and landing ground and pound, and a late-round escape by Frey saw her dumped to the ground once more before the horn. Frey started off the third round well, but Hansen's pace and persistence paid off big time. After several stuffed takedowns it was a failed hip toss that she managed to find opportunity in when she used the opportunity to leap over Frey's back and isolate her arm before rolling through for an armbar. She transitioned from the spiderweb position to a triangle attempt, before capturing the arm once more and cranking it before Frey calmly tapped.

Very impressive debut by the 20-year old; no one has really been able to handle Frey as thoroughly on the ground as she did, and Frey has fought Ayaka Hamasaki twice. As impressive as it was, Frey's relenting at the end was odd. Once she unclasped her hands to defend the triangle and got her arm taken back right as she went to clasp them back (very slick stuff from Hansen there), it was like she just accepted that she was outfoxed and had no desire to even try to defend any longer. The way she peacefully just laid back while in the armbar and waited until it was tight enough to tap showed the type of acceptance that you usually see from a fighter that plans to retire. I would hope that she doesn't plan on retiring right after she made it to the big stage, but the way she essentially gave up in the end doesn't inspire much confidence in her from here. But hey, someone did drop $37,000 on Hansen for some reason...not sayin, but just sayin haha.

Youssef Zalal def. Jordan Griffin by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

We kicked the night off with a fun fight at featherweight, where Griffin's aggression and pressure couldn't be sustained against Zalal's crafty footwork and outside striking game. The fight was largely competitive for the first two rounds, with Griffin winning the first on all scorecards, but once Zalal got his timing down and he started to slow, Griffin was just playing catch up the rest of the way. All in all both men acquitted themselves well, but with Griffin now 1-3 in the promotion, he may not be long for the octagon.


And that does it for UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs Hooker! Like all of the events at the APEX, this one delivered on the action and entertainment, and it even produced a frontrunner for Fight of the Year. We've got the 4th of July weekend off, but the UFC will return hot with the first event from 'Fight Island' in Abu Dhabi, and it's a doozy! Kamaru Usman will headline, defending his welterweight title against surging contender and teammate Gilbert Burns, Alexander Volkanovski will attempt to defend his newly-won featherweight strap against the man he wrestled it from in Max Holloway, and a bantamweight king will be crowned as Petr Yan and Jose Aldo will lock horns for the vacant title (for some reason). I'll gladly take the extra time to prepare for all that! Until then, sado, out!

From The Web