UFC on ESPN 12: Poirier vs. Hooker Predictions & Results

Fan favourite #3 Dustin Poirier faces Kiwi bad-boy #5 Dan Hooker in an exciting lightweight clash between two striking wizards at the UFC Apex on Saturday, 26 June 2020.

Main event aside, this card has the potential to be a real stinker. The UFC Apex has had a quite magical effect on the preliminaries on last months cards, but I think the early stoppage charm will have little positive effect on Saturday’s bouts. Focusing on the positives, Dustin Poirier and Dan Hooker facing off in a smaller cage is tantamount to striking pornography. Although the fight itself will have little significance in the rankings and either man’s claims to a title shot in the hugely backlogged division, it should be a stand-up showdown between a powerful, crafty veteran (sad times to use such a term for Dustin) and a counter-punching, durable machine. This fight represents a big jump up in terms of opponent quality for Hooker. Paul Felder is a hearty fighter, but Poirier is levels above in terms of power, style and offensive variety. The worst-case scenario would this fight to end within the first, the most intriguing result of this fight would be a five-round war where we get the opportunity to witness any subtle changes by both men.

In 2019, the schedules co-main event should be an absolute whitewash for Mike Perry over Mickey Gall, but 2020 Perry has been showing worrying signs of a deteriorating sanity. Choosing to be cornered by his young, and very recent girlfriend, Latory Gonzalez, Perry is doing a good job in creating handicaps to make the fight competitive. The man, the myth, the meme that is Mickey Gall (destroying 80s high school bully, Sage Northcutt and wrestling entertainer CM Punk) probably should have been cut after losing to Diego Sanchez just last year.

In other news, COVID-19 has reared its ugly head once again as it forces Ramiz Brahimaj to pull out of his scheduled welterweight scrap against Takashi Sato. After one of his corner-men tested positive for Coronavirus, Brahimaj was forced to pull out from the fight, with last-minute replacement Jason Witt filling in. Not much is known about the UFC debutant, having fought most of his career across a variety of regional promotions and a single loss in Bellator (stopped in the third round by punches against Justin Patterson).


Main Event

Lightweight (155)

Dustin Poirier (25-6) vs Dan Hooker (20-8)

A key factor of this fight that has received little traction is the lay-off that Poirier has experienced. Returning after hip surgery that repaired multiple tears in the labrum and reshaped his femur bone, Poirier’s physicality may have taken irreversible damage. On top of the physical ailments, Poirier is returning after his failed title bid against Khabib Nurmagomedov. Working his entire career into claiming his chance at the lightweight gold, to have only minimal moments of success across the three rounds, may have doused the inner flames that a focused contender requires.

Aside from the context, and assuming that Poirier is physically and mentally sound, then Poirier is the much cleaner striker and wrestler. In all of the key areas, Poirier excels over Hooker. It is not just that Poirier holds more power in his hands, but that his set-ups are more subtle and varied. No longer does Poirier fall into his front leg as he chases opponents across the octagon, but now he sets up feints and traps that cut off the distance without exposing his chin in the process. With the ability to switch off the lights of any fighter, opponents are rarely prepared to deal with the occasional takedown that Poirier can threaten to create further questions.

Dan Hooker is a durable upright fighter who, to my pleasure, frequently utilises knees inside and outside the clinch. The key weapon for Hooker is his chopping leg kick that is the kryptonite to Poirier’s static boxing stance – leaving his lead leg out on a platter. Moreover, the high forearm guard of Poirier will leave ample opportunities for Hooker to fire off knees and kicks to the body. These cannot be thrown blindly, however. Hooker will have to utilise volume, similar to Max Holloway, in order to push Poirier into his defensive shell and create the openings for himself. Whether Hooker’s notoriously weak late-round gas tank can stay running over five-rounds is a big question mark.

Predicted Result: Hooker Decision

I understand that I am going against the grain here. Poirier is the favourite in this fight, and rightly so, holding more high-level experience, power, and stamina. How does Hooker win then? I expect Hooker to land leg kicks frequently in the first, a pivotal round in this match-up in setting the range and pace. Luckily for Hooker, the first round is often where he lands his most effective work. Hooker’s gas tank will be able to hold up if he can set the pace (established in the first by forcing Poirier out of his stance). On the ground, Poirier is the better fighter, but I don’t think the level is stark enough that Hooker will find himself unable to occasionally find opportunities to escape.

Khabib Nurmagomedov about Poirier's guillotine
Poirier locks in a deep guillotine choke on Khabib Nurmagamedov. Failing to capitalise after going all-in on the submission attempt, it spells the end of Poirier’s championship attempt. UFC 242: Nurmagomedov vs. Poirier, September 2019.

