UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs Hooker Preview

For the last time before the long awaited debut for Fight Island, the UFC will be putting on a loaded card set to take place at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Aside from the marquis matchup in the main event and co-main events, this card is loaded up with entertaining fighters to watch including the prospect Youssef Zalal of Denver’s Factory X.

Main Card

#3 Poirier vs #5 Hooker – Lightweight

My gut tells me to bet the house on Dustin Poirier here. To be honest, I was surprised at this matchup being made at first. I guess there is still a strong recall in my memory of the beating that Edson Barboza gave Dan Hooker, and I also thought you could flip a coin in his fight with Felder — two guys that are not on Poirier’s level. 

Taking a look at the division and top 5 rankings, champ Khabib will fight interim champ #1 Justin Gaethje in the fall. #2 Tony Ferguson just fought Gaethje last month. #4 Conor McGregor has now “retired” more times than he has fought in the division. Thus, the #3 Poirier vs #5 Hooker became the fight to make.  

Yes, Dan Hooker hits hard, but so does Eddie Alvarez and Justin Gaethje. Dustin Poirier has fought the who’s who of the featherweight and lightweight divisions. He has paid the man in full and put the sweat equity in going 17-5-1 in the UFC since signing in 2011. Poirier nearly reached the pinnacle of the sport last year in his attempt to unify his interim title with the undisputed championship against Khabib Nurmagomedov with a deep guillotine attempt that the current champ was able to overcome and submit Poirier. 

Dustin Poirier is a beast in this division, plain and simple. Outside of getting caught, I just do not see Hooker pulling this one off.

Perry vs Gall – Welterweight

On any normal occasion, this is a great bounce-back opportunity for Platinum Mike Perry. The only problem is, there is nothing normal about what is going on with Mike Perry right now. Perry has gone on record stating that his new girlfriend (recently separated from the Platinum Princess) will be his only corner person. Keep in mind, this is a 22-year-old girl with no professional MMA coaching experience.

Perry’s opponent Mickey Gall is no slouch, though. Gall is slick with the jits and can find finishes from the ground no problem. Gall is also still very early in his MMA career and is improving his standup, so he may not want to spend too much time up top with Perry who has one-shot knockout type of power.

I do not believe that Gall has the power to threaten Perry, however, he could very well catch him in a submission. Although Perry may not have any coaches in his corner, one thing for certain is that Mike Perry is a junkyard dog who will scrap to the bone. Overall, Perry is too much for Gall to put away. 

Allen vs Daukaus – Middleweight

Brendan Allen is a huge favorite (-305) against the short notice replacement Kyle Daukaus. Daukaus is an undefeated prospect from the Northeast who is filling in for the injured Ian Heinisch. 

Daukaus is a neck-snatching finisher. He has just one decision on his record and the rest of his fights have all been choke finishes, with a favorite finish being the D’arce Choke (five of these). Like Daukus, Allen is also a submission specialist with eight career finishes on the ground. Allen has also not only won each of his fights since getting into the UFC via the Contender Series, he has finished each fight. Once by sub, once by TKO via GNP.

Allen’s strength of schedule and proven success in the UFC gets him the nod here.

Greene vs Villante – Heavyweight

Look for the “Crochet Boss” Maurice Greene to bounce back in a big way against Gian Villante. Listen, I’m a big Villante fan. How can you not like Villante? He’s pure gold whenever there is a camera on him away from fighting — just a big ol’ goofball. 

Villante is moving up from light heavyweight for this fight, but Villante is someone who is used to carrying the extra weight while still being ultra athletic. Villante was a dual-sport athlete in college who started at middle linebacker as a freshman and also wrestled at the NCAA Division I level for Hofstra University.

Maurice recently moved to Albuquerque, NM, to train with a group of heavyweights at Jackson Wink. Greene had done his previous four camps in Colorado at Factory X. Mo is a super talented fighter with nasty striking (Glory Kickboxing vet) for a 6’7” giant. 

One major difference this time for him is that he has his family with him now. In the past, he would leave for a few weeks for camp in Denver while his family was home in Minnesota. This is something that is pretty common with the big Denver teams. Through social media, right now Mo looks happy. And, a happy fighter is a dangerous fighter.

Woodson vs Erosa – Featherweight

Sean “The Sniper” Woodson looks to keep his perfect record intact as he takes on “Juicy J” Julian Erosa in his return fight to the UFC. Erosa is widely recognized from his time on The Ultimate Fighter and has had a couple different opportunities in the UFC. 

Following the TUF finale, Erosa fought once more in the UFC before taking a loss. He stayed busy on the regional scene for a couple of years before gaining a re-entry to the UFC with an impressive finish on the Contender Series. Erosa began a three fight skid starting in Denver at the UFC 25th Anniversary show against Devonte Smith. After getting cut last year, Erosa picked up a finish on the regional scene in February and stayed ready waiting for the call from his manager Jason House of Iridium Sports Agency.

