Dustin Poirier‘s time as a prime UFC light-weight contender was in peril. He was coming off getting completed by champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in September, and in entrance of him after a protracted layoff was Dan Hooker, a tall, rangy, rising star.

Going through adversity early with blood pouring from his face, Poirier rallied for a unanimous resolution (48-47, 48-47, 48-46) victory over Hooker on Saturday in the primary occasion of UFC Battle Evening in Las Vegas. In arguably top-of-the-line MMA scraps of 2020, the struggle was bloody and grueling, and it went backwards and forwards — and Poirier was capable of protect his standing as one of many prime lightweights on the planet.

“That is preventing,” Poirier mentioned. “A struggle is not a struggle till there’s one thing to beat. That is what we did tonight.”

All three judges — Sal D’Amato, Derek Cleary and Eric Colon — had Hooker successful the primary two rounds and Poirier successful the ultimate three. Colon gave Poirier a 10-Eight within the fourth spherical. ESPN scored the bout 48-47 for Poirier.

The cardboard occurred in entrance of no followers on the UFC Apex, a facility throughout the road from the UFC’s company campus. It marked the fifth straight weekend that the UFC ran an occasion in Las Vegas and the eighth card the promotion has held since its return from a coronavirus-pandemic-related hiatus on Might 9.

Poirier vs. Hooker had main UFC light-weight division implications. ESPN had Poirier ranked No. four and Hooker ranked No. 5 amongst MMA 155-pound fighters.

Poirier has the second-most UFC wins since 2011 (18) and is tied with two others for the second-most UFC light-weight wins since 2015 (10). Donald Cerrone is the chief in each classes, with 23 and 11, respectively.

The primary and second rounds had been related. Hooker landed numerous quantity, together with punches to the physique and exhausting, low calf kicks to Poirier. Poirier landed exhausting mixtures, however Hooker put tempo on him. Late within the second spherical, the 6-foot Hooker landed a mix that he completed with an enormous knee in opposition to the cage. Poirier mentioned it was the toughest he was hit within the bout.

“It was fairly spectacular how excessive and fast he received his hips up with out telegraphing,” Poirier mentioned.

Hooker had all of the momentum heading into the third spherical, however that is when Poirier began to take over. Poirier set the tone early within the third with an enormous mixture. Hooker took Poirier down, however Poirier landed slicing elbows from the underside. By that point, each males had been bleeding from a number of cuts on every of their faces.

Within the fourth spherical, Poirier received Hooker down, and probably the most important harm got here when he snared Hooker in a leg trip similar to the approach Nurmagomedov makes use of to floor opponents. Poirier landed a number of exhausting photographs to Hooker’s face from that place. The fifth was a lot of the identical. Poirier landed exhausting punching mixtures whereas Hooker clearly was sucking wind. Poirier outlasted him in the long run.

The 390 whole strikes landed had been probably the most in a light-weight struggle in UFC historical past, and the fifth-most total, with Poirier touchdown 208 to Hooker’s 182. Hooker outlanded Poirier in important strikes 155-153.

“It was a troublesome one, man. Dan got here to struggle. He is a troublesome man. He is on the rise and actually thought he was going to get handed me. He talked numerous trash, like he was going to maneuver ahead and struggle the champ — however I am the champ. That is what I like to do. I put all of the work in. I belief in my staff, ability and work ethic. I got here right here, pulled one other one out and had just a few extra rounds in me.”

Poirier (26-6, 1 NC) fell to Nurmagomedov at UFC 242 9 months in the past by third-round submission. The Louisiana native, who trains at American High Crew in Coconut Creek, Florida, has only one loss in his previous eight fights. Poirier, 31, owns profession victories over the likes of present UFC interim light-weight champion Justin Gaethje, former UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway and former UFC light-weight champion Eddie Alvarez. This was Poirier’s first struggle again since hip surgical procedure.

Poirier mentioned he wants time to think about what he’ll do subsequent.

“Perhaps I am going to struggle on the finish of the yr. Perhaps I am going to struggle subsequent yr. I simply wish to go house to my daughter,” he mentioned. “Now that I am a victor once more, I wish to get again to the drafting board. I wish to maintain getting higher. I wish to keep in love with this sport. I do not wish to push myself a lot to the place I hate this. I have been doing this a very long time and pushing myself to the boundaries day by day. So I simply wish to do it proper.”

Hooker (20-9) had a three-fight successful streak coming in. The New Zealand native sports activities a 7-2 UFC report since he moved as much as light-weight in 2017. Hooker, 30, trains at Metropolis Kickboxing in Auckland, New Zealand, with present UFC champions Israel Adesanya and Alexander Volkanovski.



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