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UFC on ESPN 4 card: James Vick vs Dan Hooker full fight preview

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MMA: UFC 226-Hooker vs Burns Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight kickboxers James Vick and Dan Hooker will throw down this Saturday (July 20, 2019) at UFC on ESPN 4 from inside AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.

After a great start that saw Vick win nine of 10 and climb into the rankings, Vick hit a real wall against a pair of physical strikers in Justin Gaethje and Paul Felder. Now faced with consecutive defeats for the first time in his professional career, Vick’s back is against the wall, and he’s faced with another tricky striker. Hooker is in a somewhat similar position. A four-fight win streak that consisted solely of dominant finishes saw the New Zealand-native rise into title contention, but the brutal kicks of Edson Barboza left him a bloody mess right as he looked to capitalize on his momentum.

Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man!

James Vick

Record: 13-3
Key Wins: Joseph Duffy (UFC 217), Francisco Trinaldo (UFC Fight Night 126), Jake Matthews (UFC Fight Night 65), Polo Reyes (UFC 211)
Key Losses: Justin Gaethje (UFC Fight Night 135), Paul Felder (UFC on ESPN 1), Beneil Dariush (UFC 199)
Keys to Victory: It’s a testament to how ridiculously large Vick is that he’ll enter this bout with Hooker — massive himself — with both a height and reach advantage. Vick’s style is a bit awkward, but in general Vick wins by throwing a ton of strikes at range and threatening with counters when his opponent looks to step forward.

Against a similarly long fighter in Hooker, the jab will be of extra importance. Both men are used to being able to touch the other with long shots while being too far away to be hit back — neither will have that luxury. Therefore, establishing the jab early will open up the pull counters that usually land easily for Vick and make up a big part of his game.

In addition, I’d like to see a lot of kicks up the middle from Vick. Hooker stands fairly square, which is part of the reason he ate so many brutal spin kicks from Barboza. Vick may not have Barboza’s legendary speed, but he can still send a hard kick up the middle, whether it be a snap, side or spin kick.

If Vick can outwork Hooker at range, he’ll be at a major advantage.


Dan Hooker

Record: 17-8
Key Wins: Gilbert Burns (UFC 226), Marc Diakiese (UFC 219), Jim Miller (UFC Fight Night 128), Hatsu Hioki (UFC Fight Night 65)
Key Losses: Edson Barboza (UFC on FOX 31), Jason Knight (UFC Fight Night 101), Yair Rodriguez (UFC 192)
Keys to Victory: Hooker is a dangerous man at 155 pounds. Since moving up from Featherweight, Hooker has shown a much sharper skill set. He’s generally just much more dangerous, more likely to snatch a neck or land the knockout blow.

There’s a real chance here that Hooker plays right into Vick’s game. Last time out, the clear strategy Hooker should have employed opposite Barboza was aggressive pressure. Instead, he methodically stalked and stood right in front of Barboza, which is the absolute worst place to be given the Brazilian’s love of kicking foes to pieces.

It was a violent, bad loss.

The consequences are less severe this time around, but Hooker still needs to adjust to the standard anti-Vick strategy, which really only has two steps. The first involves kicking the hell out of Vick’s calf and lead leg — no one likes getting kicked in the calf, but the lanky Lightweight seems especially bothered. Part two involves walking Vick into the fence with extended combinations, then blasting him when his hands drop.


Bottom Line: This should be a very fun fight between giant Lightweights.

Vick is in a pretty desperate situation. He was closing in on title contention, calling out every big name opponent available. Then, one accepted a fight with him, promptly knocking him out in the opening 90 seconds. That’s a bad enough look, but losing another bout afterward left Vick clinging to his position of No. 15. One more loss and Vick will be removed from those rankings with a very long road ahead of him — that’s a fate the Texan is hoping to avoid.

Hooker is also in major need of win, simply due to the painful nature of the Barboza loss. Prior to that fight, however, “The Hangman” actually had picked up quite a bit of momentum thanks to his own prowess for handing out beatdowns. If he can return to form against Vick, it will go a long way in recovering his position at 155 pounds.

At UFC on ESPN 4, James Vick and Dan Hooker will duel. Which man will have his hand raised?