UFC Fight Night 128’s Dan Hooker Is On The Rise At 155 Pounds

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Dan Hooker
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One of the standout performances at UFC Fight Night 128, which took place Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, came courtesy of New Zealand’s Dan “The Hangman” Hooker. The 28-year-old fighter took on long-time UFC veteran Jim Miller in the opening main card bout in the biggest fight of his young career to date. He passed the test in flying colors, knocking Miller out in just three minutes, becoming only the second fighter other than Donald Cerrone to finish Miller with strikes.

The breakthrough performance improves Hooker’s MMA record to 16-7, including a 6-3 record in the UFC. 15 of those wins have come via knockout or submission, including all three of his fights since making the move up to 155 pounds last year. Since moving up from 145 pounds, where Hooker — who is 6-feet tall — was killing himself to make weight, Hooker has looked absolutely unstoppable. In his UFC lightweight debut Hooker took on veteran Ross Pearson and brutally knocked him out in the second round with a knee. In his sophomore effort at 155, Hooker defeated fellow prospect Marc Diakese via third-round submission. And now he just needed three minutes to finish Miller to improve to a perfect 3-0 in the lightweight division. Hooker is good, and he’s only going to get better.

It’s fair to say that the UFC lightweight division may be the most-stacked weight class in the Octagon right now, and with fighters like Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier vying for the title currently held by Khabib Nurmagomedov, Hooker still has work to do if he wants to join that conversation. As good as Hooker’s looked at 155, it’s not like these wins are putting him in title shot range right now, but they’re at least putting him in the conversation for a spot in the top-15, that’s for sure. Anytime you can get a finish you immediately stand out, and now Hooker has three of them in a row. Even though he’s on the downside of his career, Miller is a big name and this scalp looks great on Hooker’s resume. Though he failed when he stepped up in competition as a featherweight, so far at lightweight Hooker hasn’t looked out of place with anyone he’s fought yet. And after the way he took out Miller, I think it’s fair to say Hooker is deserving of a better opponent, perhaps someone in the top-15 or on the bubble of it.

For his next fight, there are a few options for Hooker’s next opponent that make sense. We all know that timing is one of the biggest influences in matchmaking, and fortunately for Hooker there are a few fighters in the top-15 that are available. One guy who I would love to see Hooker fight is Paul Felder, who recently lost his fight against Anthony Pettis at the ill-fated UFC 223 event. Like Hooker, Felder has won three-straight fights by stoppage and is an incredibly-exciting fighter. I believe a fight between Hooker and Felder would be amazing. Same with James Vick, who has won four-straight fights. I think a fight between Hooker and Vick would be incredible. The other guy I would look at is Alexander Hernandez, who shocked the MMA world with his KO win over Beneil Dariush in his UFC debut. Hooker could fight Hernandez and try to steal his top-15 spot in what would be a fun striking battle. Basically, there are options for Hooker to get into the top-15, and at this point he’s deserving of the opportunity to do so.

When he fought at 145, Hooker was just a fun fighter who was good for a brawl, but he was never going anywhere considering how inconsistent he looked at featherweight. At 155, though, Hooker looks like a totally different fighter. He looks way better in his new weight class, and with his combination of striking and submission skills to go along with a great chin and cardio, Hooker looks like a guy who could make a run up the top-15 ladder. He could be like another Poirier, who was inconsistent at 145 but looked amazing at 155. Hooker still has a lot of work to do, but these three-straight wins to kick off his UFC lightweight career show a lot of promise, and I’m excited to see how far he can go in his new weight class.