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UFC on ESPN: Poirier vs Hooker - Winners and Losers

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Here are the real winners and losers from UFC on ESPN 12.

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Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

On paper, UFC on ESPN 12 looked like an okay fight card with an excellent main event. It ended up being much more than that. Brendan Allen and Kyle Daukaus delivered an excellent middleweight scrap, Takashi Sato made quick work of Jason Witt, Julian Erosa got his first win with the UFC since 2015, Khama Worthy made some more noise and Kay Hansen won her UFC debut. But that main event matchup between Dustin Poirier and Dan Hooker? That 25-minute scrap stole the show.

Poirier and Hooker were fighting for...well, it’s hard to say what they were fighting for. With lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov likely putting his title on the line against Justin Gaethje in late summer and Conor McGregor possibly getting the winner of that scrap, it seems as if these two were competing for a long break before a title shot or for the right to face Tony Ferguson. Whatever they were fighting for, Poirier and Hooker delivered. Yes, Poirier won the decision, but this was the kind of fight where no one lost, especially not the fans.

Winners

Dustin Poirier: Khabib Nurmagomedov ran over Poirier in their September title unification bout. Poirier was the interim champ heading into that scrap. Nurmagomedov submitted him in the third round of that bout. Anyone thinking the one-sided loss would stick with Poirier heading into the UFC Vegas 4 card had paid little attention to Poirier’s run to his interim title.

Poirier bounced back from that loss with a win over Hooker last night in Vegas. Poirier’s boxing skills carried him through one of the most violent fights of the year and his four submission attempts were the most he had since he defeated Anthony Pettis in 2017.

It’s hard to tell what’s next for Poirier, but after his win over Hooker, maybe he just needs some time to sit and enjoy the six post-fight bonus awards he’s win in his past eight outings.

Poirier vs Hooker took home “Fight of the Night.”

Dan Hooker: I’m not sure this was the type of fight Eugene Bareman wanted out of Hooker, but the New Zealander once again proved that he is one of the best fighters in the lightweight division. Coming off his split-decision win over Paul Felder in February, Hooker again went five full rounds of nearly non-stop action.

No fighter has put more significant strikes on Hooker than Poirier. He landed 153 significant strikes and racked up four submission attempts on Hooker, but Hooker was always in the fight, even when his gas tank ran a bit low in the final two rounds, he was there.

Hooker is tough as all get out and there might be some lightweight willing to call him out, but I’ll guess that list is short. Just an excellent performance from Hooker.

Maurice Greene: Greene got caught with a counter left hook in the third round. With that, his opponent, Gian Villante, unleashed a flurry of strikes on the ground. Perhaps looking to avoid any additional damage, Greene applied a choke from bottom position. That choke brought a tap from Villante and a bunch of confusion from the commentators and those commenting on social media. The win ended Greene’s two-fight losing skid.

Brendan Allen and Kyle Daukaus: I’m keeping thee two together here because they delivered a fantastic 15-minute middleweight battle. The grappling was exciting to watch, the ground striking was top-notch and the no quit attitude of Daukaus kicked things to the next level. That scrap should get both men some fans.

Takashi Sato: Sato made quick work of Jason Witt on Saturday. Sato landed 18 of 25 significant strikes on his way to a 48-second knockout win. This was Sato’s third UFC performance and second knockout win. His one UFC setback was a 2019 submission loss to Belal Muhammad.

Julian Erosa: Erosa made the most of a bad situation. Erosa was bounced from the UFC in 2016 after two fights and then again in 2019 after an 0-3 run. He then got a win in February at CageSport 50. The UFC called him on Tuesday of this week to meet Sean Woodson. Erosa had a tough first round as Woodson racked up strikes from distance. Erosa improved in the second round as he was able to close distance. In the third round, Erosa locked in a D’Arce choke that brought the tap from the previously unbeaten Woodson. All in all, It was a good win from Erosa, who was the biggest underdog on the card.

Khama Worthy: Worthy had not fought since he knocked out Devonte Smith in August 2019. That victory was a big upset. On Saturday, Worthy was once again an underdog and he once again brought the fight to an early end when he submitted Luis Pena with a nasty guillotine choke in the third stanza. Worthy might have been under the radar heading into this matchup, but don’t be surprised if he gets some shine heading into his next outing.

