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UFC on ESPN 12 preview, ‘Poirier vs Hooker’ predictions

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UFC Fighter Portraits Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is roughly 24 hours away from kicking off its UFC on ESPN 12 mixed martial arts (MMA) event, topped by a lightweight headliner featuring top-ranked contenders Dustin Poirier and Dan Hooker. The action gets underway tomorrow night (Sat., June 27, 2020) inside UFC APEX facility in Las Vegas, Nevada. In addition to what could be a title eliminator between “The Diamond” and “The Hangman,” 170-pound wild man Mike Perry collides with the submission-savvy Mickey Gall in a battle for welterweight supremacy. Neither co-headliner is ranked in the Top 15 but so what? Any time “Platinum” steps into the cage there’s sure to be fireworks and Gall sounds like he’s ready to make it a war.

Before we deconstruct those two bouts, be sure to check out the complete UFC on ESPN 12 preliminary card breakdown, expertly deconstructed by the jet-setting Patrick Stumberg here and here. Fighter-turned-writer-turned-fighter again, Andrew Richardson, did most of the heavy lifting for the rest of the main card right here. For the latest “Poirier vs. Hooker” odds and betting lines click here.

Let’s get to work.

155 lbs.: Dustin Poirier vs. Dan Hooker

Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier

Record: 25-6, 1 NC | Age: 31 | Betting line: -220
Wins: 12 KO/TKO, 7 SUB, 6 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 5’9“ | Reach: 72” | Stance: Southpaw
Striking accuracy: 1146 of 2302 (50%) | Takedown attempts: 24 of 58 (41%)
Current Ranking: No. 3 | Last fight: Submission loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov

Dan “The Hangman” Hooker

Record: 20-8 | Age: 30 | Betting line: +180
Wins: 10 KO/TKO, 7 SUB, 3 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 5 DEC
Height: 6’0“ | Reach: 75” | Stance: Switch
Striking accuracy: 416 of 966 (43%) | Takedown attempts: 3 of 8 (38%)
Current Ranking: No. 5 | Last fight: Decision win over Paul Felder

I’m always amused by those idiots on Twitter who troll Dustin Poirier with GIFs of his knockout loss to Conor McGregor at UFC 178, especially when you consider “The Diamond” went on a subsequent run of 9-2 with six violent finishes. Most fighters, even those doing work in the upper echelon of the division, would trade their records for Poirier’s in a heartbeat. More importantly, the Louisianan accomplished that feat against three former UFC champions. He also beat the stuffing out of Justin Gaethje, who is moving on to face Khabib Nurmagomedov for the lightweight title at UFC 253. Poirier had his own shot at “The Eagle” and despite flashes of success, eventually succumbed to the Dagestani’s punishing ground game, which to date, has proved unstoppable. To suggest Poirier was somehow exposed because he was unable to succeed where 27 others have failed is not just incorrect, it’s stupid. And anyone who thinks losing — and losing on the grand stage — will somehow mess with Poirier’s head has not been paying attention to what “The Diamond” has done across his combat sports career.

Dan Hooker is not unlike his fight night opponent in that he too started in the 145-pound division, only to bump up in weight and put together a 7-1 record with five nasty finishes. That includes his UFC 226 knockout over Gilbert Burns, who is now fighting Kamaru Usman for the 170-pound title. He loses points for imploding against Edson Barboza, just as Poirier does for getting creamed by Michael Johnson, but he quickly erased the Barboza beating with three straight wins over increasingly difficult competition. His Paul Felder win last February in New Zealand not only proved that he could fight smart, but that he could do so across 25 minutes of brutal, nonstop action. A finish would have probably put an exclamation point on that victory but that feels like we’re being greedy. “The Hangman” has already done an admirable job of living up to his nickname by securing a stoppage in 17 of his 20 wins, 10 of them by knockout. Can’t ask for much more than that, particularly at this level of competition.