The 28-year-old Woodson (also represented by Iridium) will be facing the most seasoned fighter of his career. One major advantage for Woodson though, is his coaching and their previous experience against Erosa. Woodson’s coach James Krause has as high of a fight IQ as there is, and his teammate Grant Dawson fought Erosa in March 2019.

If you’re feeling froggy, a couple bucks on the underdog (+331) vet Erosa could have a high return. The safer pick is the surging prospect Woodson, who currently sits as a -480 favorite. 

Prelims

Peña vs Worthy – Lightweight

Fan favorite Luis “Violent Bob Ross” Peña takes on Khama “The Deathstar” Worthy. Peña comes in as the favorite, but do not ever count Worthy out of a fist fight. Worthy made his UFC debut on short notice last August at UFC 241 and pulled off one of the biggest upsets in history with a first round KO.

Peña is a TUF veteran, and remained undefeated until his first fight in the UFC in Denver against Mike Trizano in November 2018. Peña has since bounced back going 3-1, including a win earlier this year against debutant Steve “Mean Machine” Garcia. 

I like the upset in this one. Peña isn’t afraid to get hit, and Worthy isn’t afraid to oblige.

Boser vs Lins – Heavyweight

Felipe Lins looks to bounce back on from a decision loss last month with a quick turnaround against Tanner Boser. Lins was defeated by Andrei Arlovsky on May 13 in his UFC debut.

Boser and Lins are sitting at even money at -110/-110, and this is a solid matchup for each of them. 

Prior to signing with the UFC, Lins finished his way through the PFL 2018 season and won the tournament championship. His ability to finish gives me the hunch that he pulls this one off for his first UFC victory.

Sato vs Witt – Welterweight

This is a great matchup for the short notice fill in and UFC debutant Jason Witt. Witt trains with a strong camp led by James Krause and is midwest tough. 

Takshi Sato is 1-1 in the UFC with a finish over veteran Ben Saunders and losing by sub to Belal Muhammad.

As long as Witt can get his hands on Sato, I like him in this matchup.

My biggest question for Witt is his cardio. Being that there was only a day’s notice, this is always something that can come into play for even the most seasoned fighters.

Griffin vs Zalal – Featherweight

Jordan Griffin was supposed to fight Darrick Minner in a rematch from their LFA days on June 13, however, Minner fell ill throughout the weight cut and was unable to continue.

In steps Youssef “The Moroccan Devil” Zalal of Factory X on basically a week’s notice. The 23-year-old prospect is reflective of this new generation of complete mixed martial artists who are high level everywhere. Zalal got his start in kickboxing as a child back in Morocco and has a highlight reel flying knee knockout on his resume, but he also has racked up five submission wins.

Griffin is the toughest test of Zalal’s young career, but Griffin has shown fundamental flaws in his stand-up game that the tactical striker will look to expose. Griffin tends to rely too heavily on his BJJ and is inconsistent with using his striking to set up his Jiu-Jitsu. He has also got clipped leaving his chin high while standing with TJ Brown. 

Now, keep in mind, this will be taking place in the smaller cage, which will present an adversity element for Zalal who typically covers a lot of distance with his elusive movement that combines the footwork of Dominick Cruz and the head movement of Pernell Whitaker.

Griffin also has shown deficiencies against strong offensive wrestling (see Dan Ige and TJ Brown fights), which is something that Zalal has worked on with Greco world champion Joe Warren, who was also a two division champ in Bellator, and a stable of Olympians from the Olympic Training Center. 

This is a very winnable matchup for Zalal. He may be a lot younger in age and cage time, but he is the more well-rounded fighter in this contest. The Moroccan Devil gets it done. Lock it in.

Hansen vs Frey

In the curtain puller, we get to see two prospects freshly signed from Invicta FC get their opportunity to show their skills on the big stage in a women’s strawweight bout. One thing that is important to note is that even though they are both listed at 5’3”, Jinh Yu Frey has a small frame and has never fought at 115 lbs. She previously only competed at 105 lbs. in the atomweight division, with the exception of one catchweight fight at 108 lbs. for RIZIN.

Kay Hansen picked up a win last March just before the shutdown for the coronavirus happened. Hansen is the physically stronger fighter with solid technical experience on the ground with a combination of five finishes coming by either submission or GNP. 

This is totally throwing a dart at a wall, but I am leaning towards the fighter who is used to carrying the weight.

This UFC Fight Night card will have an earlier start time than usual, and coverage will begin at 3 p.m. MT. If you are hoping to see Youssef fight, he is currently scheduled as second matchup at the time of this writing. For those who do not know, ESPN and the UFC schedule the fights with 30 minute windows. A window that includes making the walk, vaseline, intros, three 5 minute rounds, official decision, and post fight interview.

-Jordan Kurtz is a founding member of Comments From The Peanut Gallery and The MMA Plug and can be followed on Instagram at @CommentsFromThePeanutGallery and @TheMMAPlug303

 

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