Result: Poirier def. Hooker // Decision (unanimous – 48-46, 48-47, 48-47)

Winner ❌ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️


Co-Main Event

Welterweight (170)

Mickey Gall (6-2) vs Mike Perry (13-6)

Even with a non-existent camp, there should be very few areas where Gall will pose enough of a threat to actually win a round, let alone this fight. Perry would have to do something silly like shoot a takedown and find himself on the bottom, effectively asking Gall to sub him. On the feet, Perry cracks very hard despite a clear speed discrepancy. In the clinch, where Gall likes to bring the fight, Perry maintains a very active offence (see the corpse of Jake Ellenberger).

An ever-present issue for the remainder of Perry’s career will be his nose; and its propensity to break, after it was bludgeoned into mashed potatoes at the hands of Vincent Luque. Gall, unfortunately, does not have the striking capability to expose this apparent weakness in a manner that Geoff Neal was able to flick the off switch. Perry is a fighter that often enters each fight as a fundamentally different fighter, willing to try new things and put his record on the line, but with no real camp to speak of, Perry is likely banking on swarming Gall and blasting him out early.

Gall is a weird character for the UFC to have on the roster. On the one hand, he is useful to set a very very low ceiling to keep out wannabe UFC fighters (CM Punk, Mike Jackson, and very sadly my boi, Sage Northcutt). On the other hand, the man lost to the 2019 version of Diego Sanchez by exhaustion. A major concern is the fact that Gall’s striking has never advanced beyond long shots in a weak attempt to mask his obvious desire to enter a clinch. Gall can use his large frame to bully opponents in the clinch and can be exciting standing and on the mat, but only if Gall is able to secure the upper hand immediately and maintain it throughout the match. Often, Gall’s exposed by his lacklustre gas tank (not helped by his desire to grapple explosively from the get-go) and one-dimensional game plan.

Predicted Result: Perry TKO 1

This should be the easiest fight of Perry’s UFC tenure. But perhaps in typical Perry fashion, he will shoot himself in the foot – or in this case, already have shot himself in the foot. Gall should be the kindest offering of rebound fight for Perry, but a loss here could end his career – especially after his decision to not employ a professional training camp and showing mental antics far beyond the before enjoyable craziness that fans fell in love with. Perhaps this is all a marketing ploy by the man? Sadly, I think this is an irresponsible decision by the sanctioning bodies and UFC to allow Perry’s descent.

UFC Fight Night 108 video highlights: Mike Perry vs. Jake ...
Mike Perry setting up a hellbow which would tear the soul out of Jake Ellenberger at UFC Fight Night 108, April 2017.

Result: Perry def. Gall // Decision (unanimous – 29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌


Main Card

Heavyweight (265)

Maurice Greene (8-4) vs Gian Villante (17-11)

Villante makes his hotly anticipated move up to heavyweight! Shambles of a match in terms of the expected quality of a UFC match. Greene is a grappler who likes to kick, but gasses himself out horrendously in the process. Villante is a win one, lose one fighter against the weakest opposition on the roster (I’m looking at you Smilin’ Sam Alvey). Plodder with the head movement of a rock’em sock’em robot; expect sloppy right hands and calf kicks. Not interested in this one at all. Good lord does he like like a big New York meatball at heavyweight.

Predicted Result: Greene Submission Round 3

The extra weight will create problems for Villante’s doughy gas tank, despite Greene pushing a pace reminiscent of trench warfare. There is a chance that Villante is a fighter re-imagined at the heavier weight class. Dare I say it… New York N’Gannou?

Result: Greene def. Villante // Submission (arm-triangle choke) Round 3 3:44

Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️


Middleweight (185)

Brendan Allen (14-3) vs Kyle Daukaus (9-0)

I love me an unbeaten record, maybe I’ve been influenced by modern boxing propaganda too much, but a big fat 0 in the loss column is just so tantalising. Allen can count himself a little lucky in his last two bouts. Against Kevin Holland, Allen was being thoroughly outworked on the mat before he was able to turn the tide and secure a rear-naked choke late in the second round. His most recent bout against Tom Breese this February must also have an asterisk placed next to it, as Breese was coming off a two-year layoff (and then another two-year from the fight before that) and looked to give up at the end of the first round after he found himself on his back. On the flip side, this is the first real test of Kyle Daukaus’ career, a submission artist from Philadelphia. Daukaus poses a very real threat of using Allen’s aggressive grappling against him, trapping him in a D’Arce choke (five of his nine wins).

Predicted Result: Allen TKO (Ground and Pound) Round 1

Allen has the more fluid striking, based on his athletic build, and will be able to keep top position if the fight is taken to the ground.

