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UFC 257 card: Dan Hooker vs Michael Chandler full fight preview

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Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight sluggers Dan Hooker and Michael Chandler will collide this weekend (Sat., Jan. 23, 2021) at UFC 257 inside Ethiad Arena on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Though it has yet to produce his desired run at the Lightweight title, Hooker’s move to 155 pounds has certainly been a success. “The Hangman” is more dangerous than ever, sniping opponents with rangy and powerful strikes to gain a position inside the Top 10 and remain close to the title mix. He will serve as a true challenge for Michael Chander, the athletic power puncher who ruled Bellator’s Lightweight division on three separate occasions. At 34 years of age, it’s likely now-or-never for Chandler, who is diving straight into the deep end of Lightweight competition.

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

Dan Hooker

Record: 20-9
Key Wins: Gilbert Burns (UFC 226), Paul Felder (UFC Fight Night 168), Al Iaquinta (UFC 243), James Vick (UFC on ESPN 4), Marc Diakiese (UFC 219), Jim Miller (UFC Fight Night 128),
Key Losses: Dustin Poirier (UFC on ESPN 12), Edson Barboza (UFC on FOX 31), Jason Knight (UFC Fight Night 101), Yair Rodriguez (UFC 192)
Keys to Victory: Hooker throws long, accurate and powerful shots. He’s at his best when walking opponents into strikes, allowing them to step directly into a nasty calf kick or perfectly timed straight. He takes risks by throwing simultaneously so often, but when he lands, the impact is considerable.

Against Chandler, that calf kick will be quite a huge weapon. In order to throw his blistering power punches, Chandler likes to stand wide, which really exposes the ankle. Given the height and reach differential between the two, it’s not like Chandler can hang back and counter either — he has to brave the calf kick in order to land.

If Hooker lands enough calf kicks early, the fight is over.

Beyond that, punishing the body would be a really smart move in between trying to time Chandler’s lunges. Chandler likes to strike in big, athletic movements, but that’s more difficult while trying to catch one’s breath after a heavy liver kick.


Michael Chandler

Record: 21-5
Key Wins: Benson Henderson (Bellator 243, Bellator 165), Brent Primus (Bellator 212), Patricky Freire (Bellator 157), Eddie Alvarez (Bellator 58)
Key Losses: Patricio Freire (Bellator 221), Brent Primus (Bellator NYC), Will Brooks (Bellator 120, Bellator 131)
Keys to Victory: Fighters do not come more explosive than Michael Chandler. Regardless of whether the decorated wrestler is exploding into a right hand or double leg takedown, his speed and power are simply remarkable.

This is not at all an easy match up for Chandler. In fact, it’s among his most difficult in the Lightweight top 10. Hooker excels at timing forward movement and chopping apart lead legs, two issues that have troubled Chandler separately, let alone when put together. At least if someone like Justin Gaethje were trying to dig into Chandler’s calf, he has a chance at nailing him with a counter punch — Hooker will be too far away.

The remedy to this issue is feints and false starts. Chandler has to confuse Hooker on when he’s actually advancing. If he can convince Hooker to show his hand on a feint, then there’s a real chance Hooker will be out of position and vulnerable to follow up strikes from Chandler.

In addition, Chandler very nicely put Benson Henderson down by firing a cross, shifting Southpaw, then landing a huge bomb from that stance. Against a rangy foe like Hooker, shifting stances have a better chance at landing, though again, it’s important to first dull Hooker’s timing with feints and movement.


Bottom Line

Just how good is Michael Chandler? Hopefully, we begin to find out.

Hooker wants back in the title mix, and a high-profile co-main event slot may be the way to do it. If Hooker absolutely demolishes Chandler, perhaps that performance is impressive enough to find him in a title shot next with the main event winner. Even if that doesn’t happen, victory puts Hooker in relatively good position for a title eliminator next.

As for Chandler, UFC has invested a good deal in hyping him up and promoting Chandler as a possible title contender. It’s similar to the Ben Askren situation: an impressive victory could see him fight for the belt right away, but defeat means he will be used as a tool to build his opponent.

The stakes are plenty high.


Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 257 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 257: “McGregor vs. Poirier 2” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

At UFC 257, Michael Chandler will make his UFC debut opposite Dan Hooker. Which man will earn the victory?