There’s nothing you can take away from Hooker’s wins. he’s faced some pretty tough competition. At the same time, it just doesn’t hold up to the murderer’s row Poirier has faced over the last six years. I don’t know why there is still talk about Poirier’s chin because “The Diamond” has only been knocked out twice in 32 professional fights and if it was so easy, why couldn't Gaethje do it? Or Holloway? And Poirier’s win over “Blessed” should tell us a lot about what to expect against Hooker. “The Hangman” also fights long and with considerable volume, but Poirier is the far more accurate striker and likely enters this contest with a slight advantage in power. I don’t want to harp on the Barboza loss but remember, that was a year and a half ago, so it’s not like we’re dogging him over something that happened at the beginning of his career. I mention that performance specifically because Hooker looked completely outclassed and was unable to make the necessary adjustments. Instead, he seemed content to take punishment while aggressively plodding forward. It didn’t work then and it won’t work tomorrow night in “Sin City,” unless “The Diamond” somehow abandons all logic and decides he’s got something to prove.

Prediction: Poirier def. Hooker by submission

170 lbs.: Mike Perry vs. Mickey Gall

Mike “Platinum” Perry

Record: 13-6 | Age: 28 | Betting line: -310
Wins: 11 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 2 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 4 DEC
Height: 5’10“ | Reach: 71” | Stance: Orthodox
Striking accuracy: 516 of 1088 (47%) | Takedown attempts: 5 of 12 (42%)
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: TKO loss to Geoff Neal

Mickey Gall

Record: 6-2 | Age: 28 | Betting line: +255
Wins: 0 KO/TKO, 5 SUB, 1 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 6’2“ | Reach: 74” | Stance: Switch
Striking accuracy: 111 of 254 (44%) | Takedown attempts: 5 of 13 (38%)
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Decision win over Salim Touahri

At first it was a lot of fun to laugh at Mike Perry and let’s face it, he’s been giving us plenty of ammunition. Now it’s starting to feel uncomfortable and I can’t help but wonder if “Platinum” has a few loose screws, which would make his career in MMA even more disconcerting. This isn't like those old Tom & Jerry cartoons where you get bonked on the head and turn stupid — then get bonked a second time in the same spot and become smart again. And I don’t know what the heck is going on with the sportsbooks but Perry as the -310 favorite? He got destroyed in his last fight and has dropped five of his last seven. If that’s not enough, his current girlfriend will be cornering him at UFC on ESPN 12. Unless she’s experienced in cage fighting or has an intimate knowledge of Perry’s in-game habits, I don’t see her as anything but a liability. As far as the athlete himself, Perry is fairly easy to scout. When you see a fighter with 11 knockouts and zero submissions, it's pretty obvious what you’re going to get on fight night.

I’m sure the betting line has a lot to do with the bookies and their confidence in Mickey Gall, who is the complete opposite of Perry in that he has five submissions and zero knockouts. The only reason Gall is competing for UFC is because the promotion needed a warm body for the debut of CM Punk, and I’m sure Dana White and Co. did not expect the WWE import to be as inept as he was. It’s one thing to get taken down and subbed by Gall, but to make a 0-1 fighter like Mike Jackson look as good as a prime Anderson Silva takes a special kind of awful. Anyway, Gall is coming off a win over Salim Touahri last August and has been getting more hate than he deserves. At the end of the day, he still sports a 5-2 record inside the Octagon with four of those victories coming by way of submission. Not a bad start to any UFC career regardless of skill level or quality of opposition.

I hate that “classic striker vs. grappler” crap but sometimes it’s unavoidable. When a guy who never scored a submission fights a guy who never landed a knockout ... what else can you say? I think it’s prudent to consider what Gall did against Touahri before we decide he’s a sitting duck on his feet. I’m not suggesting the Polish import throws hands with the skill or power of Gall, but Perry does not always fight the smartest fight. What on earth led him to grapple with Donald Cerrone is beyond me. Working in his favor is the fact that Gall is not exceptional with his takedowns and “Platinum” sports a takedown defense of 70 percent. So I guess the question remains, is it more difficult to wrestle someone to the ground and work for a submission, or to land a money shot on the feet within 15 minutes of action? Barring a total meltdown from Perry, this bout favors him in every way possible. Unless, of course, his corner tells him to shoot for a takedown.

Prediction: Perry def. Gall by technical knockout

Remember, the rest of the UFC on ESPN 12 main card predictions are RIGHT HERE.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on ESPN 12 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” undercard bouts at 5 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN/ESPN+ main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.

For the rest of the UFC on ESPN 12 fight card and line up click here.