Poirier wins another epic war, outlasting Hooker in unanimous-decision victory

Dustin ‘The Diamond’ Poirier won a unanimous-decision thriller over Dan ‘The Hangman’ Hooker in an incredible main event Saturday night at the UFC’s Apex Facility in Las Vegas. Poirier captured his 18th career UFC win as a -240 favorite, improving to 10-2 with one no-decision in the lightweight division.

The pride of Lafayette, LA., moved into an eighth-place tie with former champions Andrei Arlovski and Rafael dos Anjos for most career wins in UFC history. The 31-year-old Poirier once again found himself in a firefight from start to finish. In fact, he earned an extra $50,000 for participating in the Fight of the Night for the fifth time in his last seven appearances. His 11 fight-night bonuses are tied for seventh in UFC history.

The judges gave Poirier the nod 48-47, 48-46 and 48-47. MajorWager scored it 48-47 for ‘The Diamond.’ According to MMADecisions, all 18 media members had it for Poirier, with 16 of them scoring it 48-47. Two had it 49-46.

Hooker established a nice rhythm early, peppering Poirier with lots of low kicks in the first two stanzas. The New Zealander clearly took Round 1, and then Round 2 was an epic back-and-forth battle. Hooker outworked Poirier, but it was the former interim lightweight champ who was landing the more powerful shots.

Nevertheless, Hooker was eating them and firing back accurately and with reckless abandon. This sequence of action late in Round 2 gives you an idea of how the entire stanza went.  

Both men’s faces were wearing the extensive damage they’d inflicted upon each other by the third round. After the blistering pace of Round 2, the action understandably slowed a bit in the early going of the third. Then Poirier started landing some good punches, which prompted Hooker to go for a takedown.

However, Poirier defended well and then locked in a guillotine choke and pulled guard. It was in extremely tight and it appeared Hooker was going to go out, but both men were extremely wet at this point and, unable to finish the choke, Poirier went for an armbar. Again, Hooker somehow refused to tap and eventually wiggled out.

How Hooker refrained from tapping is a testament to his remarkable toughness. When the fight got back to the feet late in the round, Poirier finished strong with a huge elbow and stinging hook. Hooker was a bloody mess as he went back to his corner between Rounds 3 and 4.

Hooker kept fighting valiantly, but Poirier was the fresher fighter in the final two rounds. He landed with more volume and got the best of the grappling sequences. Both fighters earned a trip to the hospital after the contest.

“It was a tough one, man,” Poirier said. “Dan came to fight. He’s a tough guy. He’s on the rise and really thought he was going to get past me. He talked a lot of trash, like he was going to move forward and fight the champ, but I’m the champ. This is what I love to do. I put all the work in. I trust in my team, skill and work ethic. I came here, pulled another one out and had a few more rounds in me.”

When ESPN’s Jon Anik asked the third-ranked 155-pounder what was next in a post-fight interview, Poirier said, “Maybe I’ll fight at the end of the year? Maybe I’ll just fight next year? All I want to do is go home to my daughter.”

The fifth-ranked Hooker shouldn’t fall in the rankings. If anything, his stock went up. He was released from the hospital early Sunday.

Hooker said, “Everything’s all good—just a couple stitches on the eye. But that’s the game we play. No worries, it’s just a small setback and I’ll be back.” 

The 30-year-old Hooker saw his three-fight winning streak snapped, but he’s still 7-2 in his last nine Octagon appearances since moving up to 155 from featherweight.

If Conor McGregor plans to stay in so-called “retirement,” a fight with Tony Ferguson seems to make the most sense for Poirier next. A rematch with McGregor would certainly work, too, and it says here that the former double champ will be itching to scrap by September (in terms of booking a fight for later in the fall) at the latest.

Hooker had another five-round war with Paul Felder his last time out, so he probably won’t fight until December or early in 2021. Potential dance partners for him could include Kevin Lee, Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, Gregor Gillespie, Beneil Dariush or Drew Dober.

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