Dan Hooker confident he can finish Dustin Poirier: ‘I don’t think Poirier has the chin Paul Felder does’

Dan Hooker confident he can finish Dustin Poirier: ‘I don’t think Poirier has the chin Paul Felder does’

As soon as Dan Hooker got the call offering him a fight against Dustin Poirier, he accepted it without a second thought.

Originally the lightweight showdown was scheduled in May, but the coronavirus pandemic put a stop to that. Now Hooker is preparing to face Poirier in the main event at UFC on ESPN 12 on June 27 after training through a quarantine and getting ready to fly halfway around the world for the biggest fight of his career.

“I would have to be stupid to not take this fight,” Hooker told MMA Fighting. “The way I look at it, it’s a win-win situation. I’m No. 5, I’m fighting the No. 3 [ranked lightweight]. I plan on going out there, putting on one heck of a show and putting Dustin away and earning myself a title shot. That’s what my mind is set on.

“But worst-case scenario, I get my ass whooped, I don’t move that far down in the rankings and I get to make a bunch of money for my family. So the way I’m looking at it is already a win-win situation. There’s not a heck of a lot of pressure on me if I’m being honest.”

Heading into the fight, Poirier has the deeper resume after becoming interim lightweight champion last year before falling to Khabib Nurmagomedov in a title unification bout this past September. Afterwards, Poirier underwent hip surgery and he will be making his return to action after nine months away.

Meanwhile, Hooker was able to pick up a statement win over Paul Felder in his first UFC main event in February.

Records aside, Hooker and Poirier engage in the kind of stylistic matchup that screams “Fight of the Night” with both possessing an offensive output that would make Mike D’Antoni blush.

The fight promises to be a fan friendly affair but Hooker isn’t convinced that Poirier will actually see him as an opponent where standing and trading bombs will be the best course of action for him.

“He does tend to strike but also he does mix things up pretty well,” Hooker explained. “Presses it against the cage, looks to wrestle. I doubt his No. 1 plan is ‘I’m going to go out there and I’m going to strike with Dan Hooker’ cause I don’t think that would be a great night for him.

“He’s an incredible boxer, an incredible wrestler and I’m expecting him to mix those two aspects of his game together in that way.”

In the past, Poirier’s biggest liability has been his inability to play defense when engaging with an opponent. Even he’s admitted that a good old-fashioned slugfest used to come back to haunt him but Poirier has worked tirelessly to improve those tendencies, which led him to high-profile wins over names like Justin Gaethje and Max Holloway.

As impressive as that might be, Hooker knows the kind of punishment he can dish out, especially after earning knockouts in four of his past six wins including a victory over current welterweight title contender Gilbert Burns when he was still competing at 155 pounds.

In his last fight, Hooker stood toe-to-toe with another lightweight slugger in Felder, who did manage to make it to the final bell but only after he absorbed 122 significant strikes over five rounds. In fact, Hooker believes Felder’s durability was a massive factor in their fight and he doesn’t expect Poirier to weather that same kind of storm when they meet.

“That’s the thing — he’s definitely going to have to adjust his game a little bit,” Hooker said about Poirier. “I feel like pressuring me, taking a shot, giving it, taking a shot, giving a shot is just not the way to best approach it. I don’t feel like Dustin can take a shot as well as Paul Felder can. From watching the tape of both of those fighters, I don’t think Poirier has the chin Felder does.

“I feel I can put Dustin away. If I keep touching him, there’s no way that Dustin’s going to be able to eat those shots and be able to recover from the damage I’m generally able to inflict on opponents.”

Assuming the fight plays out the way he wants, Hooker feels like a win over Poirier should then cement his spot at the No. 1 contender in the lightweight division.

“I definitely have the best resume for a title shot,” Hooker said. “Winning against Dustin Poirier, especially in a good fight. A good back and forth entertaining matchup or via knockout, I solidify myself with the next best resume.”

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