Before the submission win, Worthy looked good on his feet, as he went to the body of Pena on the regular. He also delivered his fair share of charisma in his post-fight interview with UFC commentator Jon Anik.

Tanner Boser: Boser looked like a different fighter on Saturday night. He said he came into his heavyweight contest opposite Philipe Lins more than 10 pounds lighter than his most recent outing. I don’t know if carrying less weight allowed him to be faster with his strikes, but it sure looked that way as he knocked Lins out cold with a nice flurry of punches at the 2:41 mark of the first round.

Kay Hansen: Hansen had herself a rough first round in her UFC debut, but she more than made up for it with a slick submission win in the third round of her matchup against Jinh Yu Frey.

Hansen did some good work with her whizzer and her transition from that technique to the armbar was very nice. However, her submission win does not negate the fact that she is just 20 and remains a work in progress. There’s no need to rush her too fast. She only has 10 pro fights.

Losers

Mickey Gall: Gall did land some heavy strikes against Mike Perry, but it’s hard to tell if that was Gall having success with his striking or if it was due to Perry trusting his chin. Gall failed to land a single takedown on six attempts.

Gian Villante: Villante hadn’t fought since February 2019 when Michal Oleksiejczuk stopped Villante via TKO. Villante bulked up to heavyweight for this matchup and from the looks of things that weight was not added in the gum. Villante was far too patient in the first two rounds and when he did get something going in the third round, he ended up being submitted by Maurice Green via an unorthodox choke. Villante is now 7-9 with the UFC.

Luis Pena: Pena had a chance to submit Khama Worthy in the second round of their lightweight scrap, but Worthy was able to hand fight and keep Pena from locking up a choke. He was very patient on the mat, but as luck would have it, it was Pena who submitted via a choke in the third round.

Philipe Lins: Lins won the 2018 PFL heavyweight tournament. He could not compete in the 2019 OFL tourney due to injury. Two fights into his UFC career, Lins is now 0-2 following his knockout loss to Tanner Boser. One has to imagine the UFC expected a bit more from Lins when it signed him.

Jinh Yu Frey: Frey is the former Invicta FC atomweight champ. Frey looked good in the early going of her matchup against Kay Hansen — at least on the feet. But when the fight hit the mat Frey didn’t handle things all that well. She was submitted in the third round via armbar. This bout was Frey’s UFC debut.

Jordan Griffin: Griffin’s striking was lacking. If he wasn’t rushing in with his chin out and his head well in front of his body, he was standing in front of his opponent flatfooted and getting tagged by Youssef Zalal, who had half the experience of Griffin.

Griffin was much slower in the second and third rounds. A fighter competing in his 26th bout should be better in the cardio department.

Neither

Mike Perry: Perry got the win over Mickey Gall, but the story before, during and after that fight was that Perry was cornered by his girlfriend, Latory Gonzalez. After the win, Perry said he is going to look to build a team around himself. Let’s see how that works out for Perry, who is 3-5 in his past eight outings.

Jason Witt: Witt took his fight against Takashi Sato on short notice. He landed two significant strikes before Sato knocked him out in under a minute. It’s hard to make an assessment of a fighter on such a small amount of time inside the octagon. The loss ended Witt’s four-fight winning streak.

Sean Woodson: Woodson looked good in the first round of his catchweight bout opposite Julian Erosa. His striking style was reminiscent of the Diaz brothers and he used his length well. Also like the Diaz brothers, Woodson used a high striking output throughout the first two rounds. However, Erosa was able to wade through those strikes in the second and third stanza. Woodson is an entertaining fighter and with only eight pro MMA bouts to his name, the jury is still out.

Youssef Zalal: Zalal showed some flash and fearlessness in his matchup opposite Jordan Griffin, but he did not show a lot of substance until Griffin’s gas tank began to run dry.

Zalal needs some seasoning to allow for his skills to catch up to his confidence. He’s only 23 years old and is 11 fights into his career. The UFC should bring Zalal along slowly. He works with a talented team in Factory X. Zalal is a fighter to keep an eye on.