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Dustin Poirier vs Dan Hooker preview: ‘Hangman’ victory benefits future of (current) lightweight division

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UFC 243: Whittaker v Adesanya Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Any member of the MMA media who claims to be unbiased is either deluded or full of crap, because if we (the media) were not fans of UFC, we would not be covering it. That’s why I write for mmamania.com and not golfmania.com.

Having said that, I know I’m not the only journalist blogger hack guy who writes stuff that favors certain fighters and UFC on ESPN 12 is no exception. I’ve been in this business for a long time and I’ve spent time with Dustin Poirier on several occasions.

Aside from being an outstanding fighter, he’s also an outstanding human being.

That’s why I get no pleasure out of secretly rooting for Dan Hooker. Conversely, I’ve had no dealings with the New Zealander so I can’t say what kind of person he is one way or the other, but a victory for “The Hangman” certainly favors the future of the current lightweight division.

Let’s take a look at the Top 5 at 155 pounds.

Khabib Nurmagomedov (Champion)
1. Justin Gaethje
2. Tony Ferguson
3. Dustin Poirier
4. Conor McGregor
5. Dan Hooker

Barring injury or some other heartbreaking happenstance, Gaethje will challenge Nurmagomedov for the lightweight title in the UFC 253 pay-per-view (PPV) main event on Sept. 19, presumably on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.

Ferguson lost to Gaethje at UFC 249 back in May, convincingly I might add, and will need another win (or two) before the promotion can book him for a future title fight. McGregor claims to have retired and while nobody really takes that at face value, we have to operate under that assumption until told otherwise.

“Conor McGregor is retired,” UFC President Dana White told ESPN. “I don’t chase guys that don’t want to fight. We offer guys three fights a year. You get three fights a year, if you don’t want to fight, I’ve got a roster full of people who want to fight.”

As for Poirier, he tried to ground “The Eagle” at UFC 242 last summer, but Nurmagomedov tarnished “The Diamond” by way of third-round submission. Beating Hooker may not be enough to score a second title fight, even with a showcase performance.

Unless Gaethje wins.

Poirier stopped “The Highlight” back in early 2018 and would be atop a very short list of title contenders with a victory over “The Hangman.” McGregor could put a stop to that, as “Notorious” has an existing beef with Gaethje; but again, all we have to work with right now is what we know.

A loss for Poirier would be an easy way to set up a Ferguson fight. I’m sure I can’t be the only fan who would love to see “The Diamond” bang it out with “El Cucuy” because both offense-heavy combatants are as skilled on the ground as they are on the feet.

“When I beat Poirier, it puts me next in line and anyone that has a problem with that, they know whose number to call,” Hooker told Sporting News. “I’ll have wins over a No. 3 in Poirier, Paul Felder who was six and Al Iaquinta who was six, which gives me a lot of confidence that I’ll be in line for a title shot.”

Having Khabib-Gaethje pop off in September means the winner is unlikely to see action until December or perhaps first-quarter 2021. That gives the division plenty of time to sort things out and if either fighter drops out for whatever reason, the winner of Poirier vs. Hooker will certainly be the leading candidate to step in at UFC 253.

After all, McGregor is not a replacement fighter.