Result: Allen def. Daukaus // Decision (30-27, 29-27, 29-28)

Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌


Featherweight (145)

Sean Woodson (7-0) vs Julian Erosa (23-8)

What’s that I spy? Another unbeaten record! Fun fact: Woodson holds the number 1 pound-for-pound rank for worst tattoos on a fighter. More important fact: Woodson looked fantastic in his most recent fight against Kyle Bochniak. Staying cool at range and in the pocket against the hyper-aggressive striking of Bochniak, Woodson was able to comfortably outbox the man who exposed Zabit Magomedsharipov (/s). In contrast, Erosa has lost all four of his matches in the UFC (thrice by stoppage) and has been stopped by low-level competition in regional promotions (knocked out in the first round by Bobby McIntyre over at Cage Warriors). If Erosa comes out in typically aggressive fashion, it is likely Woodson will sit back and use the same game plan he master-crafted for the Bochniak fight.

Predicted Result: Woodson TKO Round 3

Result: Erosa def. Woodson // Submission (D’Arce choke) Round 3 2:44

Winner // Method ❌ // Round ❌


Preliminary Card

Lightweight (155)

Luis Pena (8-2) vs Khama Worthy (15-6)

Luis ‘Violent Bob Ross’ Pena, has found his career partially deflated following two split decision losses, especially after his successes during the Ultimate Fighter 27. A far cry from the explosive grappling shown during his early career, Pena has been unable to expand his arsenal over the past couple of years. Worthy is only giving up one inch of reach to Pena despite the three-inch height difference. With power in both hands and a tendency to sit back into a counter-punching style, Pena will have to face fire if he wants to enter into a takedown.

Predicted Result: Pena Decision

A common issue across all of Worthy’s fights is a lack of volume, and Pena is more than capable of holding Worthy on the mat to minimise any striking threat and steal all three rounds.

Result: Worthy def. Pena // Submission (guillotine choke) Round 3 2:53

Winner // Method ❌ // Round ❌


Heavyweight (265)

Tanner Boser (17-6-1) vs Philipe Lins (14-4)

What (and I cannot stress this enough) the **** is this fight? Lins gassed after two minutes against Andre Arlovski just one month ago, conceding a unanimous decision loss to 41-year old who is far far past his heyday. If the fight enters a grappling exchange, Lins should come out on top as he utilises craft elbows and knees in the clinch, and poses a decent threat of submission on the ground. Canadian, Tanner Boser, is a doughy decision machine who epitomises the squalid nature of most unranked heavyweight affairs.

Predicted Result: Lins Decision

This is a real stinker.

Result: Boser def. Lins // KO (punches) Round 1 2:41

Winner // Method ❌ // Round ❌


Welterweight (170)

Takashi Sato (15-3) vs Jason Witt (17-5)

Sato will be looking to rebuild his record after a valiant effort against Belal Muhammad (submitted in the third round). Dangerous on the ground with a vicous array of ground strikes, Sato should be able to toy with late replacement Jason Witt who has never fought anybody on the level of Sato.

Predicted Result: Sato TKO Round 2

Result: Sato def. Witt // TKO (punches) Round 1 0:48

Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ❌


Featherweight (145)

Jordan Griffin (18-7) vs Youssef Zalal (8-2)

Griffin is a fun character to watch in the octagon, basing much of his game on all-out wrestling and attempting to secure submissions. Falling short of the hurdle against solid fighters (Dan Ige and Chas Skelly) perhaps suggests Griffin’s ceiling, but they are not terrible losses especially in the tame decision manners they were conceded. Zalal employs an upright Muay Thai striking that has worked at regional level but could be too robotic in the big leagues.

Predicted Result: Griffin Decision

Should be a surprisingly fun fight hidden deep in the prelims.

Result: Zalal def. Griffin // Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Winner ❌ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️


Women’s Strawweight (115)

Jinh Yu Frey (9-4) vs Kay Hansen (6-3)

Moving up from atomweight and into her first UFC fight, former Invicta champion Jinh Yu Frey should be too much for fellow Invicta fighter, Kay Hansen.

Predicted Result: Frey Decision

Result: Hansen def. Frey // Submission (armbar) Round 3 2:26

Winner ❌ // Method ❌ // Round ❌


Prediction Accuracy

UFC on ESPN 12: Poirier vs Hooker

Winner: 4/10

Method: 4/10

Round: 3/10

2020 MMA Season

Winner: 21/42

Method: 21/42

Round: 19/42

Takeaway comments: Watch Greene’s emotional post-fight interview if you want to understand the hardships all fighters have to go through.


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